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Transformational Solutions of Self through Companion Animals

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How consumers manage the dynamics between love and money can be intertwined in a myriad of ways. Based upon the growing presence of companion animals in U.S. households (now estimated at 62%) and related financial spend (over $50 billion in 2011) (APPA 2011), understanding consumers' identity dynamics relating to companion animals may be theoretically insightful. The things we love exert a strong influence on our sense of self (Ahuvia 2005). Companion animals may be classified as extensions of oneself in addition to being associated with significant life events or experiences (Belk 1988; Ahuvia 2005). By understanding the meanings companion animals serve related to a person's self-concept and integration within society may serve as "relationship climate canaries" (Brownlie 2008). Given fundamental human need for social relatedness (Baumeister and Leary 1995) and assertions of decline in one's sense of community (Cushman 1990), do the roles one adopts as it relates to companion animals serve as adaptive solutions for social relatedness? Consumers' motives for consumption and possession stem in large part from the "meaning of consumption objects and the value that meaning provides" (Richins 1994, 519). In North America, the freedom to create one's identity comes with the consumer responsibility to self-define, suggesting that the "goods" one acquires may be particularly meaningful because they may serve to help construct and communicate one's identity (McCracken 1986). Identities represent self-concepts because they reflect internalized role expectations within social relationships; the goal being to understand and explain how social structures affect self and self affects social behaviors (Stryker 2007).


Megan Kendall

Purdue University

Date 2012
Volume 40
Publisher Association for Consumer Research
Conference Title Advances in Consumer Research North America Conference
Language English
Notes This conference proceeding was found at PDXScholar Portland State University Library:
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted therapies
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals in culture
  4. Pets and companion animals
  5. Social behavior
  6. Therapeutic use