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Role power dynamics within the bridal gown selection process

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Role power dynamics within the bridal gown selection process

Abstract

In this study, the researchers explore the decision-making process of brides when selecting their wedding dresses by examining the power of the significant people involved in the selection process. Within a framework of role theory and symbolic interactionism, qualitative data from an open-ended survey with 71 brides were collected online and analyzed. The interpretations revealed two main themes that explain how social power is determined and how different actors use bases of power to influence the selection of the wedding dress, when considered as a group decision. The six main categories further explained the bases of power used by the actors involved in the wedding dress selection process. This research extends the understanding of the bases of power and social roles in the specific context of the ritual of matrimony. Managerial implications are included for wedding retailers seeking to further understand the dynamics among family members during wedding preparations, so they can provide more effective guidance and support to the bride-to-be during the selling process.
Role power dynamics within the bridal
gown selection process
Seoha Min1* , Lina M. Ceballos1,2 and Jennifer Yurchisin3
Introduction
Carter and McGoldrick (2005) stress the importance of seeing family as a moving system
that goes through cycles. From the perspective of a traditional wedding, the family life
cycle stage that a bride experiences corresponds with joining two families in marriage,
realigning of relationships with extended family and friends, and sometimes, leaving the
parents’ home (Carter and McGoldrick 2005). is stage may vary depending on the cul-
tural background of the bride, as well as of the groom. In particular, a bride in Western
cultures faces stress related to the transformations taking place in her family system and
her personal and social life, along with the possible conflicts she might be experiencing
due to these transitions. e bride also is generally under a lot of pressure to plan the
perfect wedding and select the dream wedding dress. erefore, the changes in the fam-
ily life cycle and the possible conflicts generated during this transition to married life
explain the context in which the bride is immersed during the wedding preparations and
the selection of the wedding dress.
e wedding dress is a high involvement purchase (Choy and Loker 2004) and an
object that holds deep symbolic meaning. It is regarded as one of the main symbols of
the wedding. Whereas the bride is ultimately the individual who wears the dress, the
decision-making process during the selection of the dress may be influenced by other
Abstract
In this study, the researchers explore the decision-making process of brides when
selecting their wedding dresses by examining the power of the significant people
involved in the selection process. Within a framework of role theory and symbolic inter-
actionism, qualitative data from an open-ended survey with 71 brides were collected
online and analyzed. The interpretations revealed two main themes that explain how
social power is determined and how different actors use bases of power to influence
the selection of the wedding dress, when considered as a group decision. The six main
categories further explained the bases of power used by the actors involved in the
wedding dress selection process. This research extends the understanding of the bases
of power and social roles in the specific context of the ritual of matrimony. Manage-
rial implications are included for wedding retailers seeking to further understand the
dynamics among family members during wedding preparations, so they can provide
more effective guidance and support to the bride-to-be during the selling process.
Keywords: Role power, Wedding dress, Selection process, Social interactionism
Open Access
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(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
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indicate if changes were made.
RESEARCH
Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
https://doi.org/10.1186/s40691-018-0132-6
*Correspondence:
s_min@uncg.edu
1 Department of Consumer,
Apparel, and Retail Studies,
The University of North
Carolina at Greensboro, 355
Stone Building, Greensboro,
NC 27402, USA
Full list of author information
is available at the end of the
article
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
actors due to the social importance of the event. Raven (1993) indicates in his theory
of social power that each of these actors can exert different levels of power or influence
within the social setting. Within an interactionist perspective, Raven (1993) model of
social power has been examined in terms of its applicability to various settings, espe-
cially in the field of family science, education, and overall conflict resolution and nego-
tiation. However, limited studies have focused on explaining how power shapes the
selection process of a wedding dress despite the importance of the wedding dress pur-
chase to women and their families (Otnes and Lowery 1993).
To address this dearth of research, the purpose of the current study was to explore the
decision-making process of brides in the United States (US) when selecting their wed-
ding dress by examining the power of the significant people involved in the selection
process. e research was guided by two research questions: (1) Who is the most influ-
ential person in the dress selection process? (2) Which power relations influence brides
during the dress selection process? is research extends the understanding of the bases
of power and social roles in the specific context of wedding preparations and wedding
dress selection. Managerial implications are offered to wedding retailers seeking to fur-
ther understand the dynamics between family members during wedding preparations,
so they can provide more effective guidance and support to the bride-to-be during the
selling process.
Literature review
Role theory
As roles are considered units of social structures (Goode 1960), an individual’s everyday
life is composed of multiple roles (Lynch 2007). Role theory addresses the organization
of social behavior on an individual and collective level (Stryker 2001), as well as with
humans’ characteristic behavior patterns (Biddle 1986). e theory explains roles by
interpreting humans as “members of social positions … [and as holding] expectations for
their own behaviors and those of other persons” (p. 67). Lynch (2007) indicates that roles
in the interactionist perspective are not fixed or prescribed but are constantly negotiated
by social actors, and that is why social interaction includes role taking, which involves “a
process of anticipating the responses of others with whom one interacts” (p. 358). at
is, role players enact their roles by taking a social perspective as actors, by understand-
ing other actors’ perspectives based on previous experience, and by anticipating possible
consequences of certain behaviors in order to adjust their own performances. e “dif-
ficulty of fulfilling role demands” during role taking is additionally conceptualized as role
strain (Goode 1960, p. 483). Moreover, individuals seek to reduce their role strain and
this tendency leads to role negotiation among the individuals (Goode 1960). Conces-
sions, deals, agreements, or any form of negotiations among actors, or role bargains, are
a consequence of role relations (Goode 1960).
e study of roles has been useful for academic research in multiples fields. Consumer
behavior scholars have examined the influence of roles on group (e.g., family) decision
making and social interactions within the buying context. For example, Menasco and
Curry (1989) experimented with different determinants of decision making, includ-
ing role dominance, when exploring wife/husband decision making in their household.
Broderick (1998) applied role theory along with dramaturgy to explain how role scripts
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
for the service encounter can be developed for consumers and service providers. Other
studies have emphasized specific aspects of roles, including sex orientation. For exam-
ple, Qualls (1987) found that there was a strong relationship between sex role orienta-
tion and the outcome of a family home purchase decision.
e present study utilizes role theory in order to understand role taking and the per-
spectives of the different actors involved in the wedding dress selection. According to
Solomon, “product symbolism is consumed by the social actor for the purpose of defin-
ing and clarifying behavior patterns associated with social roles” (1983, p. 320). e
social information of a product is often used by consumers to shape their self-image
and to maximize the quality of their role performance in a society (Solomon 1983). In
accordance with Stryker’s (2001) role types, a bride occupies a position or takes a sta-
tus role because she is placed within the family role of the daughter. is woman is also
placed in a functional group role as a bride, in which she acquires a situational iden-
tity through interaction in a group setting. During the wedding preparations, the bride
additionally experiences two types of role transitions due to the imminent change in her
social status during the wedding ritual (Turner 1982). e first transition is connected to
her role change from unwed daughter to married wife. e second transition relates to
her movement from one family to another. Based on Turner (1982) phases of rituals, the
wedding implies a “separation” from the traditional family of the bride and an “incorpo-
ration” into a new family with the future husband. Finally, Stryker (2001) further clari-
fied that interactionist theory assumes that social roles exist in pairs. is means that
for this research, for example, the participant takes the role of a bride alongside of the
bridegroom. Furthermore, this woman simultaneously assumes both roles of daughter
and bride. e role of daughter is a stable role, in the sense that she will always be her
parents’ daughter. Her role as bride can be seen as a temporary one because she will be a
bride only in the context of the wedding itself. After she is married, she will assume the
role of wife in her new family.
Symbolic interactionism, power, and family relations
Symbolic interactionism proposes that an individual’s behavior is mainly a result of
social interaction (Blumer 1969). Within this perspective, the action of choosing a wed-
ding dress for a bride is a social action because this action takes others into account
(Charon 1992). Consequently, the selection of a wedding dress can be considered more
of a joint or a group decision rather than an example of individual decision-making (Park
1982). Nevertheless, when recognizing a social act, the life of the group precedes the
individual conduct in that “individual conduct arises and takes its form inside of human
association” (Blumer and Morrione 2004, p. 95). e individual act must then be seen
in accordance with what others do in a situation (e.g., how others exercise their power)
because interaction is contextual and not pre-established. Interactionists also state that
objects can be social objects for the individual because the objects are selected, clas-
sified, and interpreted through interaction with others (Charon 1992). Charon (1992)
also defines symbols as one class of social objects where the object is significantly used
for the representation and communication of whatever people agree it should repre-
sent. Because the wedding dress can be perceived as a social object and a symbol, with a
strong relation with identity (Roach-Higgins and Eicher 1992; Stone 1962), the wedding
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dress contributes to the acquisition of identities (e.g., wife-to-be, daughter-in-law) and
the development of a sense of self.
Interactionist research also considers the phenomenon of power because all social
relationships can be described in terms of their power dimensions (Dennis and Martin
2005). Raven (1993) defines power as the possibility of influencing others and changing
their behaviors or thoughts. Yet, “the exercise of power is an act of changing a person
that may or may not be deliberate” (Corfman and Lehmann 1987, p. 2). Even Goffman
(1959) implies the importance of power in the actors’ performances when he addresses
possible issues involved in the interactions among various roles in a team. For instance,
Goffman describes how certain information can threaten a privileged position of an
actor, enact information control, and/or disrupt the team’s performance. In fact, Gid-
dens (2009) acknowledges that power and domination are not absent in Goffman’s work;
yet, they are not explicitly discussed. Giddens (2009) then urges for a systematic discus-
sion of power within group interactions, which is the goal of the present study. In the
case of the bride, the protagonist in this study, power can be seen as mainly arising from
the family systems of the bride and groom during the wedding preparations, more spe-
cifically, during the wedding dress selection process. e bride may be simultaneously
affected by the power of several persons in various roles, which means that she may have
to deal with conflicting pressures and resistance to change (Raven 1993), as well as role
strains.
Bases of power
To understand the influence of power, the bases of power must be identified. e bases
of power are the dimensions that determine the form of influence a role plays in terms
of a target (Raven 1993), such as a bride. Based on Raven (1993), our study will consider
the following six bases of power: (1) coercive, which implies a threat of punishment; (2)
reward, which implies some sort of reward or increase in privileges in exchange for com-
pliance; (3) legitimacy, which is power arising from the formal position or social norms
that are usually related to responsibility or dependence; (4) expert, which is power based
in expertise or superior knowledge; (5) referent, which relates to a sense of identification
with the influencing agent who serves as a model for the target; and (6) informational,
which is defined as persuasion grounded in information or a logical argument that is
directly or indirectly given through hints and suggestions.
Whereas any combination of the six bases of power may be imposed by actors
in a social situation, the desired impact of the power on others’ behavior may not be
achieved. Corfman and Lehmann (1987) differentiated the influence attempt from the
power use effectiveness. e influence attempt relates to the usage of different sources of
power at a person’s disposal (i.e., power bases), whereas power use effectiveness relates
to the amount of influence these sources have upon the target. For instance, based on
Raven (1993), a sister may want to directly influence a bride through the power bases of
informational and expert power. Corfman and Lehmann (1987) added that the higher
the sister’s expertise and the higher the amount of valuable information she has, the
higher the degree of influence the sister can have on the bride. With respect to coercive
and reward power, Corfman and Lehmann (1987) indicated that the expected value of
compliance also has an influence on the effectiveness of the power. In other words, the
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
effectiveness of coercive power depends on the “penalties” that result from the noncom-
pliance, whereas the effectiveness of reward power depends on the “benefits” of compli-
ance (1987, p. 4). e degree to which the sister’s advice is adhered therefore varies with
her ability to administer meaningful penalties (e.g., withholding affection) and benefits
(e.g., helping the bride get dressed on her wedding day).
Allocation of role power
Research on household decision-making behavior also has provided clues about the
allocation of role power. Research by Blood and Wolfe (1960) indicated that the power
to make household decisions is related to the “resources” brought into the household
(as cited by Qualls 1987, p. 265). In terms of the wedding dress decision-making pro-
cess, the amount of money that each role player can allocate to the purchase affects his/
her degree of influence on the decision. Furthermore, Qualls (1987) suggested that the
influence on family decision making is connected to the importance of the decision
that needs to be made, and that the degree of importance also varies between the fam-
ily members. Clothing and fashion have often been linked to women in modern times
(Kawamura 2005). erefore, in the context of wedding dress selection, the importance
placed on the decision is probably greater for the females in the family, including the
bride and the mother of the bride, than for the males in the family. For instance, the
mother of the bride is more often expected and/or willing than the father to engage in
the decision-making process of the daughter when choosing a wedding dress. is makes
sense, as Kenkel (1961) suggested that for certain family decisions, it is the mother who
“would be more concerned with the aesthetic aspect of product decisions” (as cited by
Qualls 1987, p. 266).
Research on the perceived obligations of relationships could additionally help us to
understand this allocation of power with respect to responsibility and dependence. A
study by Finch and Mason explored how the “proper thing to do” for relatives can be
identified as a pattern that relates more to the circumstances than to the social charac-
teristics of the persons involved (1991, p. 346). ese authors also suggested that there
are assumptions about responsibilities or a sense of “obligatedness” associated with fam-
ily relations (1991, p. 345). Some of the assumptions included the notion that: receiving
family support is natural and expected by relatives; family obligations are easily rec-
ognized; obligations should be stronger for closer relatives than distant relatives; obli-
gations are the strongest between parents and children; and women’s obligations “are
stronger than men’s, especially in relation to the kind of assistance which entails practi-
cal, personal and domestic tasks” (Finch and Mason 1991, p. 347). However, concerning
financial support, men are marginally favored as providers (Finch and Mason 1991). is
sense of responsibility and obligation, which parents are assumed to experience, implies
that they will be usually involved during wedding preparations, including the wedding
dress purchase. eir sense of responsibility and obligation will also be expected to cor-
respond to the social situation itself. us, in terms of the task of finding a wedding dress
for the bride, the bride’s mother is expected to feel more responsibility and obligation
than the bride’s father, distant relatives, or the relatives of the groom, such as parents-in-
law. However, fathers might feel the obligation to financially support the purchase.
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Methods
e interpretive tradition focuses on understanding the meaning of the processes and
experience that are context bound (Merriam 1998). As the purpose of the current study
was to explore the power relations experienced by a bride during the wedding dress
selection process, an interpretive approach was appropriate. To address the research
purpose, open-ended questions were used as a means to produce rich answers that
would elucidate the phenomenon (Reja etal. 2003). Data collection was conducted via
a survey created in Qualtrics, which is a web-based survey tool. e survey was then
distributed online via Mechanical Turk, which is a crowd sourcing Internet market-
place (http://www.mturk.com). e specific reasons to adopt this method were as fol-
lows. First, the researchers decided to utilize this method due to the sensitive nature
of the subject matter. In a pilot study, one of the researchers conducted face-to-face
interviews with three participants regarding their wedding preparation process. Dur-
ing the interviews, they hesitated to answer several questions regarding the details of
their wedding dresses as well as conflicts that they had with their family members in the
process. Cowles (1988) confirms that the face-to-face interview technique can negatively
impact participants both emotionally and physically when discussing sensitive topics.
After careful discussion of the results from the pilot study, the researchers decided to
utilize the open-ended survey method to allow participants to answer the questions
more freely. In addition, the decision to use open-ended survey was associated with the
time that lapsed between the event and the data collection. Participants were asked to
recall their experiences in the process of wedding preparations. As this activity required
retrieving long-term memories, the open-ended survey offered participants sufficient
time to reflect upon their wedding experiences and to develop responses, accordingly
(Opdenakker 2006). Such a data collection technique allowed participants to answer
questions at her own convenience and pace with fewer distractions, and in the time and
place of their choosing (Opdenakker 2006). Lastly, by utilizing open-ended survey, the
researchers collected data simultaneously from multiple locations in the US.
For the sake of clarity, the use of the online opened-ended survey can be “viewed as
[involving], to some degree, departures from, or additions to, existing methods” (Wiles
etal. 2011, p. 597). Based on Wiles etal. (2011), this study incorporates an adaptation
of a current method (i.e., the interview), which involves a change in the method in order
to meet specific needs within the research context, and was mainly driven by practical
reasons, as discussed above. Based on the classification provided by Heath (1992), this
study is also a variation of humanism called conservative humanism, in that the method-
ology focuses on a qualitative method that incorporates some elements of the positivist
approach; for instance, the data collection as well as part of the data analysis considers
quantifying to a certain extent for the purposes of supporting interpretations (i.e., deter-
mining magnitude).
Upon receipt of IRB approval from the researchers’ university, females in the US who
had worn a wedding dress in a ceremony were purposively recruited through Mechani-
cal Turk to answer the Qualtrics survey. us, the study was restricted to individuals
residing in the US. Females who had not been married before were screened out. An
incentive of US$1.00 was paid to participants for completing the survey. After consent
to participate, the survey consisted of demographic questions and open-ended questions
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
that related to the brides’ wedding dress selection process, as well as the possible nego-
tiations experienced during the process (see Table1). Participants were required to
answer each open-ended question with at least 100 words. e researchers pre-tested
the open-ended survey with 15 participants, and the limit of 100 words was determined
to be an appropriate length to address questions. A total of 99 responses were collected.
After careful examination of the quality of the responses, 28 responses were excluded
from the data analysis because they contained incomplete and/or insincere responses.
Insincere responses included responses that were the same to all questions or responses
that were not related to the questions. Participants responded to the online question-
naire in about 15–45min (average=38min) and provided an average of 80 words per
response in the open-ended questions. As seen in Table2, the final sample (n=71) was
composed primarily of Caucasian women (73.6%) aged between 26 and 35 years old
Table 1 Open-ended survey questions
Filtering questions
Gender
Have you ever being married before?
Demographic questions about the bride
Age
Annual household yearly income
Education level
Ethnicity
Number of siblings
What was your nationality when the wedding took place?
Where did you get married?
When did you get married (if married more than once please mention the last wedding)? Please write the year (YYYY)
Demographic questions about the groom
Age
Ethnicity
How many siblings does the groom have?
What was the groom’s nationality when the wedding took place?
Questions about the wedding dress
How would you describe your wedding dress? Please explain.
Where you satisfied with your wedding dress? Please explain.
Did your wedding dress reflect your fashion style? Please explain.
Questions about wedding preparation process
How did you select your wedding dress? Please describe the process.
Please explain your experience purchasing your wedding dress
Who paid for your wedding dress?
Questions about power negotiation within the process
Who was the most influential person when selecting your wedding dress? Please state the type of relationship with
that person (was it your sister? Mother? etc.)
Explain why this person was so influential when selecting your wedding dress
Where your parents involved in the selection of your wedding dress? If so, please describe the experience
Where your parents-in-law involved in the selection of your wedding dress? If so, please describe the experience
Was the groom involved in the selection of your wedding dress? If so, please describe the experience
Did you have to do any type of negotiation for selecting your wedding dress? With whom? Please explain this experi-
ence
End of survey that provided participant with completion code
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
(58.3%). More than half of the participants earned a yearly income of between $40,000
and $84,999 (52.8%) and had at least a bachelor’s degree (54.2%).
e collected data were analyzed using analytical coding and thematic interpretation.
It is important to note that brides provided rich data that allowed researchers to achieve
saturation, which is one of the primary aims of qualitative research (Hodges 2011). e
analysis process was composed of a systematic procedure of data analysis suggested by
Bloomberg and Volpe (2012). First, the researchers carefully reviewed the data to iden-
tify an overall sense of the ‘big idea’ of the collected data. Next, after carefully reviewing
the responses of each participant, the data were classified in accordance to the type of
power identified as being the most influential in the experience of that bride (i.e., main
power base). If various sources of power were recognized, a second and third base of
power were added to the classification of that data. e main influencing agent, the per-
son exerting the main power base to the bride, and the person who paid for the dress
Table 2 Participants’ demographics (n = 71)
Bride’s demographics N % Mode
Age 31–35 years old
18–25 years old 10 14.1
26–30 years old 19 26.8
31–35 years old 22 31.0
36–40 years old 8 11.3
41–45 years old 6 8.5
More than 46 years old 6 8.5
Annual household yearly income $40,000–$59,999
Under $25,000 14 19.7
$25,000–$39,999 12 16.9
$40,000–$59,999 20 28.2
$60,000–$84,999 17 23.9
Over $85,000 8 11.3
Education level Bachelor’s degree
High school 12 16.9
Some college 21 29.6
Bachelor’s degree 30 42.3
Master’s degree 6 8.5
Professional degree 1 1.4
Doctoral degree 1 1.4
Ethnicity Euro American/Caucasian
Euro American/Caucasian 53 74.6
Hispanic or Latino 6 8.5
Asian/Pacific Islander 3 4.2
African American 8 11.3
Native American 1 1.4
Number of siblings Two
None, I am an only daughter 10 13.9
One 23 31.9
Two 25 34.7
Three 6 8.3
More than three 8 11.1
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were also identified for each participant. To analyze the data accurately, researchers
created a data summary table in Microsoft Excel. As Bloomberg and Volpe (2012) sug-
gested, the participants were listed down the vertical axis of the table with the different
aspects of each category being listed along the horizontal axis. During the data analysis,
the data summary table served as a consistent record of findings regarding participants’
responses across categories. Lastly, the current work was situated with respect to prior
research to explore a broader sense of theoretical implications.
e inter-rater reliability of main power bases was determined for the purposes of
checking internal consistency of the coding process among researchers. e two cod-
ers independently analyzed the data as described above by using a coding sheet devel-
oped for the study. e reliability was calculated by dividing agreements by total items.
e inter-rater reliability achieved was an acceptable agreement of 87.3%. For the sake
of clarity, this calculation only included the main power base, as it is the focus of this
study. at is, whereas only the most influential power bases identified in the experi-
ences of the brides were considered for the inter-rater reliability calculation, the data
analysis included all power bases assigned to the participants by the researchers during
the analysis.
Results and discussion
e thematic interpretation resulted in two main themes. e first theme related to
how role power was determined within the wedding dress selection process. e sec-
ond theme related to how the brides experienced power during the process. e later
theme was further analyzed by describing how the brides experienced the six bases of
power as described by Raven (1993): coercive, reward, legitimacy, expert, referent, and
informational.
Determining role power: who is the most influential person in the dress selection process?
Participants made constant references in relation to the symbolic meaning assigned
to the dress. is can be seen in the response of Participant 1, who felt like Cinderella
when wearing her wedding dress. She stated: “My dress made me feel like a princess… It
reminded me of the dress Cinderella wore but it was real life… I could dance in it and also
sit and look beautiful. It was perfect”. Feeling like a “princess” or “queen” was a common
desire when choosing the perfect dress. Participant 9 said: “When I saw this dress I just
knew it was ‘e Dress.’ I tried it on and it took my breath away how perfect it was. I felt
like a princess when I had it on”. Due to the high symbolic value of the dress, which rep-
resents the bride’s as well as her family’s status during the ceremony, the wedding outfit
selection involves consideration of multiple social roles.
Participants identified multiple social roles as influencing agents in their dress selec-
tion. Interestingly, the individuals with the most influential roles were: the mother of
the bride (35.2%), the bride herself (19.7%), the groom (9.9%), friends (9.9%), and a sister
(7.0%). Despite the involvement of the grooms and the parents-in-law in the wedding
dress decision process, it was mostly the parents, more specifically the mother of the
bride, who were involved and influential in the selection of the dress. Of the 21 par-
ticipants who answered that either both her parents or one of her parents had paid for
the dress, 14 participants (66.6%) said that their mother was the most influential person
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
when it came to choosing the dress. When parents paid for the dress, the opinion of the
parents became more influential in the decision. For those parents then, money became
an important source of power. ese results are consistent with the traditional break-
down of wedding costs in the US, which indicate that the bride and her family are usu-
ally expected to pay for the bride’s dress, veil, accessories, and lingerie (e Knot 2015).
Findings suggest that the closeness of the relationship with the influential person was
also a determinant of power during the selection of the wedding dress. Participant 19
helped us understand this point when she explained that she was closer to her mother
than her in-laws, so she was expected to rely on her mother for help making her deci-
sion. She said, “My mother was with me when we shopped for the dress. I highly value
her opinions. To me she exemplifies style and grace. Everything she wears she does so per-
fectly… We have a close relationship (my mother and I), which is why I valued her input.
Because I was not that close with my in-laws, I did not want them there for that”. By con-
trast, it was more challenging for other brides to disregard additional influences expe-
rienced. As Participant 17 pointed out, “I had to consider lots of things when selecting a
wedding dress, such as my mother’s taste and my mother-in-law’s taste”. However, after
acknowledging other pressures, this bride decides to relinquish her power to a role that
closer to her, the mother. She reflected,
I should have negotiated with my mother. She had a certain taste for her daugh-
ter’s wedding dress and it was very difficult to change it. I tried to wear something I
wanted, but it did not work out. us, I just followed her decision. I don’t know why
she was so stubborn at that time. She said she did not know as well. I had to pre-
pare my wedding for 3weeks because of the situation that I was in, so she was very
stressed out at that time.
(Participant 17)
Some participants expressed that they made a major decision, such as this, on their
own (19.7%). is was the case for Participant 16, who was very proud that she had
decided on her wedding dress on her own. She said, “I was the most influential person.
I appreciated the advice of others, but at the end of the day, I had to be the one that felt
like a princess in my wedding dress. Another bride who chose her dress on her own was
Participant 3, who said, “No one helped me! I was the one who knew what I wanted to
wear to my wedding and I thought about it in my own head. I picked up a bridal catalog,
and then, I ordered the dress by mail”. Interestingly, in the case of personal influence,
money did not seem to be a factor. Whereas almost half of participants (49.3%) paid for
their own dress, less than 20% indicated that they made their own purchase decision.
is means that many of these brides relied on others to help make their decision even
though they were paying for their own dress.
For some participants, the groom was the most influential person when it came to
deciding on the dress. For example, for Participant 5, the groom had the most impact
on her decision, as she wanted to please him. Participant 5 wrote, “[e groom’s] opinion
is what mattered most. I was not getting married to other people… His eyes would mat-
ter more than others when I would be walking down the aisle”. Participant 1 allowed the
groom to choose the dress because he paid for a $10,000 dress. Participant 1 explained,
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
Nobody pressured me into buying a dress of their choice… I put my choice in the hands of
the groom”.
Bases of power: how is the bride influenced?
e bride was simultaneously affected by the power of several individuals (Raven 1993).
Participant 55 described how she experienced these conflicting pressures: “Negotiation
was really more a discussion with Mom and with my sister-in-law who was the seam-
stress. It was like making a dress by committee”. Another bride, Participant 57, described
the overwhelming pressure she experienced when picking the perfect dress when she
wrote that, “you’re feeling so much pressure to find the wedding dress of your dreams
that you think you may be going nuts”. Participants in general appeared to experience
role strain, conflicts, and role bargains in the process of selecting their wedding dresses
because of the pressure of finding a perfect dress for their wedding day.
When classifying the bases of power of the influential roles, the brides’ comments cor-
responded with the six categories of influence: (1) coercive (2.6%), (2) reward (7.8%), (3)
legitimacy (32.9%), (4) expert (9.2%), (5) referent (11.8%), and (6) informational (26.31%).
For 9 participants (12.67%), it was not possible to clearly identify the bases of power
because of insufficient information, so those participants were not included in the data
analysis. Most of the participants showed a marked influence of one single power base
that was present in their decision. ere were various sources of power that had an influ-
ence in several cases, however the most influential power (i.e., main power base) was
the focus in the study. e following descriptions in this subsection will present findings
related to each of the power bases.
e first base of power is coercive power, which includes individuals using their roles to
influence the brides through fear. Coercion is a threat of punishment to induce change in
the influencing agent and generates social dependency upon the agent (Raven 1993). A
good example of this type of exertion of power is Participant 17. She stated, “Mr. Control
Freak had to pick it out himself. Otherwise, he would make fun of me the rest of the night”.
In her choice, she only considered the groom’s opinion so that she could avoid receiving
his harassment. Similarly, Participant 11 only considered her mother’s suggestions, so
her mother would not miss the wedding. According to her, “… my mother did state she
wanted it to be white or she would not go, so I made it white. I wanted her to be there, so
I could at least do that for her”. us, the bride incorporated the mother’s suggestion of
choosing the color white for the dress solely because there would have been negative
consequences for the bride if the bride had not followed the request. In general, when
coercive power was present, role dominance was evident for the influence agent, role
strain for the bride was stressed, and role bargains rarely happened. Nevertheless, not
all coercive influences were effective. Participant 50 recognized how her mother-in-law
had tried to exert power over her, but she found a way to avoid the influence despite
the mother-in-law’s disapproval. She explained, “My mother in law wanted it to be a big
fluffy, puffy, long train traditional dress. I didn’t want that… Once I told her I bought the
dress while I was out with grandma, she was pissed”. So, despite the rage-filled response,
Participant 50’s mother-in-law was not able to use her control to influence the behavior
of the bride. It appears that individuals who are not as close to the bride are less effective
at employing coercive power.
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
e second base of power is reward power, in which the influencing agent promises a
reward or privileges to the target of influence in exchange for compliance (Raven 1993).
Whereas coercive power focuses on punishment, reward power aligns with benefits or
compensation. is type of power is mostly associated with an actor that provides posi-
tive reinforcement to the bride. In other words, positive feedback (explicit and implicit)
was perceived as the best type of reward a bride could get. Some participants explained
how they received non-verbal positive reinforcement from their mothers, who were
their most important influence:
My mother was the most influential when selecting my wedding dress because when
I put on my dress, the look on her face was priceless. I had never seen her look at me
like that, with such joy, excitement, and emotion, all at once. She did not have to say
anything because it was written all over her face.
(Participant 9)
When she asked me to try on the princess cut dress, at first, I did it just because she
asked me to and she was taking care of this wedding for me. But then I fell in love
with the dress and it made her tear up, so it was completely worth it.
(Participant 70)
In addition, two participants indicated that their grooms were the ones most involved
in the wedding dress selection process. ey hoped that their grooms would be pleas-
antly surprised–with the dress and how they looked–when they first saw them at the
wedding ceremony, so their husbands could look back on the experience fondly in the
future. us, the promise of such a memory also became a reward for the brides. One of
those brides, Participant 36, described this as follows:
I wanted him to think, the dress really is appropriate for our wedding because we
don’t always think inside the box. I wanted him to have fond memories of seeing me
in the dress, and to look back and think how much he enjoyed it.
e third base of power is legitimacy power, which arises from the status associ-
ated with the role. at is, participants granted power to a role because of the position
and status of that role in the bride’s life in conforming to rules or norms, such as those
involved in family dynamics. Giddens (2009) illustrates this type of power in traditional
China where sons treat fathers as “chiefs” whom they await orders from. Legitimacy
power for the American brides was commonly granted to the closest roles, such as the
mother and the groom. For instance, Participant 5 described the influence her mother
had over her. She asserted, As a mom who has been married knows what’s best. She’s also
my mom so she knows what looks best on me”. e phrase “She’s also my mom” reinforces
the mother’s position of power, as it expresses the fact that the mother has this power
solely because of her role as a mother who has been married before. Another example
of legitimacy power is Participant 3, she recognized the influence of the groom when
selecting her dress, as she affirmed the legitimate role of her partner by writing, “… who
was I dressing up like this for? MY MAN! My future king, love of my life, rock of our family
and provider, father, friend, and soul mate”. In this case, the bride entrusted the future
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
husband with power over the dress decision because of his role as a groom and the
closeness of their relationship.
Money was also a source of power legitimation. at was the case for Participant 18,
who explained that the boundaries of her negotiations with her mother were related to
money. She wrote, “If my mother had thought the dress I selected was too pricey, I would
never have tried to negotiate that with her. Consequently, the actor that paid for Par-
ticipant 18’s dress enacted role taking, first as a mother, and second, as the benefactor of
the dress. In this case, role strain for the bride was minimized. Participant 36 also agreed
that money set boundaries to her advantage. In her case, the fact that she was paying for
her own dress gave her more freedom to choose what she wanted. She stated, “… since
I was paying for the dress myself, I felt like it was my choice on the selection of the dress”.
Participant 24 indicated that because her mother controlled the budget for her wedding
dress, the mother influenced her to buy a wedding dress within the budget.
My mom was the most influential person when I was selecting my wedding dress
because she was in charge of keeping up the budget. She refused to let me get the one
wedding dress I really wanted because it was out of the budget and cost too much
money. … She forced me to buy it. … I had to wear it at the wedding, but it wasn’t
the dream wedding dress I’d always wanted. I always feel a twinge of embarrassment
and disappointment when I look at the wedding photos because I didn’t quite like
the lace on the front of the dress.
(Participant 24)
e fourth base of power is expert power. It relates to the fact that a person that
involves more expertise and superior knowledge is the person that provides the biggest
influence. e person who has this type of power over the bride appears to have sound
knowledge in garment construction as well as fashion trends. For example, Participant
46 decided to allow her best friend’s expertise to influence her decision. She said, “She’s
a very good seamstress and has made bridesmaids dresses in the past. She has experience
in clothes making of all kinds and knows how patterns and fabrics will work together and
how it would look on me”. Similarly, for Participant 30, her best friend’s knowledge of
fashion had an influence when she chose a dress for her wedding. She explained,My
best friend is more of a fashion diva than I am, so she really helped a lot. She suggested
great looking dresses and basically directed me to try on dresses”. Another example is the
importance given to the expertise and superior knowledge of Participant 33’s grand-
mother, which had an unquestionable impact in the bride’s decisions, as she pointed out,
“I trusted in her opinion because she used to make wedding gowns”.
In addition to the knowledge on wedding dresses, agents who were selected as the
most influential actors also had superior knowledge about the bride. Participant 34 said,
both my mother and sister were influential in choosing the dress. My mother and sister
were both very fashionable ladies and knew what the fashions were and what would be
appropriate and what style would look best on me. I knew what I wanted but I wanted
their approval of my style. Participant 26 also indicated that her mother “was good at
knowing what I would like and what would fit me well,” so her advice played a significant
role in the process. Data interpretation also suggests that this type of power becomes
even more influential if the participant trusts the person who has previous experience
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
with a wedding dress. Several participants designated their mother as the most influen-
tial person in the selection process because of their proven knowledge and good taste
regarding wedding dresses. ey also mentioned that they trust their opinion because
they have their best interests in mind regarding the wedding dress selection. Participant
27 described this as follows:
My mother was the most influential person in making the decision of what my wed-
ding dress should be because I trust her opinion more than anyone I know. …She
told me exactly what I needed to hear, the truth. She told me when she did not like a
certain dress and she told me when she loved a certain dress. She was the most hon-
est person. I knew that,of everyone, she would be the one personto give me the best
andmost honest advice. I knew she would ultimately have my best interests at heart.
e fifth base of power is referent power that relates to the influences of someone per-
ceived as a model to be followed. e target of influence would comply “because of a
sense of identification with the influencing agent, or a desire for such an identification”
(Raven 1993, p. 233). One example of this can be seen in the recollection of Participant
12, who recognized her mother as the influencing agent because she always wanted to
resemble her mother (i.e., model). As she stated, “I’ve been seeing her dress in pictures
my whole life and I’ve always said that I wanted a dress that looked just like it… My dress
was a replica of her dress”. Participant 39 also felt a sense of identification with her great-
great grandmother, as she recalled thinking that she wanted her wedding dress to be
similar to hers: “I think the most beautiful wedding dress I [have] seen was the one my
great-great grandmother wore (Cherokee) when she married my grandfather (English-
man)… Like I said, I saw that picture of my great-great grandmother and wanted to try
and duplicate it”. Participant 53 also strongly identified with the women in her family
and chose the dress accordingly. She wrote, “I have such strong, smart amazing women in
my family and when I saw that dress, I thought it fit in perfectly with the wedding gowns
the women in my family had worn”. For Participant 70 and her mother, the mother was
not able to afford a wedding for herself when she got married, so the bride wanted her
mother to plan her wedding. Participant 70, acting as the bride, as well as the daughter,
related to the mother because of that situation, and decided to allocate power to the role
of the mother. She stated, “So my mom really wanted this to happen for me. She wanted
me to have a wedding because she couldn’t and neither did her sons, and since I wanted a
wedding, she wanted to make it happen…(Participant 70)
e sixth and last base of power is informational power, which focuses on persua-
sion by information received in various forms, such as opinions, recommendations, and
advice. Raven (1993) explains that a person with informational power is the one who
can convince another to change a certain behavior with clear logic, argument, or infor-
mation. Whereas informational power focuses on information provided to the bride,
expert power and referent power concentrates on the qualities of the roles providing the
information. Expert power then prioritizes an agent perceived as an expert and refer-
ent power concedes power to the role designated as a model of reference to the bride.
Anybody could provide information and try to influence the bride via informational
power; yet, the bride values all information differently. Most brides allocated power to
the information received in relation to the source, or role providing the information, as
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
well as the content of the message. For instance, Participant 6 commented, “My mom
and both of my sisters were there and gave me advice and their input about my dress
and what it should look like. I value their opinion and it was interesting what they had
to say”. She acknowledged the informational role her closest relatives played during the
purchase decision. Participant 7 even relied on a wider range of suggestions made by her
family and friends, by stating, “I had a lot of recommendations from family members and
friends”.
Some brides, such as Participant 8, did not always look for positive comments and gave
priority to the content of the information rather than the role providing the informa-
tion. She wrote, “My cousin was most influential because while I picked out what I liked,
she was brutally honest [about] how dresses looked on me”. However, when surrendering
to the informational power of the cousin exercised in the form of honest criticism, the
bride (Participant 8) disregarded information provided by people in other roles, such
as the mother-in-law. She explains, “I did not care to hear what my mother or mother in
law thought of my dress… It was my day, so it was not her decision what type of dress I
got. Participant 27 was also selective when receiving information because she decided
to allocate power to the role of the groom instead of the rest of the family, regardless of
their opinions. She explains, “When my parents and my in-laws saw what I was wearing,
they questioned the choice, but I did not want to make waves with my soon-to-be-hus-
band, so I pretended that I did not care what I wore on my wedding day”. Regardless of
the quality of the content of the opinions of the in-laws, Participant 27 disregarded that
information because she valued more the role of the groom than that of the in-laws. is
finding supports Stone’s idea that people do not value reviews equivalently (Stone 1962).
According to him, reviews refer to responses made by others of the wearer’s appear-
ance/clothing. Especially, when a person receives differing reviews toward their clothing,
one attempts to reconcile them, redefine oneself, and seeks a review that most validates
(Stone 1962). Confirming this idea, the participants also chose reviews that they viewed
as most valid in the wedding dress selection process.
Conclusion
is study explored the bride’s selection of a wedding dress by focusing on the power
that individuals exert during their performance of different social roles. e interpreta-
tions revealed two main themes that explain how social power is determined and how
different actors use bases of power to influence the selection of the wedding dress, when
considered as a group decision. e participants described how multiple social roles
influenced their dress selection and that mainly the closeness of a relationship deter-
mined the strength of the influence. Despite the involvement of parents-in-law and
friends in the wedding dress decision process, the most influential roles revealed were
the mother of the bride, the bride herself, and the groom. e bride not only considered
the types of power exerted, but also the social positions (i.e., roles) of individuals enact-
ing those powers during the decision-making process. In general, many brides claimed
to have been aware of different types of power exerted by different individuals within the
complex dynamics of the families involved. For many participants, this conflicting expe-
rience was associated with feelings of overwhelming pressure, mainly when role strain
and/or role bargains were present.
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
With regard to the bases of power of these diverse roles, the six main categories
explained the bases of power used by the actors involved in the wedding dress selec-
tion process. e majority of brides mentioned that legitimacy was the type of power
that influenced their decision-making process. Despite the changing roles of men and
women in society, the influence of legitimacy power in the context of weddings supports
Haines etal. (2016) findings that ideas about traditional gender roles still exist. Mothers
who, as females, know more about clothing and fashion (Kawamura 2005) and possess
experience from buying their own wedding dresses, as well as grooms who, as males, are
viewed as financial “providers”, were seen by the brides as having legitimacy. Legitimacy
power, and, consequently, traditional gender roles, guided the brides’ decisions. On the
other hand, the brides mentioned the influence of coercive power the least. Its effective-
ness seemed to be related to the degree of closeness the bride felt to the person attempt-
ing to apply coercive power. As the importance of the role to the bride weakened, so did
the influence of coercive power on the bride’s decision. Researchers (e.g.,Yukl and Falbe
1991) in other contexts have similarly found that legitimacy as a base of power is more
important and influential than coercive power to actors’ behavior. In addition to legit-
imacy power, informational power was also influential to the brides. It is not surpris-
ing, given the importance of the wedding dress to the brides (Otnes and Lowery 1993;
Roach-Higgins and Eicher 1992; Stone 1962). When consumers are highly involved
with an apparel product, they are likely to seek out a great deal of information about the
product before they make their purchase decision (Solomon and Rabolt 2009). Hence,
permitting those individuals whom the bride believes possess informational power to
affect their dress decisions is consistent with previous research.
Prior to the present study, Raven (1993) theory had not been applied to wedding prep-
arations, or more specifically the wedding dress selection process. e results of this
study extend the understanding of bases of power, as well as roles, in this specific con-
text. Following Giddens (2009) suggestion, this study provides a systematic discussion
of power within group interactions, such as those experienced by the bride during the
selection of the dress. e findings also provide explanations regarding how the sym-
bolic and social nature of the meaning of the wedding dress impacts its selection pro-
cess. Understandably, the joint decision of selecting an ideal wedding dress (i.e., social
object) additionally supports the role performance of a bride during the wedding cer-
emony. Furthermore, symbolic interactionism was appropriate in guiding this research
because it frames the brides’ behavior as a result of complex social interaction among
various and dynamic roles.
is information can be used by wedding retailers seeking to further understand the
complexity of the family dynamics that take place during wedding preparations. As legit-
imacy was the role power with the greatest influence on participants, retailers may train
selling specialists to identify the person(s) to whom the bride feels the most responsi-
bility and/or dependence. Brides may also be encouraged to provide contact details for
these individuals so that they can be invited to visit the bridal store with the bride and
dress pre-selections can be shared with them. Social media may be a useful tool to ease
this exchange of information. An attempt to further understand the bride’s needs and
desires may also be pursued. In addition, the findings may help brides to understand the
role of power relations in the wedding dress selection process. is understanding may
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Min et al. Fash Text (2018) 5:17
generate more awareness of the possible forces influencing a bride so she can have more
control over the possible conflicts generated during this process.
e study’s limitations and suggested future research are as follows: First, the research
focused on brides who live in the US. e power relations that influence brides during
the dress selection process might be different depending on the geographical and cul-
tural background of the bride. us, the research cannot be generalized. Second, the
survey did not enquire about the participants’ sexual orientation and this should be
addressed for future study. Participants’ sexual orientation and gender of their partner
could affect their experience with wedding dress. us, it may be beneficial to conduct
further studies to explore the effect of sexual orientation in the wedding dress selec-
tion process. ird, brides may experience multiple powers during the wedding dress
selection process; however, examining overlapped powers was not the focus of the
study. Nevertheless, the topic of overlapped powers and how brides negotiate influences
is definitely worth exploring and will deepen the understanding of the subject. Lastly,
the open-ended survey method implies additional limitations to the study. In fact, Reja
etal. (2003) suggested that several limitations are associated with surveys that include
open-ended questions, such as missing data. e main reason being that open-ended
survey does not allow the researchers to pose follow-up questions. However, the find-
ings do provide a meaningful understanding of the phenomenon and will serve as a
good starting point for future studies. In order to address this limitation and deepen the
understanding of the phenomenon, it would be desirable for future research to include
in-depth interviews with participants. A quantitative approach may also be advisable for
establishing differences in power bases among various demographic backgrounds of the
brides.
Authors’ contributions
SM planned the study, conducted the data collection, supported the data analysis, and revised the article for publication.
LMC participated in planning the research design, doing the data analysis, and writing the article. JY contributed to revis-
ing the article for publication. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Author details
1 Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 355 Stone Build-
ing, Greensboro, NC 27402, USA. 2 Marketing Department, Universidad EAFIT, Carrera 49 # 7 sur-50, Medellin, Antioquia,
Colombia. 3 School of Business, Catawba College, 2300 W Innes St, Salisbury, NC 28144, USA.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Ethics approval and consent to participate
The research was approved by IRB from the researchers’ university. Written informed consent was obtained from our
participants for the publication of this report and any accompanying images.
Publisher’s Note
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Received: 18 August 2017 Accepted: 19 February 2018
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... Di dalam rumah tangga terdiri dari 2 orang yang memiliki latar belakang yang berbeda (Min et al., 2018), hal ini seringkali menimbulkan konflik terkait dengan perbedaan pandangan untuk mencapai tujuan (Inayah, 2014). Dalam hal ini konflik interpersonal terjadi ketika orang saling tergantung, apa yang dilakukan oleh satu orang berdampak pada orang yang lain (Arthur, 2007). ...
... Kekuasaan penghargaan yaitu berupa hak istimewa yang diberikan oleh agen ketika target melakukan apa yang diinginkan oleh agen biasanya berupa hadiah. Sejalan dengan manfaat dan kompensasi yang akan diberikan bila melakukan kepatuhan, dengan kata lain umpan balik positif (Min et al., 2018). Kekuasaan paksaan hampir sama dengan kekuasaan penghargaan artinya keduanya sama-sama memanipulasi keadaan agar target bersedia menuruti keinginan agen. ...
... Bedanya kekuasaan paksaan lebih pada konsekuensi negative yaitu kekuatan dan ancaman untuk memanipulasi keadaan karena apabila tidak dilakukan akan diberikan hukuman baik berupa fisik maupun psikologis (Raven, 2008). Mempengaruhi seseorang dengan rasa takut yang dimiliki (Min et al., 2018). ...
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