Dyadic gift-giving behaviour: dimensions, relationships and motivations from an attachment perspective

Ines, Branco-Illodo (2016) Dyadic gift-giving behaviour: dimensions, relationships and motivations from an attachment perspective. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Dyadic gift giving is often described as a mechanism to manage important but insecure relationships (Caplow, 1982). Considering that most gift giving behaviour happens within interpersonal relationships (Ruth, 1996), and that the economic significance of the gift market in the UK represents £40 billion in 2012 (Mintel, 2013), it is important to understand how relationships operate as antecedents of gift giving behaviour.

In this thesis, we aim to provide a broad understanding of dyadic gift-giving behaviour from the perspective of the giver, specifically bringing clarity to the complexity of dyadic gift giving dimensions, elucidating the giver’s list of gift receivers and understanding how givers operate as antecedents of gift giving motivations. To enhance this understanding, we use insights from the normative dimension of Attachment Theory, following the idea of attachment as a human tendency to be close to significant others to obtain protection and emotional security (Bowlby, 1969).

By centring their analysis on the giver-receiver dyad, researchers are ignoring some basic components defining dyadic gift giving, such as the focus of the givers’ attention and individuals who connect the relationship between the giver and the receiver. Furthermore, the inherent assumption that, givers give solely to maintain their relationship with the receiver and the traditional research focus on the nature of relationships has restricted the study of gift giving to the consideration of a static giver-receiver dyad. This approach neglects the links between each of the members of the dyad and their respective networks. This limitation is extended to the study of gift giving motivations, where the main research interest is on uncovering alternative motivations to give and proposing new classifications for giving motives, thus neglecting how relationships operate as antecedents of gift giving motivations and overlooking why multiple motivations occur within the same gift experience.

To address the abovementioned limitations, the present study adopts an interpretivist approach as an appropriate perspective to look at gift giving and obtain an in-depth understanding of givers’ gift experiences. This is in line with most empirical research in gift giving, which has adopted an interpretivist standpoint and qualitative research methods (Davies, 2010). The research design involves a qualitative methodology that encompasses 28 online diaries and 27 follow-up interviews, producing over 700 pages of text in total. Data collection was conducted sequentially in two rounds at two different times of the year in order to capture a variety of gift giving occasions, relationships and behaviours. These methods were used in a complementary way to provide a broader picture of dyadic gift-giving behaviour. The content analysis adopted an interpretivist approach consistent with Holbrook and O’Shaughnessy (1988).

At a theoretical level, Attachment Theory illuminates dyadic gift giving by answering the questions of the main dimensions explaining dyadic gift giving, how givers relate to gift receivers and how relationships operate as antecedents of gift giving motivations. The findings indicate the existence of different dyadic gift giving dimensions including direct, inter-linked and indirect dyadic gift giving forms. These forms involve gift-giving intermediaries and the relationship goals underpinned by Attachment Theory. The differentiation of these three forms of giving shows that dyadic gift giving is more complex than the traditional view, which only considered the giver-receiver dyad (e.g., Weinberger and Wallendorf, 2012).

The data also revealed that givers differentiated the ways in which they relate to gift receivers in attachment terms. As a result, givers distinguished direct receivers who were providers or seekers of support in the eyes of the giver, mediated receivers who were extensions of important individuals for the giver to access the support of a significant person, and surrogate receivers who replaced unavailable but important others. This approach also indicates different levels of permanence of the receiver within the givers’ gift list, which endows the givers’ gift list with dynamism by identifying permanent, transient and sporadic gift receivers.

Finally, the data revealed that givers’ pursuit of distinct relationship goals with different gift receivers attends to attachment as an ultimate motivation to give. At the same time, motivational triggers, drivers and roles are proximate motives that serve specific purposes and complement each other in order to help givers to achieve their relationship goals. The integration of ultimate and proximate connects Social Exchange Theory and Evolutionary Psychology, and it explains the occurrence of multiple gift giving motivations within the same gift-giving event. Therefore, this thesis advances marketing knowledge by the differentiation of novel insights (i.e., new dyadic gift giving dimensions; different types of gift receivers) and by the integration of previously differentiated phenomena (i.e., gift motivations) (MacInnis, 2011).

From a practitioner’s perspective, the understanding of givers’ characterisation of gift receivers facilitates the implementation of marketing strategies that portray the benefits that individuals look for in a relationship. While the unravelling of multiple motivations allows the design of marketing appeals using gift motivations singularly or in combination to each other within the same event, the consideration of gift-giving intermediaries further develops the customer-decision-making process of selecting a gift.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Tynan, A. Caroline
Pereira Heath, Teresa
Keywords: Attachment, gift giving
Subjects: H Social sciences > HM Sociology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 38629
Depositing User: Branco Illodo, Ines
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 06:40
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2022 04:30
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/38629

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