An Examination of Family/Group Roles in the Decision to Visit a Public Zoological Park


  • Andrew J. Mowen
  • Alan R. Graefe


Family/group characteristics, trip characteristics, leisure decision-making roles, zoological parks


Prior decision-making research highlights the importance of mothers and children in family-oriented leisure decisions, but the degree of this influence has varied by the type of decision, the decision-making role, and various family/group and trip characteristics. The present study revisits and adds to prior research by examining such relationships and by including the perceived influence of other family/friends (in addition to the roles of the traditional father, mother, and child triad) in the decision to visit a public zoological park. Consistent with prior leisure research, our analyses indicate that family-oriented leisure was predominately a joint decision and that female partners were perceived to be the most influential idea initiators, information gatherers, and final decision makers. However, this type of decision making and perceived degree of influence was significantly related to family/group and trip characteristics. Specifically, male partners and other family or friends were perceived as more influential when older children were present in the group (compared with groups with younger children present). Respondents who were Black or who had lower household incomes were also more likely than Whites or respondents with higher household incomes to indicate that male partners and other family/friends were most influential in the decision making. In contrast to recent family leisure decisionmaking research, we found that children were less likely to be perceived as influential final decision makers. Although several studies have discussed changes in family decision-making influence, our results indicate that it would be premature to shift the promotional emphasis away from females in the decision to visit zoos. Nevertheless, zoo marketers should consider that multiple parties negotiate in the decision-making process and should ensure that messages and products are positioned toward the various family/group members (e.g., mothers, fathers, children, other family/friends). Zoo advertising designed to activate the desire to visit (e.g., idea initiation) should continue to balance the appeal for both mothers and children. However, when marketing to households with older children, zoos should develop promotions that are also appealing to other extended family or friends.