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Outsourcing Parenthood? How Families Manage Care Assemblages Using Paid Commercial Services

Amber M. Epp and Sunaina R. Velagaleti

Journal of Consumer Research, 2014, vol. 41, issue 4, 911 - 935

Abstract: An expanding array of available services allow parents to outsource almost any caregiving activity (e.g., nannies, potty training, birthday party planning). Sociologists document a care deficit--resulting from dual-earner households and distance from extended family--coupled with rising consumerism to account for outsourcing. These studies, as well as those in consumer research, clarify outsourcing motivations, but stop short of explaining the differential impacts of outsourcing tensions parents regularly face when assembling care. As such, consumer researchers know little about how parents navigate such tensions when deciding what is acceptable to outsource. Based on depth interviews with 23 families, our analysis uncovers complex care assemblages that are shaped by parenting discourses and tensions of control, intimacy, and substitutability. The resulting framework explains parents' strategies for minimizing outsourcing tensions, reveals processes for (re)assembling different types of care resources, and challenges what is known about the relationship between the market and family life.

Date: 2014
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