Life pattern

Chapters 14, 15 and 16 covering the social, situation and individual aspects, are all, naturally, based on the life conditions of the families, their life patterns, production methods which are all significant factors for the social and cultural style individuals seek to adopt.

The ability to adopt social and cultural style is, in turn, dependent on life cycle and close personal relationships within the family.

When I write “culture”, I believe, like Gullestrup (1992:54): “Culture is the view of the world, the values, the norms and the behavioural patterns - and the material or abstract production of these - which any human being inherits from a previous generation: and which, in one way or another, differentiates him from people from other cultures.

A culture can then only be defined once empirical research and analyses are able to discover the individual layers of culture’s vertical dimensions.

At the end of the 1970s, theoretical analysis of the terms “cultural style” and “cultural capital” began to make their mark. Cultural style is a term used to describe ethnic and gender-specific culture forms  while cultural capital is resources, consumption and time.

The comprehensive empirical analyses of Bourdieu (1979) concerning lifestyles in France have had a particularly strong influence on Scandinavian research. Bourdieu’s analyses are, of course, strongly biased by French culture. The following brief synopses of Danish research with a Danish (Scandinavian) bias contain just as many interesting perspectives as the French study but differ in significant ways.

According to Skovmand (1985), Bourdieu describes qualitative cultural dimensions by analysing the relationship between symbolic power, cultural lifestyle, cultural capital and the associated exercise of economic and social power. In actual fact, he tries to prove that there is not only a struggle for power at the social and financial level but also a struggle for cultural capital which is the decisive factor in how consumers move within the cultural circuit.

The formation of cultural taste and cultural consumption in relation to toys (later described in this book as utility maximisation) is, according to Bourdieu, the result of socialisation and social, financial and in particular educational factors (which is why this book concentrates on lifestyle on the basis of educational background).

To return to the description of (Scandinavian and) Danish analyses:

Any cultural style is a special conceptual universe containing special ways of understanding culture and special cultural terms. A life pattern demands the presence of some particular social circumstances in order to be able to exist and function.

Two different professional traditions deal with the daily lives of the population and the distribution of social benefits.

  • The professional tradition which concentrates on living conditionsemphasises the description and analysis of the distribution of resources and aims to create greater equality.
  • The life pattern tradition emphasises a deep understandingof the cultural and value differences between some of the dominant groups in the population.

Life pattern analyses normally employ a stratification model as an index for “living conditions” and then classify the population. Without the index, the analyses are meaningless. The conditions and circumstances for a “life pattern” and for certain “living conditions” must also be part of the calculations.

E. J. Hansen (1978-80, 1990) and a number of subsequent research projects (Buchert(1981), Groth& Møllegaard (1982) and especially Højrup (1983), plus the more recent Gullestad (1985) and Holtedahl (1986)) form the basis for the description of consumer groups by integrating the two forms of analysis described above.

Research into “living conditions” and life patterns have been particularly important sources of inspiration in the preparation of the life pattern and lifestyles index in this book. There are vast differences between the research mentioned. Even so, they can all be classified as one of the two forms of analysis.

Their sum total is the concept of lifestyle because together they narrow down the focus and identify qualities which certain groups of the population seek to demonstrate, expound or communicate: the symbols they surround themselves with and the attitudes and values they wish to promote. All in all, the research is a question of defining the image each group has of itself and which is confirmed by the other groups, the image which forms groups’ and individual’s identities.

An integration of the two professional traditions and a presentation and definition of the concept as used in this book is outlined below:


1. “Living conditions” and values

Danish society is built on collective consciousness of a common culture and language used by all groups of society and this facilitates interaction and integration. Society is split into a number of groups, so-called strata. Each stratum represents a homogeneous sub-group.

Analysis and research into the conditions for life in Denmark, normally undertaken by the Danish National Institute of Social Research, are carried out as stratified analyses in which the population is split into three or five strata, employment groups, social groups or classes. The tendency to use three or five strata as an index is based on the assumption that Danish society is a homogeneous society made up of homogeneous subgroups, with clear class distinctions, a common language and culture and an extremely small immigrant population of foreign ethnic minorities (less than 5% of the total population).

The three or five groups are subject to a certain degree of differentiation and distinction. The classification of life patterns is made up of categories where the variation within a category is less than the variation between categories.

The members of the various groups regard the various value norms of the other groups with respect but they are often erased by close contact between the groups.



“Living conditions” research is carried out especially by the Danish National Institute of Social Research (Dines Andersen:1989, Bjarne Hjorth Andersen:1991, E.J. Hansen:1984). The index’s categories concerning parents’ educational background and work/job were partly established on the basis of French social research covering the educational background and employment of the population - see Dines Andersen (1987), Bunnage & Hedegaard (1978), Fridberg (1981) and E.J. Hansen (1984,1990) - and partly on a British stratification model (GRO (General Register Office):1951) which is often used in international medical publications.

The categories for the index for educational background and job are built up on the basis of the living conditions and preconditions for these. The advantage of using a stratification model as the index in the LIFE PATTERN model is that the result is a more closely defined type of parent. Furthermore, it is possible to compare results achieved from one group with results coming from another.

It is, however, not always easy to define certain parents’ groups as they appear in the index in the LIFE PATTERN model.

The research index concerning parents’ hobbies and interests is formulated directly after Andersen (1987).

However, by looking only at “living conditions” - how the family with children is equipped with a home, parents’ employment, education, hobby, etc. -  we get an incomplete picture of how the family relates to toys and play.

When parents account for their own life pattern, they do so not only in material terms but also in terms of what they require in the way of life values, explained via existential descriptions/comments concerning how they see toys and play, free time, hobbies and general family togetherness.

Bjarne Hjorth Andersen’s research into the daily lives of families with children (1991) distributes families according to family social groups (three and five groups), profession/job, free time and “togetherness”. By complete contrast, Rahbek Christensen’s studies of life patterns in Denmark deal with three types of life pattern and a variety of women’s life patterns connected with them.


2. Life patterns and values

There are clear cultural contrasts within Danish society and each is connected to its own particular universe of meaning, concept and value.

These universes of meaning, concept and value are anchored in conditions for existence, created on the basis of a person’s educationional background, work and pattern of working life - “production method”, their day-to-day life pattern including hobbies and interests and the parental life pattern and beliefs about the future.

The term “production method” can briefly be described as the background and way in which the family earns a living.

In this perspective, life pattern analyses are carried out on the basis of analyses of the production method and its multiple and complex causes. Even where a wide variety of different social and environmental factors (and production methods) creates almost identical conditions for existence and understanding of life for very different families, the same factors can also result in common, everyday practises and ideologies which can support life patterns.

The literature covering life pattern-oriented research and which has inspired this section includes work by researchers into popular culture and by social anthropologists (Lone Rahbek Christensen:1987,1988 and Karen Schousboe:1990). (Dines Andersen’s research into schoolchildren’s daily lives groups children according to their social background or group (five groups in all) by age and gender and is, as earlier mentioned, a good example of a Danish “conditions-oriented” stratification model.)

Each life pattern is motivated by one of the following four perspectives: psycho-social make-up, view of culture/life, attitudes and random beliefs and socio-financial resources.

The descriptions of consumers differentiate between parents’ core values, the attitudes and opinions they express about toys, their value and about play. A few parents and parents’ groups have definite value systems which steer their attitudes and behaviour towards the fulfilment of certain ideals and aims relating to toys and play.

These values are most often determined by education! Education controls the individual person’s attitudes, opinions and behaviour in many different ways. Values and education create the foundation for a conscious selection and rejection of toys and play in connection with bringing up children within the family unit.

Through these values, parents express their social and cultural understanding and voice more or less explicit requirements, wishes and dreams connected to e.g. play with their children, play with toys, time and space in which to play, etc.

Values are often implicit - or at least they are not always clearly expressed. Attitudes and opinions, on the other hand, are clearly expressed but are in many cases inconsistent and diffuse. What is apparent is that the stability of parental values is demonstrated via their social and cultural background. For example, parents’ dreams about “the good life” do not always point in the same direction because the human being is influenced very early in life by childhood life patterns or culture.

Life patterns are based on different social and cultural values and structures within society and they have different functions and requirements in relation to each another and to society as a whole. This explains why certain sub-cultures or special living conditions in a specific local society are not the soil from which a certain lifestyle can grow. In actual fact, different lifestyles can exist at the same time and in the same place, despite the fact that they make opposing demands on each other and on society.



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