This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Exploring Apparel Relationships and Body Image of Tween Girls and Their Mothers Through Qualitative Analysis of Segmented Focus Groups




Brock, Mary

Type of Degree



Consumer Affairs


Tweens are individuals who are no longer a children, but are not quite teenagers. This study defines tweens as girls between the ages of 9 and 14 years. The U.S. female tween population is estimated to be 10.4 million (U. S. Census Bureau, 2006), and total tween spending power is said to be more than $221 billion annually (de Mesa, 2005). During their tween years, most girls go through puberty and their bodies change at a rapid pace. Like adults, increasing numbers of this group are now characterized as overweight or obese (Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1999). Thus, given this period of rapid change, compounded by problems with obesity, it was theorized that there are many subgroups, particularly related to age and size, that affect these consumers’ apparel relationships and body image. Though tweens are identified by researchers as a consumer demographic, their intrinsic nature and individual apparel needs have only been studied in a few, limited academic contexts. As the trend towards obesity trickles into the youth generations (CDC, 1999; Torgan, 2002), there are many far-reaching implications for the plus size tween. General problems observed in the apparel marketplace are lack of selection in clothing choices for plus size shoppers and lack of age appropriate garments in the market for larger, but younger plus size consumers. The purpose of this research was to characterize subgroups based on age and size of female tween consumers. This was done within the context of niche markets in the apparel industry. Mothers were included in this study in order to understand how mother/daughter relationships affect the tweens’ apparel relationships and body image. This exploratory study of tween girls and their mothers used content analysis of segmented focus groups to understand the apparel relationships and body image of tween girls. It is through this qualitative approach that the researcher was able to probe the nuances that exist between subgroups based on the age (younger and older) and size (normal and plus size) of tween girls. The results found through an emergent theme methodology, showed that tween girls have complex apparel relationships and are sensitive about the size of their bodies. Subjects in all groups indicated that they were unable to find clothing that was stylish, age appropriate, and fit their bodies. These identified gaps show the potential for niche markets within the tween consumer group and established a conceptual framework for further research.