Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Research in Consumer Behavior: Consumer Culture Theory





Publisher Name

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Publisher Location

Bingley, UK



This chapter explores the symbolic connections between coming of age liminality and identity-oriented consumption practices in postmodern American culture, specifically among adolescent girls. Methodology/approach

Forty-two female participants (ages 20–23) participants were asked to answer the general question of “Who am I?” through creating identity collages and writing accompanying narrative summaries for each of three discrete life stages: early adolescence (past-self), late adolescence (present-self), and adulthood (future-self). Data were analyzed using a hermeneutical approach. Findings

Coming of age in postmodern American consumer culture involves negotiating paradoxical identity tensions through consumption-oriented benchmarks, termed “market-mediated milestones.” Market-mediated milestones represent achievable criteria by which adolescents solidify their uncertain liminal self-concepts. Research implications

In contrast to the traditional Van Gennepian conceptualization of rites of passage, market-mediated milestones do not necessarily mark a major transition from one social status to another, nor do they follow clearly defined stages. Market-mediated milestones help adolescents navigate liminality through an organic, nonlinear, and incremental coming of age process. Practical implications

Rather than traditional cultural institutions (e.g., church, family), the marketplace is becoming the central cultural institution around which adolescent coming of age identity is constructed. As such, organizations have the power to create market-mediated milestones for young people. In doing so, organizations should be mindful of adolescent well-being. Originality/value

This research marks a turning point in understanding traditional rites of passage in light of postmodern degradation of cultural institutions. The institutions upon which traditional rites of passage are based have changed; therefore, our conceptions of what rites of passage are today should change as well.




Author Posting. © Emerald Publishing Group 2014. This article is posted here by permission of Emerald for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in the Research in Consumer Behavior: Consumer Culture Theory book series, 2014,

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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