Based on responses from more than 4,000 parents of children aged 4+, research firm YouGov and creative communications agency Krow concluded that attitudes towards parenting and household management have a more important role than income, age or other factors.
The study, first reported by Marketing Week, aimed at providing marketers with the means of identifying the best ways to communicate with families and to understand what motivates their spending decisions. It also identified some of the favourite brands preferred by each group.
"We thought money was going to be at the heart of people's decision-making, but what actually came out was more their attitude towards how they want to run their lives, bring up their children and the relationships they want to have," said Aileen Ross, Senior Planner at Krow, as she outlined the results to Marketing Week.
Krow and YouGov described the four family groups as "conscious nurturers" (32%), "control seekers" (28%), "practical planners" (25%) and "plate spinners" (14%).
Conscious nurturers, who are typically more affluent than the other family groups, are said to believe that it's very important for children's development to be included in any purchase decision-making.
Being relatively better off, they are less likely to budget for day-to-day purchases, and their preferred brands include Pret A Manger, the upmarket sandwich chain, bookseller Waterstones and Czech automaker Skoda.
Control seekers, as the name implies, plan their spending in advance and they believe that parents have a responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the whole household.
Four in 10 prefer well-known brands rather than own label and they are more likely to opt for brands like Swedish automaker Volvo and Argos, the catalogue retailer.
Meanwhile, practical planners are more likely to keep to a strict budget compared to the other family groups, although they are open to different members of the household contributing to purchase decisions depending on their area of expertise.
According to the research, they prefer brands like Nationwide, the financial institution, The Co-operative Group and TGI Friday's, the US restaurant chain.
Finally, plate spinners are those families who are just about managing to pay their bills and, consequently, are less likely to experiment or stray from their regular purchase choices. Nando's chicken restaurants and Halfords, the parts and equipment retailer, are among their brands of choice.
Separately, the research also found that, among all families, almost half (48%) of all day-to-day purchase decisions are made entirely by parents, while a quarter of families allow children to voice their opinion from the outset.
Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by WARC staff