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Family's Influence On Leisure

Family is the major context of leisure (Shaw 1998). When asked about most important leisure, individuals, regardless of age or culture, typically indicate that time spent or activities pursued with family are most valued. It is within families that individuals learn leisure skills, interests, attitudes, and behaviors, and research has indicated continuity of recreation and leisure interests learned in childhood and adolescence across the life course. In addition, family and family members are common or frequent leisure companions throughout the life cycle. Families also construct time and opportunities for leisure, as well as constraints. However, the family's influence on leisure is often distinguished by gender, social class, age, race/ethnicity, and culture.

Parents have a strong influence on children's and adolescents' play and recreation. They facilitate, constrain, and shape children's development of leisure skills, interests, and participation in numerous ways: through their own leisure activities, the toys made available, economic support for lessons and equipment, and transportation to and from practices, activities, and events. For example, in Canada and the United States mothers have been found to be important to children's ability to participate in recreation. Mothers, even when employed outside the home, are often the ones who actually transport (or organize the transportation of children) to various activities, events, and entertainment venues (Henderson et al. 1996). Research in Canada suggests, however, that children, in particular adolescents, do not passively accept leisure constraints imposed by parents. Rather, many adolescents negotiate constraints (e.g., parents' unavailability for transport) in ways that allow continued participation in valued leisure ( Jackson and Rucks 1995). Further, the extent to which parents influence children's recreation and leisure, and how and why they do, varies by gender, social class, and/or race. Daughters are often more dependent than sons on parental approval and support for recreational activities; middle-class children have more independence and freedom from parents in their leisure than working-class children (e.g., McMeeking and Purkayastha 1995; Zeijl et al. 2000). Race and ethnicity are also important in shaping family's influence on children's leisure. For example, racial minority parents in the Netherlands and United States have been found to have concerns with children's leisure activities related to racism and being unwelcome that racial majority parents do not have (Phillip 1999; Zeijl et al. 2000). At the same time, recreation and leisure are also seen as ways to celebrate and pass on valued cultural and racial identities to children. The cultural values that shape racial and ethnic groups' leisure are not static, however. For example, Susan Juniu (2000), in a study of South American (Mexican or Hispanic) immigrants to the United States, found that cultural values surrounding work, social interaction, perceptions of time, and appropriate recreational activity changed with immigration, though this was mediated by the social class of the immigrants.

Adults' leisure is also strongly influenced by family. Much adult leisure is role determined (Kleiber 1999), that is, roles such as spouse, worker, parent, or caregiver have a tremendous influence on time, energy, economic resources, companions, and opportunities for, as well as the meaning of, leisure. The birth of the first child in particular—and the presence of dependent children in the home generally—has a dramatic impact on parental leisure. There is typically a shift from personal or joint (spouse/partner only) leisure to child-centered leisure. Women's leisure is especially affected by marriage and/or presence of dependent children. Research in Canada, the Netherlands, China and the United States suggests that women are more likely than men to give up personal leisure and to give priority to children's and/or spouse's (or partner's) leisure interests and engagements (Freysinger and Chen 1993; Shaw 1998). For example, in the Netherlands, despite research in the 1970s that suggested the family was becoming more symmetrical or plastic in terms of women's and men's roles, Simone van Dijk, Annita van Betuw, and Jan W. te Kloeze (1993) contend that such family structures exist in theory but not in practice. This is true regardless of age of the child (or children) and the mother's employment status. Further, based on her study of Canadian families' experiences of Christmas, Leslie Bella (1992) found that women are most often the organizers and providers of family leisure. This gendered construction of family and leisure has resulted in women experiencing family leisure (particularly when dependent children are involved) as semi-leisure whereas men are more likely to experience the same interactions as pure leisure. This does not mean that family has an absolute or only a negative impact on women's leisure. Rather, women also negotiate family constraints to leisure, report important satisfactions from family leisure, and may derive different meanings from their leisure than do men. Further, in Canada, the United States, and Bangladesh, gender has been found to intersect with other identities such as race, social class, sexual orientation, and able-bodiedness in shaping family's impact on both women's and men's leisure (Allen and Chin-Sang 1991; Bialeschki and Pearce 1997; Henderson et al. 1995; Khan 1997; Tirone and Shaw 1997). Further, research in Canada, Great Britain, the United States, and other countries indicates the experience and impact of family on leisure changes with age, as the demands of and activities in family and other social roles shift and developmental changes occur (e.g., Bialeschki 1994; Dupuis and Smale 2000), and across time as cultures are altered by economic, social, and political changes. For example, changing family structures in Korea at the end of the twentieth century has led to decreased intergenerational and interfamilial activities and increased intrafamilial activities (Robertson 1995). In France, Nicole Samuel (1996) has documented changing notions of vacation time for French families.

In summary, the family shapes leisure meanings and participation across the course of life and time in a myriad of ways. Family is both a source of leisure opportunity and constraint, reflecting the tension between individual wants/selfdetermination and societal norms/expectations of others. This tension is perhaps best illustrated in the gendered experience of family leisure and in cultural differences in perceptions and notions of leisure. At the same time, individuals negotiate family constraints to leisure and report finding freedom or leisure within constraint. Finally, how and why family is important to individuals' experiences of leisure differs across cultures and changes across age and time as family roles, responsibilities, and structures change, development A Sephardic family celebrates Passover by sharing a picnic in West Jerusalem. Individuals learn leisure skills, interests, attitudes, and behaviors within the family. Family members are common leisure companions throughout the life cycle. ANNIE GRIFFITHS BELT/CORBIS occurs, and societal norms and cultural practices are challenged.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily & Marriage TraditionsLeisure - Meanings Of Leisure, Family's Influence On Leisure, Leisure's Influence On Family