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Multiple Generation Families in Oklahoma and Their Perceptions of Leisure

Jay D. Post
Department of Health, Leisure, and Human Performance
Oklahoma State University

Emily A. McKenzie
Department of Health, Leisure, and Human Performance
Oklahoma State University

Cristina Ruiz Andreu
Department of Health, Leisure, and Human Performance
Oklahoma State University

Jessica Kincannon
Marketing and Communications Director
Lake McMurtry Natural Resource & Recreation Area

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the similarities and differences in choices of leisure within three generations between four families in Oklahoma. Kelly’s (1982) Leisure Choices Paradigm was utilized to guide the analysis of individuals’ perception of freedom and social meaning for their pursuits. The family seems to have an influence on whether someone will be socially or intrinsically/independently motivated in their leisure activities. The majority of an individual’s activities are self-introduced or introduced by a family member rather than a completely external group. More noteworthy, was that each age group has patterns of social interaction during leisure. Individuals who are 18 to 22 years old are more inclined to participate in intrinsic/independent activities. Individuals who are 32-50 years old are more inclined to participate in family-oriented activities. Individuals who are 58 years old and older are more balanced in participating in intrinsic and social activities.

Introduction

Throughout the life cycle, individuals may participate in leisure pursuits with their family (Leitner & Leitner, 2012). Milestones in an individual’s life cycle can influence an individual’s leisure pursuits (Neulinger, 1981; Mundy, 1998). The intrinsic choice for participating in a leisure pursuit is a key element for continuing pursuits later in life (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

As generations are in a constant evolution and family systems are dynamic, more research is needed so facilities and programs can cater to the current needs of their patrons. The purpose of this study was to examine the similarities and differences in choices of leisure within three generations between four families in Oklahoma. Kelly’s (1982) Leisure Choices Paradigm was utilized to guide the analysis of individuals’ perception of freedom and social meaning for their pursuits.

While there is research on individual leisure pursuits and family leisure pursuits, little has been done to investigate how the two may be related. This study strives to diminish this gap in the research by investigating a possible relationship between individual leisure pursuits and family leisure pursuits among four families in Oklahoma.

This study will utilize qualitative data and Kelly’s (1982) Leisure Choices Paradigm to address the following research questions related to four multiple generation families and their leisure experiences: What motivations to participate in leisure pursuits are shared within families; and what motivations to participate in leisure pursuits are shared by age groups between families?

Literature Review

The Family Systems Theory

The Family Systems Theory, according to Zabriskie and McCormick (2001), states that family is the original and possibly the oldest of all human institutions with a dynamic and interconnected system among members that creates a bond between them Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001). As the family members are interconnected, any change to one can affect them all (White & Klein, 2002). The family unit provides a state of balance while allowing each member the opportunity to experience life and their individual environments all with the understanding that the family unit will be stable and supportive (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2003).

Family Leisure

 There is a strong connection between leisure and family that focuses on time spent together interacting for the enhancement of the family as a whole (Orthner & Mancini, 1990). The basis of a child’s leisure perception stems from the interactions and experiences they have with their parents, siblings, and extended family (Iso-Ahola, 1980). Kelly (1978) stated that meanings, motivations, and satisfactions are developed within the family life cycle and therefore, family is a suitable space to share leisure activities. Studies have found that these cycles can determine what family members can and cannot do together depending upon individual motivations, availability of time, and the physical ability to participate (Kelly, 1977; Rapaport & Rapaport, 1975; Witt & Goodale, 1981).

Leisure Motivation

Motivation describes “the initiation of action, the choice of goals of behavior, and the expenditure of effort” (Geen, 1995; p. 6) and occurs mostly in social contexts as the human being is considered to be a social animal. Regardless of the type of actions that take place in social contexts, which may be positive or negative, humans always have some sort of motivational factor within them (Geen, 1995).

Kelly (1982) proposes two types of leisure choices, which outline the different motivations that give meaning to leisure participation (Soltani, Polacios, & Tapps, 2012). The first of the two types of leisure satisfaction is Intrinsic-Meaning, which is found in the activity itself, and focuses on the what and where instead of who. The second of the two types is Social-Meaning, which is elicited from family and friends due to the social nature of human beings as mentioned before, and it fosters the development and nurture of relationships. These two meanings are not mutually exclusive as they may show intrinsic characteristics such as freedom, change and social satisfactions, as well as the enjoyment of interacting with family and friends (Kelly, 1982).

The paradigm divides leisure activities along two axes. The vertical axis is intrinsic/social meaning. The horizontal axis is the level of freedom, which is measured by perceived influence of choosing for and in the activity itself to participating for other external reasons.  In table 1, a balance is shown among all cells implying that activities are chosen for a mixture of reasons. The cells are described in Kelly (1982) as follows:

  • Unconditional Leisure: An activity chosen for intrinsic satisfaction as it has a direct meaning for the participant.  Among these activities we may find reading or playing the piano.
  • Compensatory Leisure: This activity is chosen with the purpose of relaxation or change of activity to recuperate.  For instance, watching television or taking a walk.
  • Relational Leisure (complementary): Activities chosen to build or maintain personal relationships such as a parent playing with his/her children.
  • Role-determined Leisure (complementary): These activities may be perceived as an obligation rather than personal satisfaction.

Leisure often occurs with family although there is less freedom than expected due to the obligations with family members (Kelly, 1982). Both parents and siblings exert a strong influence on someone´s leisure orientations (Kleiber, Walker, & Mannell, 2011).

Table 1: Leisure and Motivation

Freedom

 

 

High

Low

Meaning

Intrinsic

Unconditional Leisure

Compensatory Leisure

Social

Relational Leisure

Role-Determined Leisure

Source: Adapted from Kelly, 1982

Methods

Research Design

This study was a within and between group design.  The researchers utilized a qualitative interview, case-study method to explore the phenomenon through perceptions of three generations of people within four different families. In-person, face-to-face interviews were guided with prepared, open-ended questions to gather the participants’ perceptions.

Participants

A convenient purposive sample was utilized for selecting four families with three generations within each. Each family resided in Oklahoma, with the exception of one family member who grew up in Oklahoma, but moved to Texas as an adult. The youngest generation was limited to be between 18 and 24 years of age, the middle generation between 32 and 50, and the eldest generation is at least the age of 58 or older. Participants were both male and female.

Data Collection

Prior to study implementation, Independent Review Board (IRB) approval was obtained.  The interviews were semi-structured and face-to-face and took approximately 30 to 60 minutes for each participant. Participants read the IRB and signed the informed consent. Previously prepared, open-ended questions were used during each interview. The interviewers used an audio recorder and a journal for note taking. After transcribing the audio data, the participants were asked to double check and approve the transcript before it was analyzed for themes.

Data Analysis

Interview notes and transcripts from each interview were coded to the Leisure Choice Paradigm. Thematic analyses identified themes and patterns within each participant's answers (Glesne, 2011). In the analysis, categories emerge from the participant’s responses that form into themes and patterns. The themes provided information necessary to answer the research questions.

 Assumptions

The assumptions for this study are about each participant’s experiences and they are as follows:

  • Participants had the opportunity to experience leisure/recreation pursuits during each stage of their life thus far.
  • Each participant can remember some leisure/recreation experiences.
  • Participants were involved in some leisure/recreation pursuits with their families.

Ethical Consideration

Trustworthiness suggestions are credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability (Gay, Mills, & Airasian, 2012). The participants were selected based on the study’s criteria. Each participant was given time to ask questions. The interviewer established a rapport with each participant before the interview. The interviewer asked open-ended questions in a non-leading nature and consistent way. The interviewer listened and did not interrupt the participant while she/he answered each question (Gay et al., 2012).

To increase the credibility of data collection, all materials (recorder, notebook, and questions) were organized and prepared in a professional manner. The participant had an opportunity to correct and confirm information.

Findings

Family A participates in intrinsic, independent activities.  They share similar activities such as reading, writing, arts and crafts, and family movie time.  They engage in these activities for escaping or rejuvenating from other parts of their life such as pain from disabilities, work, and household responsibilities.  “[Writing] can be therapeutic.  You can know what you know. It’s processed through the writing.” Family A is largely recuperative in Kelly’s (1982) Leisure Choices Paradigm.

Family B participates in social activities with a mix of family and friends.  They share similar activities like spending time with the youngest generation, exercise and self-improvement, and eating out at restaurants.  Family B engages in these activities for relaxing or rejuvenating from other parts of their life such as work, and “everything, everyday life, everyday routine, a stressful situation. It helps me stop thinking about it…it’s fun.” Family B is mostly role-determined in terms of their leisure choices. The activities they do most often are role-determined, meaning they spend most of their time participating in leisure activities that were chosen with a low level of freedom. 

Family C participates in social activities mostly with friends. They share similar activities such as eating with others and participating in individual sports.  They actively participate in their activities in and for the pursuit itself, or sense of personal freedom. Family C is mainly in the relational quadrant of the Leisure Choices Paradigm.

Family D participates in intrinsic independent activities.  When participating in social activities, these activities are mostly enjoyed with family members.   Family D shares similar activities like music and self-improvement. Similar to Family C, they engage in these activities in and for the pursuit itself, or sense of personal freedom. Family D is primarily in the unconditional quadrant of the Leisure Choices Paradigm.

Individuals of the youngest generation of our sample (18 to 22 years old) participate in intrinsic and independent pursuits. They share similar activities such as arts and literature, physical activity, and independence with transportation.  “I drive around exploring places I’ve never been. It gives me a chance to then to get out and walk around and find new things.” This age group has a wide range of reasons for engaging in their activities with no theme for the freedom of choosing. This age group is predominantly unconditional and recuperative in their leisure choices.

Individuals of the middle generation of our sample (32 to 50 years old) participate in social activities that center around family. They enjoy teaching their leisure pursuits to younger generations. “One of the things I’ve grown to love about those two sports (hunting and disc golf), … is I can introduce someone who hasn’t done that. The joy I see from them just lighting up when they experience that, that really is more meaningful to me than I get out of it by myself.” They share similar pursuits like watching TV, shopping, and time with family during their activities (even if the activities are mundane tasks). This age group has a wide range of reasons for engaging in their activities with no consistent theme for the freedom of choosing. This age group is essentially in the relational and role-determined quadrants of the Leisure Choices Paradigm.

Individuals of the older generation of our sample (58 years old and older) participate in a mixture of intrinsic/independent and social activities. “Through the years I’ve enjoyed our family times together, usually when the grandchildren were small. Now that they are grown, they all go their different ways.” The social activities have a mixture of engaging with friends and family.  They share similar activities like volunteering, being physically active, and eating out at restaurants.  This age group enjoys activities that allow time to focus on themselves and others. The older adult group has a wide range reasons for engaging in their activities with no obvious theme related to their freedom of choice. This age group is represented in all four quadrants of the Leisure Choices Paradigm.

Discussion

The motivation for leisure choices varies from family to family in Oklahoma. There appears to be a relationship between the levels of intrinsic to social motivation and age groups.   

The family seems to have a noteworthy influence on whether someone will be socially or intrinsically/independently motivated in their leisure activities. The majority of an individual’s activities are self-introduced or introduced by a family member rather than a completely external group. Families pass along leisure pursuits from generation to generation.  For example, parents that read to their children, pass on the personal enjoyment of literature.  This is also true with creative pursuits like creative writing, arts, and crafts.

Each age group has patterns of social interaction during leisure as seen in Figure 1. Individuals who are 18 to 22 years old are more inclined to participate in intrinsic/independent activities. Individuals who are 32-50 years old are more inclined to participate in family-oriented activities. Individuals who are 58 years old and older are more balanced in participating in intrinsic and social activities.


Generational Leisure Diagrams Figure 1

Conclusion

With a better understanding of how diverse an individual’s motivations for leisure choices can be, recreation programs can better plan on how to target their marketing and activity planning for different generations. Intrinsic and independent activities are appropriate for individuals who are 18-22 years old. To attract individuals who are 32-50 years old, the program should provide family oriented activities. Programs that provide volunteer opportunities and ways to stay active can attract individuals who are 58 years old and older. Ultimately, this study gives us a better understanding of how motivation to participate in leisure is changing as an individual ages: early focus on self, then focus on family, then focus on both the self and others. Additionally, knowing that families influence an individual’s leisure pursuits, more attention can be paid to providing spaces and programming specifically for family leisure. While this research cannot be generalized far beyond the sample, it does provide interesting insights for programming and future research.

Finally, further investigations could be done utilizing the Kelly (1982) paradigm. Are there differences in motivation to participate in leisure between males and females? Are there differences in motivation to participate in leisure based on job type? Are individuals who have manual labor-type jobs more likely to participate in recuperative leisure than those who do not? Kelly’s (1982) paradigm offers an interesting way to investigate leisure choices and future research could add significant finding to the body of knowledge about leisure choices and motivation.

List of authors and their bios

References

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