The Socialization Process for Women with Physical Disabilities: The Impact of Agents and Agencies in the Introduction to an Elite Sport

Article excerpt

Introduction

Socialization is an active process of learning and social development, which occurs as we interact with one another and become acquainted with the social world in which we live. It involves the formation of ideas about who we are and what is important in our lives. We are not simply passive learners in the socialization process. We actively participate in our socialization as we influence those who influence us. We actively interpret what we see and hear, and we accept, resist, or revise the messages we receive about who we are, about the world, and about what we should do as we make our way in the world. Therefore, socialization is not a one-way process of social influence through which we are molded and shaped. Instead, it is an interactive process through which we actively connect with others, synthesize information, and make decisions that shape our own lives and the social world around us (Coakley, 2004, p. 98)

Leisure Socialization

As with other life spheres, the attitudes people develop toward leisure and leisure interests are, in large part, the result of social learning (Mannell & Kleiber, 1997). Much of the variability in people's leisure behavior can be attributed to how their leisure interests and participation patterns are responded to and/or reinforced by their immediate social group and by society at large, When describing the social context of leisure, Mannell and Kleiber (1997) made the distinction between socialization "into" and "through" leisure. More specifically, they noted that the process by which people acquire attitudes, values, and skills that affect leisure choices and behavior is referred to as socialization into leisure. There are many agents of socialization who play a role in this process, including parents, siblings, teachers, and coaches. As stated by Mannell and Kleiber (1997), "there is a 'climate' beyond the weather that is more or less favorable to the development and continuation of various activity patterns and interests" (p. 226). This "climate" includes available leisure services, programs in the community, natural resources in the area, and the accepted norms of behavior.

Socialization through leisure suggests that leisure plays a role in the preparation for future roles and responsibilities. In other words, leisure is recognized as a valuable resource for "cultural innovation, social solidarity and personal development" (Mannell & Kleiber, 1997, p. 226). The two are linked in that socialization into leisure occurs to some extent due to an appreciation of the potential for socialization through leisure. For example, play is encouraged among children because it encourages creativity in children, and is connected to social and cognitive development. Sport is encouraged because it contributes to the ability to work with others in the achievement of shared goals, encourages discipline, and promotes many of the qualities recognized as being important in society.

Many researchers do not differentiate between leisure and sport socialization, and refer to leisure, sport, recreation, and physical activity socialization almost interchangeably (Brasile & Hedrick, 1991; Durstine, Franklin, Morgan, Pitetti, & Roberts, 2000; Greendorfer, Lewko, & Rosengren, 1996; Henderson & Bedini, 1995; Kelly, 1980; Kenyon & McPherson, 1973; Page, O'Connor, & Peterson, 2001; Promis, Erevelles, & Matthews, 2001). However, the actual leisure and sport socialization process can be different for people with disabilities because many of their agents (parents, teachers, peers) may be unaware of the opportunities available to people with disabilities. In order to gain a greater understanding of people with disabilities and their sport and leisure opportunities, the current study examined the socialization process for women with physical disabilities as it relates specifically to their introduction into elite wheelchair basketball. …