The Relationship between Media in the Home and Family Functioning in Context of Leisure

Article excerpt

Research has established a positive relationship between family leisure, family health and well-being, family functioning, and family life satisfaction (Agate, Zabriskie, Agate, & Poff, 2009; Mactavish & Schleien, 2004; Orthner & Mancini, 1990; Poff, Zabriskie, & Townsend, 2010; Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001). Family, couple, and individual leisure are increasingly media-based (Brock, 2002; Daly, 1996; Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010). Jeffres, Neuendorf, and Atkin (2003), for example, estimated that about half of people's free time is spent in media consumption. Specifically, young people between the ages of 8 and 18 consume more than 7.5 hours of media each day (Rideout et al., 2010) and adults ages 18 and older spend approximately 8.5 hours in front of a screen each day (Council for Research Excellence, 2009). The relationship between media use as family leisure and family functioning, however, is still largely unclear even though media use represents a significant proportion of family leisure activity.

Because research has demonstrated that family leisure involvement is related to family functioning, and media is one of the most common leisure activities, further studies are needed to understand the relationship between family leisure media use patterns and family functioning. Furthermore, because much of family leisure research has been limited to individual-level analyses, there is a need to use statistical methods that appropriately account for family as well as individual variability. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between media as family leisure and family functioning among families with at least one adolescent child. Specifically, this study examined the relationship between family functioning and media use, media connection, and parental media monitoring over time. Furthermore, because the data were nested in families, this study used a mixed model statistical approach to account for both family-level and individual-level variance.

Review of Literature

Family Functioning

The construct of family functioning is a common measureable outcome used in leisure research (Agate, Zabriskie, & Eggett, 2007; Poff et al., 2010, Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001; Zabriskie & Freeman, 2004). Measuring family functioning, however, is complex because it can be assessed in many ways (Epstein, Baldwin, & Bishop, 1983). For the purposes of this research, family functioning was assessed using the McMaster Family Assessment Device (FAD), which originates from the McMaster Model of Family Functioning. The McMaster Model of Family Functioning and the FAD are grounded in family systems theory (Day et al., 2010; Georgiades, Boyle, Jenkins, and Sanford 2008; Miller, Ryan, Keitner, Bishop, &, Epstein, 2000). Of further importance to this study, Georgiades et al. established the validity of the FAD when measuring family functioning as reported by multiple family members. The current study also assessed family functioning from the perspective of multiple family members. Therefore, the FAD was deemed appropriate to the scope of this study.

Family systems theory. Family systems theory is commonly used to interpret and understand family functioning. This theory suggests "all parts of the system are interconnected" and "understanding is only possible by viewing the whole," and therefore, families are "greater than just a collection of individuals" because of the way they interact and how those interactions provide feedback (White & Klein, 2008, p. 156).

The critical components of systems framework include: (a) system, or the relations between a set of objects and their attributes, meaning the system is separate from its environment but has an effect on it; (b) boundaries, which affect the flow of information and energy between the system and its environment; (c) rules of transformation; (d) feedback, or the input and output of the system; (e) variety, or the ability to adapt to a changing environment; (f) equilibrium, or how a system achieves balance between input and output; (g) system levels, the varying degrees of prioritized goals; and (h) subsystems, various levels in a system such as parents and children (White & Klein, 2008). …