Examining College Students' Participation in the Leisure Pursuits of Drinking and Illegal Drug Use
Shinew, Kimberly J., Parry, Diana C., Journal of Leisure Research
The study of leisure traditionally focuses on the implicit, and often explicit, benefits of leisure participation (Driver, Peterson, & Brown, 1991). In this regard, Glover (2003) commented that the leisure literature often reflects research on the countless benefits that individuals receive from their activity participation. However, Rojek (1989) recognized the negative side of leisure and the costs associated with such participation when he stated, "an obvious and indisputable fact about leisure in modern society is that many of the most popular activities are illegal" (p. 82). This seems to be the case when one considers some of the more popular leisure pursuits among college students, drinking and illegal drugs use. For example, Henry Wechsler surveyed students at 140 college campuses across the United States and recently published his findings in a book entitled Dying to Drink: Confronting Binge Drinking on College Campuses (2002). His findings showed that two in five college students regularly drink five or more alcoholic beverages in a row, which was significantly linked to the frequency with which they encountered secondary effects of alcohol consumption including date rape, scholastic difficulties, and violence (Hoover, 2002). Similarly, after surveying 7,800 undergraduates at 16 universities across Canada, the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) (2000) discovered 62.7% of the students reported consuming more than five drinks during a single occasion. Moreover, the CAMH found 47% of the students reported using marijuana at some point in their lives, and 10.2% had used illegal substances within 12 months of the study.
Despite the apparent popularity of drinking and illegal drug use, very little is written in the leisure studies literature about college students' involvement in these leisure time activities. One exception was an exploratory study conducted by Tucker and Shinew (1995) that examined the leisure pursuits of college age students. They found 86% of their sample consumed alcohol at least once a week and 40% used illegal drugs, primarily marijuana. This general lack of attention in the leisure literature, however, to the drinking and illegal drug use of college students suggests that a leisure perspective has not been brought to bear on these socially relevant habits, which is surprising given that these activities are typically pursued during leisure time and in a leisure context (Carruthers, 1993; Iso-Ahola & Crowley, 1991). Therefore, the purpose of this study was to address the paucity of research in this area by examining college students' participation in two popular leisure pursuits, drinking and illegal drug use. In this study, drinking was defined by asking students if they drink alcohol, and drug use was established by asking students if they use illegal drugs. We examined their behavior within two potential explanatory theories, differential association and casual leisure, in hopes that we might identify a particularly salient theoretical framework for a leisure perspective on these activities.
The "Other" Side of Leisure
The "benefits of leisure" campaign has been the focus of much research over the past decade. For example, with respect to physical activity, leisure and sport have been linked to cardiovascular benefits such as a reduced resting heart rate (Froelicher & Froelicher, 1991), reduced hypertension, reduced risk of obesity, and prevention of osteoporosis (McPherson, 1991). Iwasaki and Mannell (2000) and Iwasaki, Mannell, Smale, and Butcher (2002) demonstrated the positive role of leisure in helping people deal with stressful life events. Leisure participation has also been credited with helping people develop a sense of competence and self-confidence (Freysinger, Alessio & Mehdizadeh, 1993). Shaw (2001) posited that leisure is a space in which people, either individually or collectively, can challenge and resist the power distributions in society. Family leisure involvement has been found to be strongly associated with family satisfaction among parents (Zabriskie, & McCormick, 2003). Moreover, Wankel and Berger (1991) found that leisure pursuits provided opportunities for people to explore individualized methods of expression leading to spiritual benefits. Green (1998) found that leisure contexts provided women with opportunities to review their lives, assess their life satisfaction, and resist traditional feminine roles. These few examples reflect how the literature, in general, often depicts the positive effects of leisure.
There is a negative side of leisure, too, and there has been some debate about what to call this other type of leisure (Kelly & Freysinger, 2000). For instance, some have referred to it as purple leisure because it is "off-color" or not quite socially acceptable (Curtis, 1988). According to Russell (2002), purple leisure activities are those that participants enjoy but are harmful to society. Others use the term "taboo leisure" to reflect the notion that such pursuits involve activities that are typically illicit because they challenge societal norms, laws, customs or belief systems (Russell, 2002). The terms "marginal" or "deviant" leisure are also used as descriptors for those activities on the fringe of social acceptability. However, Kelly and Freysinger (2000) criticized these terms for being morally ambiguous. They raised the question of who decides the norm from which leisure participation deviates. Where do we draw the line? Who decides what is right and what is wrong? In response to these criticisms the terms "leisure's other side" or "leisure's darker side" have emerged (Kelly & Freysinger, 2000; Rojek, 1999).
Whatever term one chooses to use, there clearly is a negative side to leisure that is associated with "costs" of participation, rather than "benefits" (Kelly & Freysinger, 2000). For instance, Shaw (1999) explored the impact of pornography as a male leisure pursuit on women's lives. She found the women in her study reacted negatively to pornography, particularly violent pornography, in part because it negatively affected their relationships with men and was thought to reinforce sexist attitudes in males. Critcher (2000) and Glover (2003) explored leisure's other side by focusing on rave cultures. Raves, or all night dance parties, are considered part of leisure's other side because they are associated with the use of illegal drugs, particularly Ecstasy. In his discussion of rave culture, Critcher (2000) commented, "there is a need for a revised sociology of youth, case study material on moral regulation and greater sustained attention to music, dance and drugs as central to the formation of contemporary youth cultures in leisure" (p. 145). Robertson (1999) contributed to this line of research when she examined why young male adolescents who participated in socially unacceptable or delinquent activities considered their acts to be leisure. Her results indicated that male adolescents choose delinquent pursuits, in part, because they perceived a lack of parental interest in their activities, which resulted in few shared family leisure experiences. The current study sought to extend this line of research on leisure's other side by examining drinking and illegal drug use among college students.
Addressing the leisure choices of college students serves an important function because it focuses on the activities of a group who thus far have been largely neglected in the leisure literature. As Raymore (1995) noted, leisure researchers have not paid adequate attention to this group and thus have not developed a full understanding of the major life transition that occurs between adolescence and young adulthood. A significant body of research has demonstrated how leisure changes over the course of the lifespan, yet many of those studies have explored life stages such as childhood (Barnett & Chick, 1986), adolescence (Baldwin & Caldwell, 2003; Shaw, Kleiber, & Caldwell, 1995), middle adulthood (Freysinger, 1995), and later adulthood (Kelly, 1993; Weagley & Huh, 2004), while the transition to college has been largely neglected. College students in late adolescence or early adulthood tend to be neglected from a life course perspective. Raymore (1995) exemplified this point when she commented; "the focus on the influence of family leisure misses an important contextual change that could influence leisure behavior greatly--namely, the transition from adolescence to young adulthood" (p. 203). This is not to suggest that others have also neglected this group and their participation in these activities. Scholars within other disciplines including psychology and sociology have studied drinking and drug use patterns among college students (Billingham, Parillo & Gross, 1993; Lo, 2000; Nezlek, Pilkington, & Bilbro, 1993), but their focus has not been from a leisure perspective. As Iso-Ahola and Crowley (1991) noted, "although a myriad of studies have been reported on various aspects of drug use [and drinking], researchers have generally overlooked leisure-related factors as correlates and causes of substance abuse. This is surprising because drug use [and drinking] probably most often occurs during leisure time and in leisure settings" (p. 261). Despite the lack of leisure perspective, however, a vast body of research has developed in other fields and thus drinking and drug use and the college lifestyle in general have been well documented.
The College Lifestyle
College students comprise the largest group of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 (Rigotti, Lee & Wechsler, 2000). Their lifestyle is characterized by students who have recently moved away from home, live in residence halls or with friends off-campus, and enjoy their newfound freedom by often attending more to their social life than to their academic career. Rigotti, Lee and Wechsler (2000) noted that many students are part of "a college lifestyle that values social life over educational achievement, athletic participation, or …
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Publication information: Article title: Examining College Students' Participation in the Leisure Pursuits of Drinking and Illegal Drug Use. Contributors: Shinew, Kimberly J. - Author, Parry, Diana C. - Author. Journal title: Journal of Leisure Research. Volume: 37. Issue: 3 Publication date: Summer 2005. Page number: 364+. © 1999 National Recreation and Park Association. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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