Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Leisure as a Context for Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention

Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

Leisure as a Context for Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention

Article excerpt

This article highlights the importance of leisure as a context for human development as well as for prevention of risky behaviour, including crime and delinquency. We offer a brief review and synthesis of current criminology literature that examines leisure activity and then describe leisure research that may provide additional insight into why leisure may be an important context for understanding and preventing delinquent behaviour. We end with a brief description of an intervention that teaches youth to make healthy decisions in their leisure and describe a set of post hoc analyses from a data set from 628 rural youth in the United States used to evaluate the leisure based intervention. Although the data we report were not collected to examine delinquent behaviour, we tentatively conclude leisure-related variables can serve as risk and protective factors to property damage and by extension other delinquent behaviours. We suggest that helping youth become more intrinsically motivated by having goal-oriented leisure pursuits and decreasing levels of amotivation, learning to overcome peer pressure, and becoming more aware of leisure opportunities may reduce the risk of damaging property. Additionally, having parents who are aware of leisure interests, activities and friends is also a protective factor. We also found evidence to suggest that some form of leisure education intervention may be effective in preventing delinquent acts.

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This article will highlight the importance of leisure as a context for human development as well as for prevention of risky behaviour, including crime and delinquency. We will first offer a brief review of current literature that examines adolescent delinquent behaviour and leisure activity and then describe leisure research that may provide additional insight into how leisure may be an important context for understanding and preventing delinquent behaviour. We will end with a brief description of an intervention that teaches youth to make healthy decisions in their leisure and describe a set of post hoc analysis from a data set used to evaluate the leisure-based intervention.

ACTIVITIES AND DEVIANCE

The relation between crime, delinquency and leisure is not new to the study of criminology. A number of theories have directly addressed the role of activity, free time, or leisure and deviant behaviour (e.g., Osgood, Wilson, O'Malley, Bachman, & Johnston, 1996; Wong, 2005). Other theoretical perspectives certainly implicate the importance of understanding leisure as a context, even if they do not directly address it as a context (e.g., Hirschi's 1969 social control theory). A review of the criminology literature, however, suggests that although what youth do with their time, where they do it, with whom they do it, and the social controls on their time use are considered important, there is a lack of systematic attention that directly seeks to understand leisure as a context for deviance (a point alluded to by Vazsonyi, Pickering, Belliston, Hessing & Junger, 2002). At the same time, there has been an equal lack of attention to the potential importance of leisure as a context for deviance, with some notable exceptions (e.g., Rojeck, 1999a, 1999b; Stebbins, 1996; Williams, 2005; Williams & Walker, 2006) in the leisure literature. This void, however, has been addressed by a recent special issue of Leisure/Loisir (Vol. 30, No. 1, 2006) that was devoted to the topic of 'Deviant Leisure'. We will interpret some of our findings in relation to some of the papers in that special issue. Our review of the literature suggests that from a criminology perspective, research that relates to leisure and crime among adolescents can be summarised by four, related perspectives:

* Filled time perspective--Time filled with prosocial activities cannot be filled with deviant activities.

* Association with deviant peers perspective--Certain activities are more likely to instigate deviant behaviour or association with a deviant subculture. …

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