Development and Administration of a Measure to Assess Adolescents' Participation in Leisure Activities

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ABSTRACT

This paper describes the development and administration of a measure (a self-report questionnaire) to assess the participation of adolescents in leisure activities. Questionnaire items were generated through a content analysis of focus group interviews with 130 young people aged 12 to 18 years. Specifically, the activities of approximately a thousand adolescents were investigated through a three-factor leisure typology--achievement, social, and time-out leisure--together with the leisure parameters of enjoyment, freedom of choice, and frequency of participation. Further, leisure engagement was examined based on gender and age (i.e., changes in activity participation across the adolescent years). The results are discussed in terms of the practical and theoretical implications of the relationship between gender and age in leisure activity participation.

Leisure is strongly identified with the culture of adolescence (Evans & Poole, 1991; Hendry, Shucksmith, Love, & Glendinning, 1993), particularly in Western societies. Csikszentmihalyi and Larson (1984) and Fine, Mortimer, and Roberts (1990) reported that leisure occupies 40% of the waking time of adolescents. Yet, in contrast to family and school contexts, leisure has been underinvestigated.

Recent evidence supports the view that, in regard to leisure activities, Australian adolescents are primarily interested in sports and outdoor pursuits (Garton & Pratt, 1991; Poole 1989). However, the nature of leisure is dynamic and reflective of current social trends, which are influenced by mass media and marketing. A number of studies have been conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (1993), but these studies have primarily focused on time use, which does not take into account the qualitative dimensions of leisure. Additionally, given the complexities of defining leisure, there are inherent limitations in interpreting the data from such studies, particularly in regard to the role of leisure in the lives of adolescents.

It is widely claimed that positive leisure pursuits contribute to the development of self-fulfilled and mentally healthy young people (Hendry, 1983). Thus, it is important for professionals who are involved in the planning and delivery of health and related services to examine the activities currently identified as fulfilling the role of leisure in adolescents' lives. Concern in this area is reflected in policies aimed at incorporating sport and recreation into the lives of Australians (Landry, 1990); however, the construct of leisure is more inclusive than such policies take into account.

A series of focus groups conducted by the authors, involving 130 young people, revealed two key criteria underpinning leisure; first, leisure had to be perceived as freely chosen, and, second, it had to be enjoyable to the participant. Additionally, content analysis established a functional typology of leisure. Diverse activities were grouped into three comprehensive categories: achievement leisure, social leisure, and time-out leisure. Achievement leisure was identified as demanding, often competitive, but primarily providing a sense of personal challenge. Sports, playing music, dance, and engagement in hobbies and creative arts were the main contributors to this category. Social leisure was undertaken for the purpose of being in the company of other people, particularly peers. Time-out leisure was identified as undemanding, relaxing, and a way to pass time. Frequently undertaken alone, it included listening to music, watching television, and lying in bed and reviewing the day's events. Thus, the view of le isure held by adolescents was multifactorial.

The aim of the present study was, first, to design and administer a reliable instrument to assess the leisure interests of adolescents, and, second, to analyze responses based on age and gender to investigate the possible changing nature of leisure throughout adolescence. …

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