Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Boredom, Stress and Social Control in the Daily Activities of Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Boredom, Stress and Social Control in the Daily Activities of Adolescents

Article excerpt


Research on adolescent leisure has for the most part utilized an individual psychological perspective. Thus attention has been given to meanings and experiential aspects of leisure (Csikszentmihayli & Larson, 1984; Kleiber, Caldwell, & Shaw, 1993; Mobily, 1989), as well as to individual choice, participation, boredom, and constraints (Ellis & Rademacher, 1987; Garton & Pratt, 1987; Hultsman, 1993; Iso-Ahola & Weissinger, 1987). Another focus has been on the personal benefits derived from leisure participation, such as identity development (Kleiber & Rickards, 1985; Kleiber, 1991) and improved physical and mental health (Caldwell, Smith, & Weissinger, 1992; Winefield, Tiggemann, & Winefield, 1992). Relatively little attention has been paid to societal factors or to structural aspects of free time such as social control.

Largely separate from the leisure literature, research in the area of criminology and delinquency has included discussions of adolescent free time use from a social control perspective. Specifically, one long-standing belief is that participation in organized recreation activities by adolescents has positive benefits for society since it reduces the amount of time available for delinquent or anti-social acts (Hirschi, 1969). Recent interest in "at-risk" youth has led to research which has further investigated this relationship between leisure participation and delinquent behavior (Robertson, 1993). Researchers have also suggested that involvement in paid work activities means not only reduced free time for adolescents, but also participation in a conventional "adult" activity (Tanner & Krahn, 1991). Thus paid work, as well as organized recreation, is thought to be beneficial in terms of controlling and reducing adolescent delinquent behaviors.

Traditional social control theory tends to ignore the issue of leisure itself and how free time (or other) activities are actually experienced by adolescents. An off-shoot of control theory is the idea that delinquency is related to the general exclusion of adolescents from the adult world (Greenberg 1977). This line of thinking suggests that adolescent time use is structured by the dominant adult culture and that adolescent experiences and behaviors can be seen as a response to, reaction to, or in some cases alienation from, these adult structures. Thus, this perspective allows for the incorporation of experiential information about how free time activities are actually perceived by individuals within a broader sociological perspective including ideas related to social structure and social control.

This paper examines perceptions of time stress, boredom and lack of control or lack of choice over daily life activities, with particular reference to free time activities. The purpose of focusing on these aspects of adolescent free time is to provide some insights into the ways in which adolescent daily lives are structured by the dominant adult culture, and to determine the extent to which adolescent activity might be seen as a response to, or a reaction to, such structuring.

Adolescent stress has been a concern to researchers because it has been shown to have a number of negative consequences, such as poor school performance and low self esteem (Young, Rathge, Mullis, & Mullis, 1990). The relationship between stress and free time activities is most clearly evident with respect to perceived time stress (or the feeling of having too many things to do and not enough time to do them all) because this situation clearly reduces opportunities for leisure. The feeling of being "rushed" or "busy" may be due to high time demands on a day to day basis, or it may be a response to high, but intermittent and occasional time demands, or it may be associated with a lack of control over what activities are required. Given that time stress and work stress seem to be increasing in adult society, especially for women (Schor, 1991; Shaw, 1990; Zuzanek & Smale, 1994), and that stress-related diseases are also on the increase, time stress among adolescents may reflect these dominant cultural patterns. …

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