Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Adolescent Playfulness, Stress Perception, Coping and Well Being

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Adolescent Playfulness, Stress Perception, Coping and Well Being

Article excerpt


The well being of an individual is a dynamic and multidimensional process that is influenced by a reciprocal relationship of internal, dispositional factors as well as external, contextual factors. Findings from past research suggest that playfulness as a dispositional factor may have stress moderating effects on adolescent health and well being (Byrne & Mazanov, 2001; Harkness & Bundy, 2001). The reason for this stipulation stems from research conducted in relation to personality traits closely associated with playfulness. For example, sense of humour (McGhee, 1999), fantasy (Fromberg & Bergen, 1998), happiness (Natvig, Albrektsen & Qyarnstrom, 2003), and extroversion (Matthews, Deary & Whiteman, 2003) have been credited with having stress moderating capacities during situations of stress. Research has also shown that playfulness influences adolescents' behaviour and experiences differently depending on personal and social circumstances that arise during leisure, at school or at home (Emmons, Diener & Larsen, 1986; Lieberman, 1975).

The conceptualization and development of this study was guided by developmental theory (i.e. Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1994) and the notion that individual traits interact with environmental experiences in determining an individuals' developmental and psychological outcomes. As such, people's behaviour and experiences can best be understood by considering both the influence of the social situation (e.g. leisure, school, culture) and what the person brings (personality disposition, experience) to the situation (Mannell & Kleiber, 1997). Thus, a multi-phase, multi-method study was conducted to gain a better understanding of potential stress moderating capacities of playfulness, as well as to investigate the relationship between playfulness and context. First, a scale was developed to assess adolescent's ratings of their playfulness. For the purpose of this study adolescents are conceptualized as young persons between the ages of twelve and nineteen. Subsequently, a number of relationships were explored between playfulness and perceived sources of stress and coping. Finally, a model was tested to evaluate the relationships between playfulness, stress and coping-within the context of school and leisure-and psychological well being.

Review of Related Literature

Over the years, a number of definitions of play have been used to address different forms of play or focusing on various play settings, as well as diverse play experiences. However, as Barnett (2005) writes, in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of play we also have to focus on the internal qualities of the individual that make play possible. For that reason, the term playfulness has been used to address a person's playful disposition. A person with a playful disposition "is guided by internal motivation, an orientation towards process with self-imposed goals, a tendency to attribute their own meaning to objects or behaviours, a focus on pretence and non-literality, a freedom from externally imposed rules, and active involvement" (Barnett, 1991b, p. 52).

Measuring Playfulness

Play and playfulness have been studied extensively among children in various contexts, however, studies focusing on playfulness in adults and adolescents are less common. Playfulness in children has been identified with numerous developmental benefits (Barnett, 1991a) and as Glynn and Webster (1992, 1993) note playfulness in adults has shown to promote work place satisfaction as well as work productivity. In the past, a range of methods have been used to both qualitatively and quantitatively measure playfulness in children (Barnett, 1991c; Boyer, 1997: Bundy et al., 2001; Rogers et al., 1998) and adults (Barnett, 2005; Glynn & Webster, 1992), however a review of the published literature revealed a need for a measurement instruments to access playfulness specifically for the adolescent age group. …

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