Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Contributions of Family Leisure to Family Functioning among Families That Include Children with Developmental Disabilities

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Contributions of Family Leisure to Family Functioning among Families That Include Children with Developmental Disabilities

Article excerpt

Researchers consistently find positive relationships between family leisure involvement and family functioning (Freeman & Zabriskie, 2003; Orthner & Mancini, 1991; Zabriskie, 2000, 2001; Zabriskie & Freeman, 2004; Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001, 2003). Although many studies examine leisure among traditional families, very little research focuses on nontraditional families. Mactavish and Schleien, (1998, 2004) have called for a greater understanding of family leisure among families who have children with developmental disabilities. Such families face a unique set of challenges and stressors (Singer, 2002). Many researchers agree that families who have children with developmental disabiUties face substantially greater challenges and have higher levels of stress than families without children with disabilities (GUdden, 1993; Mactavish & Schleien, 1998; Olsson & Hwang, 2001; Warfield, Krauss, Hauser-Cram, Upshur, & Shonkoff, 1999). Contrary to previous research (Kronick, 1976; Margalit & Heiman, 1986), some scholars (Cahill & Gildden, 1996; Dyson, 1996; Ferguson, 2002) have reported that although families of children with developmental disabilities face greater challenges and stress, they may still function at or near the same levels as traditional famiUes without children with disabilities.

Olson (2000) suggests that a family's abihty to successfully function as a system is demonstrated through its capacity to meet its needs for cohesion and adaptability. Zabriskie and Freeman (2004) argue that such needs are often met through family leisure involvement. Recent studies among various family types (Freeman & Zabriskie, 2003; Zabriskie & Freeman, 2004; Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001, 2003) have followed Orthner and Mancini's (1991) recommendation of using a family systems perspective as a theoretical framework to examine the contributions of family leisure. These studies consistendy support the relationship between family leisure involvement and family functioning among a variety of family structures including broad general samples of families (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001 : Zabriskie, 2000), families with transracial adoptive children (Freeman and Zabriskie, 2003; Zabriskie & Freeman, 2004), Hispanic families (Christenson, Zabriskie, Eggett, & Freeman, 2006), and single parent families (Smith, Taylor, Hill, & Zabriskie, 2004). Researchers have called for further known group studies including famiUes of children with developmental disabiUties (Zabriskie, 2000; Zabriskie & Freeman, 2004; Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001, 2003).

Research examining leisure in these families is in its infancy (Mactavish & Schleien, 1998, 2004; Mactavish, Schleien, & Tabourne, 1997; Scholl, McAvoy, Rynders, & Smith, 2003). While the literature provides a sound basis for this emerging line of research, most findings are based on qualitative methodologies with small samples. A next step in this line of research is to examine the contributions of family leisure involvement to measurable outcomes (such as aspects of family functioning) in larger samples of families who have a child with a developmental disability. This will not only further this line of study, but also provide insight and direction for researchers and practitioners attempting to strengthen families and improve family functioning in families that include children with developmental disabilities.

Review of Literature

Family Functioning and Family Leisure

Studies of family leisure. Some scholars suggest that leisure is the single most important force promoting cohesive, healthy relationships between husband and wives, and between parents and their children (Couchman, 1982). Family leisure studies were first conducted in the 1930s (Hawks, 1991), and since that time they have improved in both their theoretical framework and their statistical analysis. Current studies and new theoretical models in family research "provide greater understanding and vital direction for the development and provision of services that are likely to strengthen famiUes" (Zabriskie, 2001, p. …

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