Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Influencing Adolescent Leisure Motivation: Intervention Effects of HealthWise South Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Influencing Adolescent Leisure Motivation: Intervention Effects of HealthWise South Africa

Article excerpt


Globally, all youth have hours in the day that can be considered discretionary or free (Irby & Tolman, 2002). What youth do and do not do during this time is a topic of investigation among researchers from a variety of backgrounds who are interested in promoting healthy youth development and preventing risk behavior (e.g., Verma & Larson, 2003). In a report from the Forum for Youth Investment to the United Nations that examined leisure time cross-culturally, Irby and Tolman observed that sports, recreation, and cultural programs are seen as promising types of interventions to prevent or reduce delinquency, conflict, drug abuse, and sexual risk behavior. On the other hand, they questioned the effectiveness of some of those interventions due to the rather uninformed approach often taken with regard to the provision of services and stated:

Too often, however, these forays into 'discretionary' space are taken without an appreciation of what that space is and does for people. The ease with which policy makers and large system planners confiscate time, redefine activities and supplant or take advantage of community programs... suggests a basic lack of understanding, if not a lack of respect for what goes on when young people are not in school, not at work. (p. 1)

In this paper, we address one element of what goes on in that "space" called leisure or free time1: motivation.

There are three main reasons to examine motivation with regard to why youth do what they do (or do not do) during their leisure or free time. First, motivation not only drives behavior but also is associated with various outcomes. Certain types of motivation, such as intrinsic and identified motivation, theoretically lead to the enhancement of behavioral effectiveness, sense of belonging, and subjective well-being (Ryan & Deci, 2000). At the same time, Ryan and Deci suggested that more extrinsic types of motivation, as well as lack of motivation (i.e., amotivation), are linked with less optimal health and well-being.

The second reason for focusing on motivation is that it has been linked inextricably with the definition of leisure; self-determined and intrinsically motivated behavior is a hallmark of leisure (e.g., Iso-Ahola, 1979; Manneil & Kleiber, 1997). The causes and effects of leisure motivation among adolescents, however, is a topic still in its infancy (Caldwell, Baldwin, Walls, & Smith, 2004).

The third reason is that understanding motivation in or for leisure is linked to risk and health outcomes. For example, leisure-related extrinsic motivation, amotivation, and boredom scores were related to higher odds of being a consistent smoker and or to initiating smoking (Palen et al., submitted). Similarly, youth who had never smoked or drank alcohol were more likely to belong to a latent class characterized by intrinsic leisure motivation; conversely, those who had ever smoked or drank were more likely to belong to a class characterized by extrinsic leisure motivation and amotivation (Caldwell, Bradley, & Coffman, 2009). Leisure boredom, also a risk factor for risk behavior (e.g., National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2003), is also influenced by leisure motivation (Caldwell, Darling, Payne, & Dowdy, 1999).

The link between motivation and health outcomes, however, begs the question of whether or not interventions are able to change adolescents' typical motivational style. Thus, the purpose of this paper was to investigate the five types of motivation articulated in self-determination theory (SDT) and address the question, "Can adolescent leisure motivation be influenced?" That is, can an intervention program cause increases in positive forms of motivation and decreases in negative forms of motivation among adolescents in the leisure context?

Self-determination Theory

There are a number of theoretical perspectives that address motivation. Of particular relevance to the leisure context is SDT, which provides a differentiated approach to conceptualizing motivation. …

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