Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Spending Time Together-Changes over Four Decades in Leisure Time Spent with a Spouse

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Spending Time Together-Changes over Four Decades in Leisure Time Spent with a Spouse

Article excerpt


Family is the most common social context for leisure activities (Shaw, 1997). People spend most of their leisure time at home and with other household members (Bianchi, Robinson & Milkie, 2007; Kelly, 1997). Family researchers have demonstrated the importance of spousal leisure for marital quality (Holman & Jacquart, 1988; Orthner, 1975; Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001) and of family leisure for family cohesion (Orthner & Mancini, 1990, Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001). Spending time with a spouse is generally seen as an important relationship maintenance strategy (Baxter & Dindia, 1990). Spousal interaction and spouses' joint leisure activities draw spouses closer together, helping them to maintain the marriage (Hill, 1988).

Despite evidence for the importance of joint leisure in present-day society, our knowledge of the amount of time married partners actually spend together and the nature of that time is limited. There is reason to assume that processes of individualization have changed the preferences and restrictions associated with joint leisure time for couples over time. Individualization can be defined as the promotion of exercising one's goals and desires and the idea that individuals are increasingly required to construct their own lives (Beck & Beck-Gernsheim, 2001). With respect to leisure time of couples, it is important to note that the family has become an association of individual persons each with his/her own interests and experiences, and each subject to different restrictions. What we do not know yet is whether to expect an increase or a decrease in joint leisure time.

On the one hand, individualization may have led to decreasing levels of joint leisure. With less interdependence within couples and with more demands from other domains, such as the labor market, couples may have more difficulty synchronizing their schedules to arrange leisure time together (Jacobs & Gerson, 2001). On the other hand, processes of individualization may increase the desire for leisure time with a partner, resulting in more leisure time spent in the presence of a partner. More equality between husbands and wives has reduced interdependency in marriage, but the continued search for intimacy may lead partners to create new, fulfilling associations (Gillies, 2003). Shared activities may function as a way of tying couples together (Kalmijn & Bernasco, 2001).

Changes in leisure time with a spouse may vary for different groups in society and for different leisure activities. For example, processes of individualization may have differing effects on the way men and women spend their leisure time. Gender relationships in the work and private domains as well as work arrangements themselves have changed (Presser, 2003; Bianchi, Robinson & Milkie, 2007). Therefore, it is important to study the relationship between gender, work, and leisure with regard to couple leisure.

The present study investigates to what extent and in what ways in-home and out-of-home leisure time with a spouse has changed in the past four decades and to what extent such joint leisure time varies between men and women and between single and dual-earner couples. This study contributes to the existing body of research in several ways. First, changes in leisure time with a spouse have only recently become a topic of research. So far, studies have focused only on the extent to which spouses have joint lifestyles (e.g., Kalmijn & Bernasco, 2001) or on whether there is a causal relationship between spouses' shared time and marital quality (Berg, Trost, Schneider & Allison, 2001; Crawford et al., 2002; Holman & Jacquart, 1988; Orthner, 1975). None of the previous research has considered changes over time. Second, by using the American Time Use Survey, which has extensive, comparable information about time allocation in the 1965-2003 period, we have reliable and comparable time measures from time diary data at our disposal (Fisher, Torres, Pollman & Gershuny, 2006). …

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