Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Adolescent Girls and Outdoor Recreation: A Case Study Examining Constraints and Effective Programming

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Adolescent Girls and Outdoor Recreation: A Case Study Examining Constraints and Effective Programming

Article excerpt


Although pre-adolescent girls are often confident and active in outdoor environments, as they reach mid-teenage years, their participation in physical and outdoor activities frequently declines (Archer & McDonald, 1990; Pipher, 1994). Natural outdoor environments are still often viewed as male domain. Certain outdoor activities are rarely introduced to girls; for example, hunting and fishing skills are typically passed from father to son, and a daughter seldom gets the opportunity to join in (Jackson, 1988). These observations give credence to the idea that there are constraints to girls becoming active outdoor recreationists. An understanding of the barriers that constrain girls' participation in outdoor activities provides direction towards mitigating their effects through outdoor programming.

The primary objective of this study was to illuminate the constraints that influence adolescent girls' participation in outdoor recreation; secondly, it examined the usefulness of outdoor programs as a means to surmount constraints. The study placed special emphasis on the experiences and perceptions of adolescent girls. In a manner consistent with the goals of feminist inquiry, it represents a meaningful effort to provide empirical support for the expansion of outdoor recreational opportunities for girls. The investigrtion was carried out as a qualitative, multip;e-case study grounded theory methods.

Theoretical Framework

The feminist theoretical basis of this study focused attention on the unique experiences of girls in relation to outdoor recreation, and it emphasized an analysis of gender. Feminist inquiry is aimed at correcting inequalities that place women at the margins of our society (Costa & Guthrie, 1994; hooks, 1984). Sky (1994) suggested that knowledge of our world is incomplete without incorporation of feminist theoretical perspectives. Feminist theory recognizes that all research proceeds from basic paradigm assumptions, and is therefore prone to particular biases (Henderson, 1990). A traditional bias in research has been the assumption that research conducted with primarily male subjects could serve to represent all people (Tavris, 1992). Historically, much of the research conducted in leisure and recreation studies has ignored experiential differences between men and women (Henderson, 1990; Henderson, Bialeschki, Shaw, & Freysinger, 1996). By contrast, feminist research places a critical focus on female roles in society and culture. Feminists suggest that the paradigm assumptions of research guide its impact on society, and that the bias of feminist inquiry is its focus on creating wider opportunity for females (Henderson, 1990). This research was guided by the assumption that girls face particular challenges as they become active in outdoor recreation and that outdoor programs should take into account this distinctive experience.

Gender roles and biological sex are central themes in feminist inquiry, and the distinction between the two is important in this study. Sex refers to the biological characteristics that make individuals male or female, whereas the term gender applies to the social construction of masculine and feminine roles. Gender varies among cultures, as well as among individuals; gender functions as a continuum rather than a duality (Henderson, 1996c). In a study of leisure constraints, Jackson and Henderson (1995) found that differences in leisure constraints were as great within-gender as betweengenders, and that gender was more constraining than biological sex. These conceptions of sex and gender were key aspects of the theoretical framework for this study.

Background Information

Recently a number of researchers and professionals have concluded that adolescent girls face increasingly difficult times. Sadker and Sadker (1994) described how biased education systems discourage girls from achieving their potential, precipitating an alarming loss of self-esteem as girls enter adolescence. …

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