Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Creating Friendship Networks, Establishing a Social Identity, Developing a Sense of Belonging, Meeting New People, and Building Connections with the Community: The Social Capital Support Health Benefits to Be Derived from Skateboarding in Skate-Parks

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Creating Friendship Networks, Establishing a Social Identity, Developing a Sense of Belonging, Meeting New People, and Building Connections with the Community: The Social Capital Support Health Benefits to Be Derived from Skateboarding in Skate-Parks

Article excerpt

Introduction

The emergence of alternative sports (e.g., skateboarding, kite/surfmg, climbing, etc.) has seen an ideological change in the sports values of many Australians. This has led to a shift in the way that a growing number of adolescents, young adults and some older adults 'do' sports, which in turn has increased the numbers of individuals taking up 'lifestyle sports' (i.e., sports that reflect both the characteristics of the sport and the partaker's desired social identity) (1). This shift to more individualized sporting activities that are conducted under a subcultural group banner has allowed participants to set personal goals that are consistent both with their own personal style and their desired social identity. To foster greater understanding of these goals this study presents the perspectives of skateboarders on the social capital support health benefits to be had from engaging in skateboarding and the role skate- parks play fulfill in facilitating their emotional wellbeing.

The psychosocial health benefits to be derived from being part of a bondedfriendship network

Health and quality of life issues are known to be enhanced when social interactions occur between an individual's daily living, work and recreational activities (2). For these connections enhance the social capital support resources (i.e., shared congenial sense of connection, belonging, information sharing, practical assistance, problem appraisal, peer affirmation and group identification) that are available to them (3-4). In this regard, it is reasoned that the solidarity and trust which forms between groups of individuals who have overlapping connections is the 'glue' which bonds social networks together as it enables the group's membership to feel both accepted and valued (5). The social health benefits to be derived from bonded social networks are considered to be especially critical for young people in the adolescent identity-seeking stage of their development. For, it is during this time that they have limited independent transport opportunities to expand their friendship networks outside of their immediate neighbourhood confines (6).

A further benefit of belonging to a social network is that the act of socializing with the network's membership mitigates life stress. This typically occurs through members sharing their coping strategies, which in turn helps build resilience (12) as the process of members' providing each other with emotional support not only bolsters individual member's sense of esteem, self-worth, purpose, and security, but also enhances the solidarity of the group (4). Indeed, it is purported that interpersonal involvement with friendship networks raises members' spirits and cements their within-group sense of belonging, place, and community (5-8). Maslow (9) in his hierarchical theory of human need, ranked the development of a sense of belonging as being the third highest human need, placing it only above basic physiological (e.g., breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis and excretions) and safety needs (i.e., security). In addition, Hagerty and colleagues (10) have described a sense of belonging as being the basic human desire for recognition and acceptance by members of a desired friendship group. Characteristically, this sense of belonging occurs when new members perceive that they have become an integral part of their targeted group.

More recently still, research has determined that the human sense of belonging is a vital component of healthy psychosocial functioning as it facilitates the establishment and maintenance of friendships over time (11). In this regard, a growing body of research has emerged which clearly demonstrates that individuals with strong friendship networks have fewer somatic complaints, lower levels of anxiety, insomnia, depression and suicide ideation (12-13). However, it is cautioned that these health benefits are proportional to the amount of time network members spend interacting with each other, as the more time spent together the greater the sense of belonging that members form with the group and the greater identification with the group's lifestyle choices (8). …

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