Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Multiple Dimensions of Meaning in the Domains of Work, Family, and Leisure

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Multiple Dimensions of Meaning in the Domains of Work, Family, and Leisure

Article excerpt

The field of "leisure studies" has a considerable investment in the idea that leisure is fundamentally different from the rest of life. The legitimacy of research and theory on leisure has often been presumed to require such a clear distinction. The fact that many, perhaps most, languages do not even have a word equivalent to "leisure" is bypassed in a concentration on the supposed Greek roots of the concept (Goodale & Godbey, 1988).

What if leisure isn't so special after all? What if all or most of the meanings that people find in leisure are also found in other domains of life? Even in traditional leisure studies, the issue has become somewhat muddied. For example, conceptualizing leisure as time or "free time" is recognized as more complex than once assumed, i.e., deciding how free the time must be. It is also evident that discretion, spontaneity, creativity, and involvement, said to characterize leisure, may be found in work as well. Further, the constraints of role expectations, resource limits, and personal inhibitions are found in leisure settings. Even though the concept of freedom has been central to philosophical approaches to leisure since Aristotle (Goodale & Godbey, 1988; Kelly, 1992), few would argue that leisure is wholly free of obligation or work totally without discretion. In fact, self-determination is the key factor in work satisfaction (Kohn, 1990).

From a psychological perspective, leisure has been defined as perceived freedom, intrinsic motivation, and noninstrumentality (Neulinger, 1974). Again, however, such perceptions would seem to be possible in almost any realm of activity. Conversely, seldom if ever is any activity completely devoid of some sense of limitation and of meaning beyond the immediate experience. As a consequence, it is possible to argue that leisure is more

dimension or quality of action than a separate domain (Kelly, 1987a, 1992). Leisure is related to work, family, education, personal development, sexuality, and almost everything else rather than being a clearly distinct aspect of life.

Making the boundaries more fuzzy than clearcut is also consistent with three current developments in leisure studies. The first is attention to women's perspectives on leisure and the need to reformulate some traditional male-oriented models (Henderson, Bialeschki, Shaw, & Freysinger, 1989). Women's leisure is now seen as more connected to and even embedded in role relationships than that of men (Kelly & Godbey, 1992). The second development is the critique of the common work-leisure dichotomy (Parker, 1971) in favor of approaches that view the two as more overlapping than totally separate in time, space, and meaning (Zuzanek & Mannell, 1983). The third development is the attention given to Csikszentmihalyi's concept of flow with its focus on involvement, challenge, and intrinsic or autotelic meaning. His experience sampling studies have found flow more often in work than in leisure settings (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

At least the question is raised about the distinctiveness of leisure. Is it a domain or a dimension? Is it quite different from other aspects of life or related to them in multiple ways that are yet to be sorted out? Is there a universal meaning of leisure or does it vary by gender, philosophical and religious premises, culture, and historical epoch? Has the desire to identify something special in order to legitimate the entire leisure studies project led to an overemphasis on its uniqueness?

The first section of this paper will offer a reformulation of issues related to dividing human life in society into three separate domains with work considered central. An alternative perspective of multiple intersecting roles is presented that avoids either/or formulations and proposes that the domains of work, family, and leisure may be multi-dimensional. Six research questions are derived from this analysis that form the basis of an exploratory study of the dimensions of meaning in each of the domains of work, immediate community/family, and leisure activity. …

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