Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Role of Parents and Peers in the Leisure Activities of Young Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

The Role of Parents and Peers in the Leisure Activities of Young Adolescents

Article excerpt


In the past fifty years, studies into the role of parents and peers in the leisure of juveniles have been shaped by several different theoretical perspectives. Parallel to social developments like the start of a longer period of education and a consumer market aimed specifically at youngsters, the relationship juveniles maintain with their parents and peers was the focus of increasing interest by sociologists in the decades after World War II. Up until the 1980s, sociological research on this topic mainly focussed on adolescents around fourteen years and upwards, from which it became clear that parents are consulted mostly on career planning, whereas peers are advisors on leisure time choices. Recently, childhood sociologists have demanded more attention for the role of parents and peers in the leisure of children. Within this approach, the theoretical interest largely focuses on the transition from childhood into adolescence, which has been suggested to have advanced under the influence of modernization processes. The increasing amount of time contemporary children spend with peers and the rise of a consumer market directed at children has offered pre-adolescents the opportunity to create a specific "child culture" that largely resembles the culture of adolescents. According to childhood sociologists, these developments have not led to a subordination of the role of parents in the leisure of children. Under the influence of developments in the labor market, in particular the growing demand for flexible employees and increasing interest in informal and life long learning, leisure time has increasingly become learn-and-develop time. Parents who are aware of this development urge their children to fill their leisure time actively and usefully.

The present study attempts to make a contribution to this discussion by examining whether the contact with parents and peers changes in the course of the transition from childhood into adolescence. First, we will look at several relevant streams in leisure and peer research to put our study in context. This research is part of an inter-cultural comparative study between Germany and the Netherlands (Buchner et al, 1998). In this article, we shall concentrate on the Dutch part of the study. We shall report on the sample, the research instrument, analysis techniques and subsequently present and discuss our results.

Theoretical Approaches in Leisure and Peer Studies

Structural-functionalism: The Role of Age

Right after World War 11, a structural-functionalistic socialization perspective (Eisenstadt, 1956; Parsons, 1942) dominated theoretical and empirical research on leisure and peers. A change in orientation was discovered in juveniles, moving from their parents to their peers (Te Poel, 1997). It was believed that parents were no longer able to prepare their adolescent children for the diversity of social roles in a complex society. Intensive participation in peer groups, on the other hand, would give youngsters the chance to try out new social roles, in particular those of the consumer and courtshippartner. Dunphy (1963), who studied the contribution that peer groups made to learning an adult sexual role, established an age-bound phase development in the structure of peer groups. He stated that young adolescents begin looking for contact with peers of the opposite sex while they are in the safe seclusion of same sex groups. Only in mid-adolescence do mixed groups arise after the leaders of same sex groups have taken the initiative of starting individual contacts with the opposite sex. In late adolescence, the mixed groups fall into heterosexual pairs. Coleman (1978) developed a corresponding model in which he showed that this peer group development is accompanied by a step-by-step release from the parents, which leads to increasing conflicts between parents and youngsters.

Sub-cultural Studies: The Role of Gender and Social Class

One of the suppositions which arose during the structural functionalism of the 1950s and 1960s argued that class oppositions had leveled out under the influence of the upcoming consumer society. …

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