Identify and examine the range of factors which impact upon an individual’s leisure patterns. Use appropriate case material to support your discussion.
The leisure patterns adopted by a particular individual differ substantially as a result of a variety of different factors. Indeed, in order to effectively address the factors and issues which impact upon leisure patterns it is invariably necessary to move beyond the narrow confines of traditional sport and recreation discourse. Ultimately, the undertaking of leisure on the part of the individual is subject to impact from various socially based sources. As such, the investigation of leisure patterns requires the analysis of essentially sociological forces and factors. Indeed, the degree to which sport and leisure development as a discipline is now widely considered to assume an important place in general social scientific discourse exemplifies the requirement of broader analysis (Collins & Kay, 2003; p. 3).
As such, the purpose of this work is to assess and examine the various factors and issues which impact upon the leisure patterns of the individual. Given that leisure patterns are often directed by exterior social forces then there is an inevitable degree of variation in the leisure activities of individuals from different social settings. Central to this assessment is the increasingly prevalent concept of social exclusion. As such, considerable time is dedicated to explaining the various ways in which social exclusion can impact upon individual leisure patterns. In addition, there is also an obvious need to assess individual leisure patterns on the basis of other social and biological phenomena. Thus, varying patterns in leisure activities brought about because of differences in age, gender and ethnicity are equally given expression. The analysis provided below is formed on the basis of source material derived from a number of academic quarters. Such material naturally utilises a variety of case studies in the propagation of empirical research. Thus, such case material is used to support the assertions made in this work.
As suggested above, the term social exclusion represents a very broad and encompassing phenomenon which has developed in theoretical discourse and practical application over recent decades (Collins & Kay, 2003; p. 2). As such, in order to provide this discussion with the required level of focus and detail, it is necessary to examine individual factors which impact upon leisure patterns. However, before such assessment is undertaken, it is prudent to briefly outline the essential characteristics of social exclusion and its impact.
Above all, the development of welfare states in developed countries since the 1950s was argued to be the most effective and beneficial way of addressing concerns pertaining to poverty and unequal access to resources in society (Byrne, 2005; p. 5). As such, material support in the form of benefit provision and equal access to universal health and education services was deemed to be able to address poverty and exclusion. However, during the 1970s social policy commentators began to reassess this position and argue instead that poverty and inequality had been augmented by socially based exclusion. As such, social exclusion has become the prevailing theoretical foundation on which much investigation into social processes is undertaken (Bryne, 2005; p. 3). In such effort, leisure and leisure patterns are intrinsically important as they offer an effective indicator as to how social structures affect individual outcomes (Collins et al, 1999; p. 2).
One particular focus in the social exclusion debate has naturally been class. Although the polarised class atmosphere of the immediate post war years has decreased somewhat, class remains an essential social indicator. Moreover, with reference to various research endeavours it is possible to outline how social class has a direct impact upon leisure. Indeed, not only does class affect the degree to which leisure activity is undertaken, it also impacts upon the type of leisure undertaken (Collins & Kay, 2003; p. 17). In particular, the material inequality which results from variations in class means that certain sporting activities are heavily prone to exclusionary tendencies. Such sports include; tennis, golf, lacrosse and rowing (Collins & Kay, 2003; p. 19). However, beyond these obvious sporting exclusions, individual leisure activity itself is heavily impacted upon by differences in class.
Research into the variations in leisure patterns as a result of class has not traditionally formed a large part of the sport science discipline. However, in recent years a number of extensive empirical studies have been undertaken in the hope of fully exemplifying the impact social class has upon leisure differences in leisure patterns. One such study has been carried out by Harrington (2003) in relation to the differences in leisure patterns between middle and lower class families in Australia. The research undertaken is structured on the basis of sound empirical processes which include semi structured interviews and other forms of assessment and examination (Harrington, 2003; p. 1). Naturally, much of Harrington’s analysis focuses on the family setting and indeed personifies the impact family can have on individual leisure patterns. However, Harrington also highlights the degree to which class identification directly impacts upon individual leisure patterns. Firstly, parents in middle class families are according to Harrington more likely to direct their children’s leisure activities on the basis of structured and organised sport (Harrington, 2003; p. 2). However, those from lower class families are more prone to unstructured family based leisure which does not involve direct participation in organised sport. Naturally, disparity in income could well be viewed as the vital variable which accounts for such difference. Moreover, probably as a consequence of such difference in leisure pattern, parents of lower income families tended to be more focused on family based leisure activities as opposed to “facilitating the sport and leisure interests of individual family members” (Harrington, 2003; p. 2). Furthermore, the theoretical assumptions drawn by family members regarding their leisure activity differed in direct conformity with their class membership. As such, middle class parents viewed their children’s individual leisure development as being an essential process of long term personal development whereas those from the lower class conceptualised individual benefits in the shorter term (Harrington, 2003; p. 1-2). Therefore, with reference to the research undertaken by Harrington (2003), it is certainly possible to see the manner in which individual leisure activities are directly impacted upon by class membership and class identification.
In addition, geographical location can have a direct effect upon individual leisure patterns. For example, Williams (1995; p. 8) has outlined the degree to which individuals living in urban areas are more likely to engage in leisure activities in their localities than they are to travel beyond their urban setting. However, people who live in rural areas are more likely to travel in order undertake leisure activities. Thus, geographical location has a direct impact on individual leisure patterns. Naturally, the increased availability of leisure outlets in urban areas may account for the suggested geographical disparity (Crawford et al, 1986; p. 97). However, this issue once again highlights the degree to which societal factors impact directly on the personal leisure patterns of the individual.
In addition, the findings uncovered by Harrington (2003) also point to the longer term impact of early child development on leisure patterns in later life. Indeed, a plethora of sociological research has highlighted the degree to which social conditioning as a child and young adult directly affects individual outcomes and development in later life. As such, it is possible to suggest on the basis of Harrington’s investigation that differences in individual leisure patterns continue to emerge as a result of class identification as people progress through life. Indeed, case examples in the general discourse of sport and leisure development personify this conclusion. For example, an exhaustive study carried out by Scott & Willits (1998) provides a clear verification that individual leisure patterns undertaken in adolescence directly correspond to those undertaken in later life. The study carried out by Scott & Willits is based on a long term investigation into leisure participation and patterns during the course of individual lives. The research is based on an initial survey into adolescent leisure patterns carried out on a specific group of young people in 1947. In their first study in 1989, Scott & Willits (1998; p. 319) found that patterns of leisure activity undertaken by the young people in question in 1947 were largely the same in 1984, “when the respondents were in their fifties”. Moreover, data sets carried out on the same group of participants in 1992 resulted in almost identical findings (Scott & Willits, 1998; p. 320). Thus, it is clear that the leisure patterns and activities carried in youth directly affect the patterns which will emerge in later life. As such, given that the ultimate conclusion to be drawn from research such as that by Harrington (2003) is that class membership has a direct and unequivocal impact upon patterns of individual leisure activity, then the findings provided by Scott & Willits (1998) suggest that early class identification is a phenomenon which persists throughout the course of an individual’s life. Indeed, research carried out into this subject by Zeijl et al (2001) also exemplifies such progression.
Ultimately, the various discussions which took place above highlight the extent to which leisure patterns are intrinsically linked to wider social forces. Therefore, given that we can certainly conclude there to be an unequivocal link between patterns of leisure and wider social developments, it is possible to outline further societal changes which have affected leisure patterns. In particular, although studies such as that carried out by Scott and Willits (1998) highlight the degree to which adolescent leisure patterns can often persist throughout adult live, it is nevertheless the case that societal changes directly affect the leisure patterns of the individual. For example, the change from an industrial society to that of post industrial society in Britain during the last fifty years has had an enormous affect on leisure patterns. Naturally, much of the academic discourse on this issue as focused on examining changes within groups in society. However, such examination can easily be applied to the individual setting. Above all, changes in the nature of work and employment have had a direct consequence of individual leisure patterns. Whereas during the 1950s and 1960s full employment was generally perceived to be something which would continue forever, the alteration in the industrial basis of society has meant that leisure patterns have altered in relation to changes in the employment market (Crawford et al, 1986; p. 110). The analysis of such changes is closely linked to the above discussion of class and the wider issue of social exclusion in general. For example, Collins & Kay (2003; p. 6) suggest that a consequence of alterations in employment patterns, the people in society who most need leisure activities to lead a better life are precisely the people who will be excluded from such activities. Thus, exclusion on the basis of unemployment or underemployment clearly has important connotations for the leisure patterns of individuals who are affected by such social phenomena. Indeed, the increasing cost of engaging in effective leisure and sporting activities is a clear indication of how material inequality can directly result in unequal access to leisure resources.
In addition, alterations in employment and work processes have had other effects on leisure patterns. For example, it has been widely documented that the stresses and strains of modern employment which often pays little regard to personal leisure time has had an obvious impact upon patterns of leisure. Whereas previously leisure was viewed as being an intrinsic component of enjoying every day life, it has increasingly come to be seen as a life activity in its own right (Williams, 1995; p. 54). Naturally, such change has done much to propel the economic rewards of effective leisure providers. However, it is equally the case that changes in working environments and hours of employment have had a consequent effect on leisure patterns. Thus, leisure patterns in recent decades have tended to be more regimented in terms of activity and time than previously (Collins & Kay, 2003; p. 13). As such, for individuals who are engaged in employment which meets the requirements of modern life, there is a logical impact upon their leisure patterns.
Returning with the issue of social exclusion, a plethora of other socially related factors can directly impact upon the leisure patterns of the individual. For example, a variety of academic effort has been dedicated to assessing the degree to which race and ethnicity often result in exclusion from leisure activity. Thus, the degree to which individuals of certain ethnicity will undertake leisure activities differs from that of others (Collins & KAY, 2003; P. 132-135). In addition, the issue of gender remains a vital matter of concern. Although it is certainly the case that over recent decades the gender imbalance has to some degree been addressed (most notably through proactive legislation) exclusion from leisure and sporting activities on the basis of gender continues to persist (Aitchison, 2003; 2). Indeed, gender differences can often manifest themselves in a number of ways. For example, it has been widely documented that women who have children are far less likely to engage in effective personal leisure than those without children (Jackson & Henderson, 1995; p. 41). As such, gender differences can have a direct impact on individual leisure patterns.
In addition to the various discussions above, it has been widely documented that other processes inherent in modern society have affected leisure patterns. Indeed, in certain respects it is possible to see a dialectic process in operation. Although the level of participation in outlets such as leisure clubs has increased consistently over recent years, it is equally the case that concerns relating to obesity have risen in prevalence and importance (Collins et al, 1999; p. 12). As such, social trends in culinary and leisure activity have developed in a way which highlights an increasing divide between those who engage in effective leisure and sport participation and those who do not. Naturally, this issue is of particular relevance in relation to children. The onset of the technological and computer age has meant that a new generation of children have grown up in a society ultimately reliant and relatively obsessed with computers. Therefore, commentators such as Zeijl et al (2001; p. 4-7) have highlighted the degree to which increased computer game use has had a direct impact upon the individual leisure activities undertaken by children and young people. Patterns of leisure have therefore altered in a way which focuses more heavily on structured leisure in school environment as opposed to unstructured leisure at home. Thus, once again alterations in societal functions can be seen to directly impact upon leisure patterns both in individual and collective terms.
In conclusion, the numerous discussions and examinations undertaken above have aimed to highlight the degree to which individual leisure patterns are directly affected by issues and factors which occur as a result of wider societal processes. Above all, academic study in the field of sport and leisure development has in recent years focused increasingly on the social aspects involved this area of investigation. Ultimately, leisure is a form of social activity. Thus, if we are to conclude that leisure assumes direct social connotations, then where there is disparity in social structures there will be a consequent difference in leisure patterns. Ergo, research has shown that such is indeed the case. Whether the social variable be class, gender, race or ethnicity, it is nevertheless possible to see differences in individual leisure patterns. As such, it is certainly possible to see the degree to which social exclusion now assumes a place of central importance in the ongoing debates over changing leisure patterns. Although such debates invariably tend to generalise and thus speak in terms of social groups and collectives, it is nevertheless the case that alterations in social phenomena can be applied to the individual and their personal patterns of leisure.
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Jackson, E.L & Henderson, K.A (1995) ‘Gender based analysis of leisure constraints’, Leisure Sciences, 17, pp. 31-51.
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