Constraints on Participating in Leisure

In “Constraints to Leisure,” Edgar L. Jackson and David Scott provide an overview of the field of leisure constraints research as of the late 1990s. They point out that originally researchers in the field studies what was then called “barriers to recreation participation,” but the word “barriers” refers to what is now considered only one type of constraint – something that intervenes or prevents one from participating in an activity. But now other kinds of constraints are recognized, including one’s interpersonal and intrapersonal influences, which lead one not to take part in leisure. In additional, Jackson and Scott explain that the word “leisure” is used rather than just recreation, since it is a more inclusive term, and the word “participation” was also dropped, since leisure research doesn’t only involve whether a persona participates, but what they prefer to do, where, and what a particular type of leisure means to them.

Jackson and Scott also discuss the three major ways of looking at leisure that have evolved since the leisure constraints approach began in the 19th century. It began with considerations of “barriers to recreation participation and leisure enjoyment” based on the assumption that the main issue to address was service delivery, so that people would participate more if there were more services provided.

Then, starting in the 1960s, the focus shifted to looking at how particular barriers might affect the participation by individuals with different economic and social characteristics. Later, in the 1980s, the notion of constraints emerged, and the researchers realized that these constraints might not only be external, such as in the form of a facility or service, but could be internal, such as a constraint due to psychological and economic factors, or to social or interpersonal factors, such as a person’s relationships with his or her spouse or family.

Since the late 1980s, it would seem that three major concepts about the constraints affecting involvement in leisure activities have emerged, as described in a model proposed by Crawford and Godbey in 1987.

1) The structural or intervening constraint is one which affects someone from participating in some type of leisure, once the person already has indicated a preference for or desire to participate. As conceptualized by Crawford and Godbey, these structural or intervening constraints are “those factors that intervene between leisure preference and participation.” (p. 307). Research based on this conception of a constraint generally involves doing a survey to identify the particular items standing in the way of participation, such as time, costs, facilities, knowledge of the service or facility, lack of a partner for participation (such as a partner to participate in a doubles tennis match), and a lack of skills or a disability. The assumption underlying this approach is that a person would participate in any activity if not for these constraints, which seem much like the barriers conceived of when that term was in use. In looking for patterns and commonalities, using various quantitative methods such as factor analysis and cluster analysis, researchers found support for certain common structural and intervening constraints, most notably: “time commitments, costs, facilities and opportunities, skills and abilities, and transportation and access.” Additionally, the researchers sought to look at how different groups in society were constrained in different ways, such as women, or groups based on age and income, eventually leading researchers to recognize that most constraints are experienced to a greater or lesser degree depending on personal and situational factors.

2) An intrapersonal constraint is a psychological state or characteristic which affects leisure preferences, rather than acting as a barrier to participation once a person has already developed those preferences. For example, intrapersonal constraints which might lead a person not to develop particular leisure preferences might be that person’s “abilities, personality needs, prior socialization, and perceived reference group attitudes.”

3) An interpersonal constraint is one which occurs due to one’s interaction with one’s peers, family members, and others, leading one to think of certain leisure activities, places, or services as relevant or not relevant leisure activities to participate in. For instance, based on one’s understandings from interacting with others one might consider certain types of leisure to be inappropriate, uninteresting, or unavailable.

Although a hierarchical model was proposed by D.W. Crawford, E. L. Jackson, an G. Godbey to combine these three concepts into a single model, based on one first forming leisure preferences on the intrapersonal level, then encountering constraints on the interpersonal level, and finally encountering structural or intervening constraints, it would seem there is no such sequential ordering of these constraints. Rather they seem to act together in varying ways and orders, though Henderson and other researchers have sought to combine intrapersonal and interpersonal constraints together to become antecedent constraints.

Whether such antecedents constraints exist or not, another way to look at whether people participate in a leisure experience based on the way they respond to a perceived constraint. If they participate and want to participate, that would be described as a “successful proactive response.” If they don’t participate though they would like to do so, that would be considered a “reactive response.” Finally, if they participate but in a different way, that would be called a “partly successful proactive response.”

A good illustration of this response to a constraint approach might be a mountain climber who suffers a disability. The climber who gets a prosthetic and climbs the mountain himself might be considered to be showing a “successful proactive response.” The climber who decides to abandon the sport might be considered to be showing a “reactive response.” Finally the climber who is helped to climb the mountain by a team of other climbers might be considered to be engaging in a “partly successful proactive response.”

These ideas about constraints might be applied to how individuals get involved with some of the activities I have organized through several Meetup groups I run. These include an occasional Video Potluck Night, where people come to my house to see videos which I get at Blockbuster; feedback/discussion groups for indie film producers and directors, which might be considered a form of leisure, since most attendees are producing and directing films during their leisure time, often for free, and they have other paying jobs; and several teleseminars on writing, publishing, and promoting books, which is also more of a hobby for participants, since they hope to get books published, but have other jobs.

Structurally, some individuals who might attend these Meetup groups may be constrained because of the common structural problems that have been identified, including time commitments, costs, facilities and opportunities, skills and abilities, and transportation and access. Some people can’t attend any of these activities, because they have another event to go to at that time or they may have extra work to do, so they can’t spare the time to attend. Though there is no cost for the meetings, some people may be constrained by the cost of getting to my house, including the gas and toll from San Francisco, Marin, or the Peninsula, and the cost of contributing something to the potluck (which many people have to buy because they don’t have the time to make something).

Another constraint is that some people may be uncomfortable about going to an event in a private house. Some may not attend the discussion groups or teleseminars, because they feel their skills are not yet up to par, although they hope someday to become a produce and director or finish their book. Some may not attend because they have problems with access, since they have trouble getting to my house if they don’t have a car, because they have problems getting there by bus or BART (which are 1-3 miles from my house respectively), and they can’t get a ride. And if someone has a serious disability, they will have trouble getting into my house, which is not wheelchair accessible.

The intrapersonal constraint may come into play when some people decide not to come because they feel uncomfortable in large groups or meeting new people, such as to the Video Potlucks, since these not only involve socializing before the film over dinner but then sharing during introductions and in a discussion of the film after the showing. Others may not come because they fear opening up and showing the work they have done since they fear criticism.

The interpersonal constraint may occur when some people decide not to come because their friends or family may be doing something else or their peers may put down going to the activity. For example, their peers may be interesting in attending and discussing first run films in theaters, whereas my video potluck nights feature films on DVD from Blockbuster that come out about three months later than a theatrical release. Or their peers may discourage them from attending a director or producer discussion group, since they will be discussing their work with others who are similarly trying to break into the industry or producing and directing small films as a hobby. Their peers may claim they should only go to programs where they will meet people who are already established in the industry or convince them they don’t need any more feedback, since their project is already very good.

In short, these three concepts can be readily applied to understanding participation in the leisure activities I organize.

Source by Gini Graham Scott

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