Until recently, studies into juveniles’ leisure activities concentrated mainly on adolescents. In this study, the leisure activities of both pre-adolescents and adolescents are studied. Departing from sociological debates on the busyness of contemporary young adolescents’ leisure diaries and of an advanced onset of the transition from childhood into the youth phase, a questionnaire was designed for 10 to 15 year-olds. 927 Dutch youngsters were studied. By means of CATPCA, it was found that 10-12 year-old girls mainly engage in reading and in creative activities, whereas the boys spend most time playing outside. Fourteen and fifteen year-olds, on the other hand, showed a clear interest in youth-cultural activities, which did not support theoretical notions about the advancement of adolescence at the expense of childhood. Questions on organized activities showed that the market of leisure opportunities is not equally accessible to everyone: higher class kids are in an advantageous position compared to lower class kids, which affects the degree to which these subgroups have the opportunity to develop important leisure capital through informal learning.
Jusqu’à récemment, l’étude des activités de loisir chez les jeunes était centrée principalement sur les adolescents. Dans la présente étude, nous examinons les activités de loisir tant chez les préadolescents que chez les adolescents. À partir de débats sociologiques sur l’importance qu’occupent les loisirs dans l’emploi du temps des jeunes adolescents d’aujourd’hui et sur la précocité de la transition de l’enfance à l’adolescence, un questionnaire a été élaboré à l’intention des jeunes de 10 à 15 ans. Ainsi, 927 jeunes Hollandais ont fait l’objet de cette étude. Une analyse CATPCA (analyse catégorique des composantes principales) a révélé que les fillettes de 10 à 12 ans s’adonnaient principalement à la lecture et aux activités créatrices dans leurs moments de loisir, tandis que les garçons du même âge passaient le plus gros de leur temps à jouer dehors. Toutefois, chez les 14 et 15 ans, on a décelé un intérêt marqué pour les activités culturelles pour les jeunes, ce qui allait à l’encontre de la théorie voulant que l’adolescence précoce s’installe au détriment de l’enfance. Les questions portant sur les activités organisées ont permis de constater que le marché des loisirs n’était pas également accessible à tous. En effet, les enfants des classes supérieures sont avantagés, comparés à ceux des classes moins bien nanties, ce qui a un effet sur la mesure dans laquelle ces sous-groupes ont la chance d’accumuler un capital-loisir significatif par le biais d’un apprentissage non structuré.
Hasta hace recientemente el estudio de las actividades de ocio en los jóvenes estaba enfocado principalmente sobre los adolescente. En el presente estudio, examinamos las actividades de ocio tanto en los preadolescentes que en los adolescentes. A partir de debates sociológicos sobre la importancia que ocupan las diversiones en el empleo de tiempo de los jóvenes adolescentes de hoy en día y sobre la precocidad de la transición de la infancia a la adolescencia, un cuestionario dirigido a jóvenes de 10 a 15 años fue elaborado. Así, 927 jóvenes holandeses formaron parte de este estudio. Un análisis CATPCA (análisis de categorías de componentes principales no lineal) reveló que las niñas de 10 a 12 años se consagran principalmente a la lectura y a las actividades creativas en sus momentos de ocio, mientras que los niños de la misma edad pasan la mayor parte del tiempo a jugar fuera. Sin embargo, en los jóvenes de 14 y 15 años, se descubrió un interés destacado por las actividades culturales para los jóvenes, lo que va en contra de la teoría que preconiza que la adolescencia precoz se instala en detrimento de la niñez. Las preguntas referentes a las actividades organizadas, permitieron de constatar que el mercado de las diversiones no es igualmente accesible a todos. En efecto, los niños de clases sociales altas son favorecidos, comparados a los de las clases menos pudientes, lo que tiene un efecto en la medida que estos subgrupos tienen la suerte de acumular un capital-ocio significativo por medio de un aprendizaje no estructurado.
The leisure activities of teenagers have been well researched in Western societies. The question of how adolescents spend their time outside school or the labor market and how processes of modernization affect their leisure behavior has kept sociologists busy ever since World War II. Recently, in Europe and the US, childhood sociology has received increasing attention. The childhood sociological discourse breaks with the tradition of viewing the period of childhood primarily as a developmental phase. In this perspective, childhood is regarded as a structural social category that, like any other social category, is affected by macrosociological processes (James and Prout, 1997; Jenks, 1996; Zeiher, 1996; Qvortrup, 1995, 2001). With regard to the field of leisure, the theoretical attention of childhood sociologists largely focuses on the busyness of contemporary children’s leisure diaries as well as on thetransition from childhood into adolescence as it occurs in the field of leisure. There is, however, scant empirical research in these areas. The present study aims to explore the organized and unorganized leisure patterns of children during the transition into the youth phase. This represents a first step towards bridging the discontinuity that has existed between leisure research on children and on teenagers (cf. Erwin, 1998).
Leisure time as experimentation time
It is generally acknowledged by sociologists that the way in which juveniles organize and spend their leisure time changes as societal developments advance. The proliferation of leisure activities on offer, the omnipresence of the media, the increase in financial resources of parents and children, and the perseverance of the negotiating household, which is characterized by a strong child-orientation on the part of parents, have contributed to youngsters being able to orient themselves towards a wide variety of commercial leisure products, fashions, music styles, leisure clubs and hobbies, and to construct their own leisure biographies (Büchner, 1995; Hengst, 2001).
As these developments progressed, the leisure activities of young people became the focus of increasing interest by sociologists. Initially, the sociological literature concentrated exclusively on adolescents, whose leisure activities became the subject of growing debate during the 1960s. Sociological research indicated apparent shifts in teenagers’ leisure behavior. They withdrew en masse from the “old” Church and ideology-based youth organizations and started to spend less time on reading and other cultural activities. By contrast, their involvement in sports as well as media-related and consumer activities increased steadily (SCP, 2000). In line with these findings, the view that the leisure time of teenagers requires uncompromising pedagogical guidance to ensure their adaptation of standard biographical male and female roles lost favor (Alanen, 1988; Te Poel, 1997). The field of leisure increasingly came to be viewed as the pre-eminent domain in which adolescents develop individual preferences and try out social roles through experimentation (Parsons, 1942; Coleman, 1978; Dunphy, 1963). Concepts of exploration and development of individual taste, as well as of cultural resistance, became associated with the field of leisure (Griffin, 1993). Youth researchers in Europe and the US showed that the leisure opportunities on offer enabled adolescents to develop different lifestyles and patterns of consumption (Culp, 1998; Eurobarometer, 1997; Furlong and Cartmel, 1997; Hultsman, 1993; Hendry et al., 1993), some of which could be understood as a counter-move against the constraints experienced on the opportunities to partake in various social contexts (McRobbie, 1978; Willis, 1977).
In the course of the 1980s, increasing attention began to focus on the leisure time of children. Until then, sociological theories had departed from the standpoint that, in childhood, the primary socialization agency – the family – governed children’s activity in leisure as well as other domains of life (Parsons, 1955; overview Corsaro, 1997). The rise of a “kids’ consumer market” in the 1980s, offering all kinds of products and activities especially designed for children, enabled them to shape their own child culture, which in turn enhanced their visibility as active social actors and co-constructors of their environment (Corsaro, 1997; Hengst, 2001; Qvortrup, 1995). For children, too, the field of leisure became an area full of opportunities for experimentation and consumption (Büchner, Fuhs and Krüger, 1996; Du Bois-Reymond et al., 1994; Kline, 1993; Miles, Cliff and Burr, 1998; Torrance, 1998; Zinnecker and Silbereisen, 1996).
Leisure time as competence enlargement time
At the same time as the heightened attention for children’s leisure, an alternative discourse on young people’s leisure was also gaining more attention. The economic recession of the 1980s, which was accompanied by a high rate of youth unemployment, presented youth researchers and policymakers with the question of what requirements young people needed to meet in order to ensure successful placement in the labor market, and in society as a whole (Hurrelman, 1989; Van Ewijck, 1994; Wyn and White, 1997). Increasing attention began to be given to the formative aspects of leisure activities and the curative and preventive role these activities could play in resolving the societal problems experienced (compare Griffin, 1993). The conviction began to prevail that juveniles’ leisure time is important learning time, during which supplementary and distinctive competencies are acquired that underline the child’s uniqueness and, in this way, enhance his or her competitive position. The awareness that modern Western societies had developed into information and knowledge societies, in which information technologies and knowledge systems are renewed at an ever-increasing tempo (IARD, 2001; Thoonton, 1997), further fueled the interest in leisure as a learning context. In the 1990s, the concept of leisure time being a domain in which indispensable social, communicative and organizational skills are acquired, began to attract more interest (Zeijl, 2001).
Childhood and youth sociologists emphasize that the more important leisure time becomes in anticipating children’s future life chances, the more those children whose parents cannot spend much time, energy, or money on it are disadvantaged. They cannot make the most of their leisure capital in the way that children from more privileged families do. These variations cannot be separated from social class conditions (Büchner and Fuhs, 1998; Klocke, 1998). Generally, families from higher social classes have the most financial and cultural resources at their disposal, and hence the strongest views about what children’s leisure lives should be like, compared to families from lower social classes (Te Poel, du Bois-Reymond and Zeijl, 2000; Zeijl et al., 2000; Zinnecker, 1995). In line with this observation, in European countries as well as in the US, national and local policies are set out aimed at supporting projects, either organized by schools or by leisure organizations, that offer a range of adult-guided extracurricular activities especially designed for young people from the lower social classes. Childhood and youth sociologists have pointed out that, by initiating various compensatory programs in the field of leisure, the dividing line between school as learning domain and leisure as pleasure domain is increasingly blurring (Büchner and Fuhs, 2001; Pais, 2000).
Assumptions and objective of the present study
Departing from theoretical notions of the rise of the modern consumer and knowledge societies, childhood and youth sociologists have focused on the effects these developments allegedly have on children’s leisure. They have pointed to an increased structuring of young adolescents’ leisure time, due to demanding leisure diaries resulting from increased participation in adult-guided leisure activities. In addition, they have supposed that the period of adolescence has advanced at the expense of childhood. Children not only make use of all kinds of commercial “kid-products” such as toys, cuddly animals, clothes, sportswear and so on; they are also familiar, at a relatively young age, with all kinds of “grown-up” matters, including activities that were originally intended for teenagers and young adults. By visiting children’s discos, pop concerts for kids, etc., and by watching teenage movies and soaps, children’s leisure time is assumed to display characteristics that correspond with teenagers’ leisure cultures (Postman, 1982; Hengst, 2001).
Although many large-scale studies have been conducted into teenagers’ leisure activities and, recently, some studies into pre-adolescents’ leisure pursuits, generally no information is provided on the degree to which their leisure time is structured and how structured (adult-guided) and unstructured (spontaneous) leisure activities and experiences are mixed. Moreover, scant attention has been paid to the question of whether differences exist between the leisure interests of children and of teenagers (overview Zeijl, 2001). The objective of the present study is to provide an initial exploration of the organized and unorganized leisure patterns of 10 to 15 year-olds, who at the time of the research were living in the Netherlands. Our key question was: During the transition from childhood to the youth phase, do changes occur in the unorganized and organized leisure patterns of 10-15 year-olds and, if so, in what way?
How many formal appointments as a result of leisure club participation do contemporary 10-15 year-olds have on a weekly basis?
What unorganized leisure activities do contemporary 10-15 year-oldspursue?
And, what is the relationship between the unorganized and organized leisure lives of 10-15 year-olds? Do young adolescents, who have many leisure appointments, still have time to undertake spontaneous leisure activities?
Leisure time was defined as the time after school hours during which freely chosen activities are undertaken, which can either be organized or unorganized in nature. Unorganized leisure activities were defined as casual activities that generally are free of parental supervision and initiated by the children themselves. Organized leisure activities were defined as weekly recurring leisure activities that are anchored in an institutional setting and are under the supervision of adults.
Since in the Netherlands the transition from primary to secondary education is a major cut-off point for young people, which takes place at the age of 12, we distinguished between three age groups for further analyses:
Primary school children who are in the run-up to the transition to secondary education. These youngsters are generally 10 -12 years old.
Secondary school children who have just made the transition to secondary education. These young adolescents are generally 13 years old.
Secondary school children who have attended high school for a longer period of time. They are generally 14 and 15 years old.
Procedure and Sample
In order to answer our research questions, a questionnaire was administered. Contact was established with various schools. Letters were send, after which the schools were contacted by phone. The majority of the schools agreed to participate. The researchers stayed in the classroom at the time the questionnaire was filled in and offered help when necessary. This assistance to the children resulted in a low percentage of non-response. Around five percent of the young adolescents studied were unable to complete the questionnaire in time. Leaving out these respondents, a sample of 927 adolescents remained.
Roughly equal numbers of boys and girls were included in the sample (50.8% versus 49.8%). Most of the youngsters studied lived in two-parent families (81.2%). 8.2% of the youths studied were born outside the Netherlands.
By means of four open-ended questions, the respondents were divided into social class groups. Their assignment to the different groups was based on the parent (father or mother) with the highest credentials and occupational level (details in Zeijl et al., 2000). The following groups were distinguished:
Lower social class. These parents had a lower or no vocational training and had jobs like mechanics, cleaners, and bricklayers.
Middle social class. These parents had a secondary-level vocational training. They had jobs like foremen and small business traders.
Middle-high social class. This group included teachers, departmental managers, higher-level council employees, who had a higher professional education.
Higher social class. These parents worked as doctors, psychologists, lawyers, or had important executive jobs in large companies or with the government. They had a college degree.
The division of respondents across these groups is shown in Table 2.
A questionnaire developed by Büchner et al. (1996) was used to scrutinize patterns of leisure activities and study whether there are apparent differences in the leisure interests of children and teenagers. In order to gain an insight into the unorganized leisure activities young adolescents engage in, they were presented with a list of fifteen unorganized leisure activities, varying from playing outside and reading to chatting with friends and watching television. This list was constructed on the basis of a qualitative preliminary study conducted by Du Bois-Reymond et al. (1994). On a four-point scale the youngsters could indicate whether these activities were pursued (1) hardly ever or never, (2) about every other week, (3) about once a week, or (4) several times per week.
To gain an insight into the number of leisure appointments young adolescents keep, a weekly diary was designed. In this miniature “leisure diary”, the subjects wrote down their leisure appointments that occurred each week as a result of their participation in organized leisure activities. It is important to realize that respondents may have several appointments per week for one organized activity, e.g. football training twice during the week, which we consistently scored as two activities.
To uncover patterns of unorganized leisure activities, we aimed to explore the relationship between the items relating to unorganized activities as well as the relationship between these items and subgroups of youths. To study these relationships in the data, we used principal components analysis for categorical data (CATPCA procedure in SPSS Categories). CATPCA is not only a suitable technique for analyzing low-level data, it also allows a mix of variables with different measurement levels to be included in the analysis (Meulman and Heiser, 1999). Nominal, ordinal and interval data can be explored in one and the same procedure.
The survey items we used were on an ordinal level of measurement. The categories of these items had some intrinsic order. It could not be assumed that the distances between the categories were equal. The subgroups of youths were composed by combining the categories of the variables Gender (boy-girl), Age (10-12, 13, 14-15), and Social Economic Status (SES; lower; middle; middle-high; higher).
The outcome of CATPCA is interpreted by reading a two-dimensional figure in which the solution is presented in a principal axes orientation (no rotation is applied afterwards) (Meulman and Heiser, 1999). The relationships between the ordinal items represented by their correlations with the principal components are displayed by vectors (arrows). Each vector points towards the category with the highest score (several times a week). In the opposite direction lies the category with the lowest score (hardly ever or never). The length of a vector reflects the importance of the variable: the longer the vector, the more variance is accounted for (after optimal quantification). The subgroups of youths are displayed by points. A point represents the average (centroid) of scores of a particular subgroup. The group points are positioned according to their relationship with the items. Points lying close together represent groups of youngsters with comparable response patterns. The perpendicular projection of a point on a vector indicates the position of the group in the (optimally transformed) data (in Zeijl et al., 2000, p. 290).
The CATPCA analysis is based on the unorganized activity items, with the groups of subjects formed by Gender x Age x SES cross-classified variable. The number of leisure appointments that were deduced from the “leisure diary” filled in by the subjects were not included in the CATPCA analysis, but were analyzed separately using ANOVA.
Figure 1 shows the responses of young adolescents to the items about unorganized leisure activities.
Three bundles of items can be seen in Figure 1. The first dimension separates the bundle “playing outside”, “street sports”, and “computer games” (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.38) from the bundle “reading”, “painting”, “taking care of animals”, “learning”, “writing”, and “making music” (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.53). An important part of the latter activities can be typified as “cultural activities”. The items “playing outside” and “street sports”, which form a constituent part of the first item bundle, refer to activities that historically have been connected to a “street or outdoor childhood” (Zinnecker, 1996). The item “computer games”, which also belongs to this bundle, indicates that present-day children who are often involved in outdoor activities also are regularly found at home engaging in computer activities.
The second dimension separates the bundle “listening to music”, “chatting with friends”, “hanging around”, “going out”, “watching videos”, and “watching television” (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.51) from the “cultural” bundle and the “street and computer” bundle. These audiovisual and peer-related activities can be typified as “youth-cultural activities”. These activities enhance teenagers’ access to youth-cultural lifestyles.
Given that both dimensions are almost equally important, in that they account for about as much variance [Total VAF (Variance Accounted For] dimension 1 = 2.457; Total VAF dimension 2 = 2.118), the two dimensions should not be interpreted separately, but jointly by means of four areas that describe the two dimensions. Since the bundles of items do not coincide completely with the two dimensions and we prefer to leave the configuration in principal axes orientation instead of rotating it, we use lines that are perpendicular to the bundles of items, rather than the dimensions themselves, to describe the different areas. The line perpendicular to the “cultural” and “street and computer” bundles separates areas 1 and 4 (high on street and computer; low on cultural) from areas 2 and 3 (high on cultural; low on street and computer). The line perpendicular to the “youth-cultural” bundle divides areas 3 and 4 (high on youth-cultural activities) from areas 1 and 2 (low on youth-cultural activities). This procedure results in four areas that facilitate the joint description of the two dimensions.
Area 1: The street-computer area
This area includes respondents who indicate spending most of their leisure time on playing outside and engaging in casual sports activities. They also are regularly found at home involved in computer games. Less time is spent on youth-cultural activities.
Figure 1 shows that two subgroups can be discerned within this area. The first subgroup consists of youngsters whose answers point to both street and computer activities. The second subgroup is situated close to the dividing line between area 1 (street-computer activities) and area 2 (cultural activities). This indicates that these respondents’ main interest is playing outside. Yet, unlike the first group, they spend more time on cultural activities and less on computer games.
Figure 1 shows that the first subgroup consists exclusively of lower-class boys between the ages of 10-12 and 13 (B10-12L; B13L). Their unorganized leisure pattern can be characterized as an “outdoor” pattern. When they are not outside, they are busy playing computer games. It seems that after the transition from primary to secondary education, these boys initially retain much of their interest in street and computer activities.
The second group is made up of pre-adolescent boys from middle, middle-high, and higher social classes (B10-12M; B10-12MH; B10-12H). They also engage regularly in outside activities. When they are not outside, however, they are likely to engage in cultural activities, in particular in learning, reading, painting, and taking care of animals.
Area 2: The cultural area
The youngsters who fall into this area spend most of their time at home engaging in all kinds of cultural activities. Figure 1 shows that this group is primarily composed of female pre-adolescents from various social backgrounds (G10-12L; G10-12M; G10-12MH; G10-12H). Boys are completely absent. Pre-adolescent girls from middle-high and higher social classes (G10-12H; G10-12MH) are more involved in these activities than those from lower and middle social classes. Thirteen year-old girls from middle-high and higher social classes (G13MH; G13H) also fall into this area. They are, however, more attracted to writing (letters, diary) and musical activities than the pre-adolescent girls, which suggests that, after the transition to secondary school, girls from middle-high and higher social classes tend to retain an interest in cultural activities and intensify their participation in certain creative activities.
Area 3: The cultural and youth-cultural area
This area includes young people whose response patterns indicate that most of their leisure time is spent on both cultural and youth-cultural activities. With regard to the latter, their main interest is in socially oriented youth-cultural activities (going out; chatting with friends). The cultural activities they indicate that they engage in most are making music and writing (diary, letters). They are much less attracted to street and computer activities.
Figure 1 shows that there is a group consisting of female adolescents from lower, middle, and middle-high social classes (G14-15L; G14-15M; G14-15MH), whose leisure pursuits fully center on informal contacts with peers. A second group consisting of 13 year-old girls from lower and middle social classes (G13L; G13M) indicate that they spend a considerable portion of their leisure time in making music and writing. At the same time, they also have developed a primal orientation towards youth-cultural activities. In addition to these 13 year-old girls, 14-15 year-old girls from higher social classes also belong to this subgroup (G14-15H). In comparison to 14-15 year-old girls from other social classes, they have a more active interest in cultural activities.
Area 4: The youth-cultural and street-computer area
This area includes youngsters who indicate spending a considerable portion of their leisure time on individually pursued youth-cultural activities (watching television/video, listening to music, hanging around). In addition, they engage frequently in street and computer activities. They are not very attracted to cultural activities. As Figure 1 shows, this area contains only male adolescents, who are either 13 or 14-15 years of age and stem from various social backgrounds (B13M; B13H; B13MH; B14-15L; B14-15M; B14-15MH; B14-15H). Some of the leisure activities these boys engage in were probably also pursued in their childhood years (area 1). Yet unlike the previous period of life, it appears that, now that they have entered secondary education, their orientation towards youth-cultural activities is budding as well. The 14-15 year-old boys are slightly more involved in these activities than the 13 year-olds.
In conclusion, we can say that no clear indication of an advancement of adolescence was found. The finding that 10-12 year-olds are mainly oriented towards outdoor and computer activities (boys) or towards cultural activities (girls), whereas 14-15 year-olds are to a substantial extent focused on youth-cultural activities does not suggest an advanced onset of adolescence. Our data indicate that the transition to secondary education is an important marking point. The age of 13 is an important transitional age, at which new activities are tried out and old leisure interests are redefined. It seems that girls pass through this stage slightly more quickly than boys. At the age of 14-15, most of them already have an unequivocal orientation towards youth-cultural activities, whereas boys of this age combine outdoor and computer activities with a primary interest in youth-cultural activities. Girls from higher social classes are an apparent exception to this general rule, however. In contrast to lower and middle-class girls, they do not have a clear-cut youth-cultural orientation. In their childhood years as well as in their teenage years, they are more involved in cultural activities than the other girls.
To gain an insight into the number of leisure appointments young adolescents keep, a weekly diary was designed. In this timetable a distinction was made between organized activities that take place on weekdays after school hours (Monday through Friday) and organized activities that take place at weekends (Saturday/Sunday). Figure 2 shows the degree to which the after-school leisure time of the respondents is pre-structured. Nearly three-quarters had leisure appointments from Monday through Friday. On average, one or two organized activities were pursued each week, which points to a moderately active organized leisure life (m = 1.65; SD = 1.45).
Looking at Figure 2, four differential patterns can be discerned that are interesting from a theoretical point of view. Following the discussion of the relevance of organized leisure activities, there is an important difference between youngsters who do and those who do not pursue organized activities. Rather more than a quarter of the total sample belongs to the group who do not engage in any organized activity after school hours. Since their leisure consists mainly of unorganized activities, we characterized them as the unattached. About equal numbers of youngsters engage in one and in two organized activities, whereas a relatively large drop can be observed between two and three and between three and four activities. Apparently there is a threshold between engaging in two or three and between engaging in three or four activities. We characterize the 1-2 activity group asthe moderates. Youngsters engaging in three activities during the week are somewhat busier than the moderates, yet their leisure time is not completely filled up in advance. We call them the in-betweens. The fourth pattern includes those who have four or more leisure appointments per week. Since almost all after-school time is taken up by appointments, it is conceivable that the unorganized activities these young people undertake acquire a formal character as well. For instance, “play-appointments” with friends needing to be made since these children’s leisure diaries do not allow them to meet them spontaneously (cf. Zeiher and Zeiher, 1994). In line with Torrance (1998); we characterize this group as the leisure managers, thereby referring to the fact that most leisure activities are established through appointments. To determine which respondents were most likely to be “unattached” and which were most likely to be “leisure managers”, we used ANOVA.
Two main effects were found pertaining to age and SES. The 10-12 year-olds and the 13 year-olds have, on average, more leisure appointments during the week than the 14-15 year-olds. In particular the 13 year-olds appear to be active in this field. Obligatory tasks, in particular homework, absorb more leisure time, and peer relations become increasingly important after this age (Hendry et al, 1993; Zeijl et al., 2000). Also, clear differences were discovered between the different social status groups. Young adolescents from middle-high and higher social classes have significantly more leisure appointments during the week than youngsters from middle and lower social classes. In particular higher class youngsters are likely to belong to the group of “leisure managers”. Interestingly, no significant gender differences were found.
Turning to organized weekend activities, we found that half the young adolescents had no leisure appointments on Saturdays and Sundays; the weekends of these juveniles are, to a large extent, taken up with casual leisure pursuits. The other half did engage in organized leisure activities at weekends, with about three-quarters (73.2%) having one leisure appointment and about a fifth (20.2%) being engaged in two organized weekend activities. Interestingly, those who have many appointments during the week are also the busiest at the weekend (F [5, n = 877] = 18.46; p £ 0.000).
Two main effects were found pertaining to gender and SES. Boys have more leisure appointments at the weekend, and thus more in total than girls. Second, young people from higher social classes have more leisure appointments at the weekend than those from other social classes.
It appears that the leisure time of a large number of young adolescents is not as pre-structured as often is suggested by childhood sociologists. On average, they engage in one or two organized leisure activities on weekdays and have either none or only one leisure appointment at weekends. The group of “leisure managers” (four or more activities) accounts for only 12% of the total. Higher-class children have more access to the organized leisure activities on offer than lower-class youngsters, which has a differentiating effect on the structure of their leisure patterns. Also, age-related differences were found. The involvement of young adolescents in organized leisure activities declines over time, with 13 appearing to be an important transition age. Most interestingly, we found that boys have just as many leisure appointments after school hours as girls. Boys do however have more leisure appointments at weekends, and thus more appointments in total than girls, a finding which is inextricably linked to the fact that boys participate more in sports (Zeijl, 2001). These clubs, in contrast to non-sports leisure clubs, which are more frequently visited by girls, often have training sessions during the week and competition matches at weekends.
Organized and unorganized leisure activities
In the foregoing, we differentiated between unorganized and organized leisure activities. Here, we focus on the relationship between the two. We computed sum scores over the items referring to unorganized leisure activities and discerned three equally sized groups using percentiles with unorganized activity levels ranging from low through mediocre to high. Subsequently, a CATPCA analysis was carried out to explore the relationship between the intensity level of unorganized and organized activities.
There is an important general factor displayed in the first dimension (Total VAF = 1.739), but there is also an important second dimension (Total VAF = 1.332). The second dimension separates the variable “unorganized activities” from the items “organized week activities” and “organized weekend activities”. Since both dimensions account for about as much variance, and hence should not be interpreted separately, two lines were drawn through the origin and perpendicular to the item bundles. The line perpendicular to the “organized week and weekend activities” bundle separated juveniles who are very involved in organized leisure activities and have many leisure appointments (areas 2 and 3) from those who do not have many leisure appointments (areas 1 and 4). The line perpendicular to the variable “unorganized activities” separates those who often engage in a broad variety of unorganized leisure activities (areas 1 and 2) from those who spend little time on unorganized leisure activities (areas 3 and 4). This procedure resulted in the following four areas.
Area 1: Many unorganized- few organized activities
This area includes juveniles who frequently engage in all kinds of unorganized activities and tend to be less active in the field of organized leisure. They have no or only one leisure appointment on weekdays and no leisure appointments at weekends. Figure 3 shows that this group consists of preadolescent girls from lower, middle and middle-high social classes (G10-12L; G10-12M; G10-12MH) and of 13 year-old girls from lower social classes (G13L). Although all these girls are not very involved in organized leisure activities, Figure 3 shows that the lower-class girls are somewhat less active in this field than the girls from middle and middle-high social classes.
Area 2: Many unorganized-many organized activities
This area includes young people who, compared to the other subgroups of subjects, are most active in the field of leisure. They engage in all kinds of unorganized leisure activities and have several leisure appointments during the week as well as at weekends. As Figure 3 shows, this area is rather mixed as far as its composition is concerned. First and foremost, 13 year-old girls from middle, middle-high, and higher social classes belong to this group (G13M; G13MH; G13H). In addition, 13 year-olds boys from lower social classes also belong to this group (B13L). And finally, pre-adolescent boys and girls from higher social classes are also situated in this area (B10-12H; G10-12H). Figure 3 shows that the 10-12 year-olds have slightly more active organized and unorganized leisure lives than the 13 year-olds, with the girls (G10-12H) being particularly active in the field of unorganized leisure activities and the boys (B10-12H) in the field of organized leisure activities.
Area 3: Few unorganized-many organized activities
This area includes those who have a relatively large number of leisure appointments each week, but are less active when it comes to unorganized leisure activities. This area consists almost exclusively of boys of various ages. For the most part, they stem from the middle, middle-high, and higher social classes (B10-12M; B10-12MH; B13M; B13MH; B13H; B14-15MH; B14-15H), although 14-15 year-old boys from lower social classes belong to this group as well (B14-15L). These latter boys distinguish themselves from the other boys in that they score lowest on unorganized leisure activities, which implies that they engage least frequently in these leisure activities compared to the others. In addition to these boys, 14-15 year-old girls from higher social classes also belong to this group (G14-15H). Like most boys, these adolescent girls also have a clear interest in organized leisure activities and are less involved in unorganized activities.
Area 4: Few unorganized-few organized activities
This area consists of youngsters who spend proportionally little time on either unorganized or organized leisure activities. This area consists of the bulk of female adolescents from lower, middle, and middle-high social classes (G14-15M; G14-15MH; G14-15H). In particular the lower-class girls score extremely low (G14-15L), which indicates that they rarely engage in either organized or unorganized activities. This does not imply that they generally sit around doing nothing; it is very likely that these girls in particular encounter a relatively high number of constraints in their leisure time, which stand in the way of active participation in all kinds of leisure activities. Most likely these constraints ensue in part from traditional social constructions of feminine and masculine roles; these views prevail particularly in this social class, which considers the outdoor environment to be a domain that is predominantly reserved for males (Culp, 1998; Hendry et al., 1993). Furthermore, research has shown that these girls tend to have relatively many household chores, which also has a restrictive effect on their leisure time. In addition, 10-12 year-old boys from lower social classes and 14-15 year-old boys from the middle social class also fall into this group (B10-12L; B14-15M).
Although it is often presumed that intensive leisure club participation allows little time for casual leisure pursuits, we have to conclude that this relationship is not as unequivocal as is often thought. Having many leisure appointments does not by definition mean that one’s unorganized leisure life is negligible, and vice versa. Several mixtures are possible. Given the way in which contemporary 10-15 year-olds indicate that they employ these possible mixtures it appears that, particularly for girls, the transition from childhood to adolescence is accompanied by a decreasing “leisure activity level”: after the age of 13, their participation in organized and unorganized activities declines. Again, girls from higher social classes are an exception to this rule. Although their interest in unorganized activities decreases after the age of 13, they do retain an active interest in organized activities.
Concluding remarks and suggestions for future research
In reviewing our study, we feel that the most important outcome is the finding of highly differentiated patterns of leisure activities. The wide range of options available in the field of leisure nowadays enables young adolescents to enjoy a great diversity of leisure experiences. Present-day children and teenagers combine activities, which leaves them with a complex of differentiated child and teen experiences in the field of leisure. This does not mean, however, that the leisure experiences of all young adolescents in modern Western societies have become equally individualized. Our data reveal that the current market of leisure opportunities is not equally accessible to everyone. In line with sociological notions put forward by Beck (1992) and Furlong and Cartmel (1997), we have to conclude that structural conditions continue to have a strong hold over young adolescents’ leisure experiences. The leisure time of contemporary young people continues to be shaped mainly by class-based divisions, which intersect with gender (Wyn and White, 1997).
When it comes to the acquisition of “leisure capital” we must conclude that, currently, higher-class youngsters have more opportunities to profit from the learning experiences that leisure activities, especially organized activities, can provide; they have more access to the current market of leisure activities than lower-class young people. In addition, the gender differences found in leisure interests indicate that there are apparent differences in the type of leisure capital acquired by boys and girls. Girls, especially those from higher social classes, are more likely than boys to develop leisure capital that stems from cultural activities, though this does not refute the fact that boys, particularly those from middle-high and higher social classes, also engage in these activities every now and then. The benefit of this type of leisure capital conceivably lies, among other things, in the informal training of reading, writing and knowledge-acquiring skills, which contributes to the mastering of skills and development of ambitions that are needed, amongst others, in the field of formal education. The leisure capital of boys, particularly those from the lower and middle social classes, is more likely to derive from street and computer experiences. The fact that, in recent decades, the significance of ICT as well as of informal learning in general has grown, means that further research is needed on the role these types of activity play in children’s lives, as well as on the learning experiences generated by these activities.
With this in mind, we need to look at the pedagogical relevance of our findings. How can our results be of importance to youth policy officials, teachers, youth workers, community workers and other practitioners in the field? Given that, in Western knowledge-based societies, the balance between schooling and leisure is shifting, knowledge about young people’s leisure interests and about behavioral patterns in this field becomes indispensable for professionals working in community-based schooling projects and youth work. This kind of information indicates not only where children’s leisure interests lie, but also how to connect to children to encourage them to anticipate the demands knowledge-based societies impose on them, in particular the demand to develop an intrinsic motivation for life-long learning (Du Bois-Reymond, 2000), to make use of modern communication resources in a creative way (Bynner, 1998), to steer their personal life courses (agency) (Shanahan, 2000), as well as to develop the capacity to calculate risks (Beck, 1992; Davis, 1999) and deal with the cultural diversity of multicultural societies (McLaren, 1995). We take the view that community and educational programs should not depart from a culturally pessimistic viewpoint, condemning children’s orientation towards outdoor and media activities, but should be in keeping with their fascination with the media and computers. We also feel that in this context special attention needs to be given to the construction of custom-made leisure activities for (lower-class) girls, which offer an opportunity to learn new skills in the safe seclusion of organized leisure settings.
The confinement of the present study suggests several pathways for further research. First of all, we would call for more longitudinal as well as cross-cultural research. It is only through longitudinal research that we can determine whether particular leisure patterns advance or hinder the acquisition of opportunity-enlarging life skills, and hence lead to a relative paucity or abundance of these skills later in life (cf. Hultsman, 1993). In addition, longitudinal research is needed to explore further our cross-sectional findings about behavioral changes in the field of leisure. Cross-cultural research enables a systematic assessment of the generalizability of our research findings (Hendrick, 1991). After all, even between closely related cultures, important differences in social structures and practices can be found.
Our final remarks relate to non-indigenous young adolescents. As yet, only a few studies in the Netherlands and other European countries have looked at the leisure experiences of young people from different ethnic backgrounds living in Western societies. It is unsatisfactory to find that these youngsters often are absent from social sciences literature, given that they form an integral part of contemporary Western societies. Even today, studies often are “white-sampled”, leaving their conclusions of limited generalizability. In order to overcome this one-sidedness, we consider an approach with a multi-cultural focus to be indispensable. This demands additional skills of researchers, particularly in the field of methodology. Yet we are convinced that the current situation in the field of cross-cultural methodology, as well as the expertise of contemporary childhood sociologists with respect to the construction of surveys specially designed for children, offer various means by which these problems can be minimized and even overcome.
We assumed that, in the eyes of youths who join a leisure club, organized activities would be regarded as “real leisure time” and not as “obligatory time”. Household chores, on the other hand, were not regarded as freely chosen leisure activities, but compulsory tasks, and hence were not investigated in the present study. The same was true for homework. Studying for school, in addition to compulsory homework tasks, on the other hand, was not regarded as an unavoidable activity, but a freely chosen leisure activity. No attention was paid to the role part-time jobs play in the leisure time of 10-15 year-olds, considering that only a few youths indicated having a part-time job (Dutch legislation does not allow young people to work under the age of 15).
The majority of the non-native Dutch youngsters were born in former Dutch colonies, such as Surinam, the Netherlands Antilles and Indonesia, or originated from other European countries. The small size and heterogeneous composition of the non-indigenous subgroup complicated a comparison between indigenous and non-indigenous children. Yet we did not want to remove these youngsters from our sample because, like the indigenous juveniles, they constitute an integral part of Western multicultural societies. Our solution to this problem was to carry out two analyses; the first analysis would include all respondents, the second only the indigenous children. Subsequently, both outcomes were compared in order to check whether the general structure of the outcomes was comparable. During this process, no major differences came to light; this is in fact not surprising since the percentage of children of foreign origin was rather low. Consequently, we decided to present only the results that included both indigenous and non-indigenous respondents.
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