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The Relationship Between Father Involvement in Family Leisure and Family Functioning: The Importance of Daily Family Leisure

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The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between fathers’ involvement in family leisure and aspects of family functioning from both a father and young adolescent perspective. The sample consisted of fathers and their adolescent child from 647 families throughout the United States. Results from both the father and youth perspective indicated significant relationships between father involvement in both core and balance family leisure with family cohesion, family adaptability, and overall family functioning. Satisfaction with core family leisure that included the father's involvement was the single strongest predictor of all aspects of family functioning from both perspectives highlighting the importance of regularly occurring home-based family activities such as eating dinner together, participating in hobbies and informal sports or yard activities together, watching television together, or playing board games and video games together. Discussion and implications for fathers, families, practitioners, and future research are presented.
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Leisure Sciences,34:172190,2012
Copyright
C!
Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0149-0400 print / 1521-0588 online
DOI: 10.1080/01490400.2012.652510
The Relationship Between Father Involvement
in Family Leisure and Family Functioning:
The Importance of Daily Family Leisure
LYDIA BUSWELL
RAMON B. ZABRISKIE
NEIL LUNDBERG
Department of Recreation Management
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT, USA
ALAN J. HAWKINS
School of Family Life
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT, USA
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between fathers’ involvement
in family leisure and aspects of family functioning from both a father and young adoles-
cent perspective. The sample consisted of fathers and their adolescent child from 647
families throughout the United States. Results from both the father and youth perspective
indicated significant relationships between father involvement in both core and balance
family leisure with family cohesion, family adaptability, and overall family function-
ing. Satisfaction with core family leisure that included the father’s involvement was the
single strongest predictor of all aspects of family functioning from both perspectives
highlighting the importance of regularly occurring home-based family activities such as
eating dinner together, participating in hobbies and informal sports or yard activities to-
gether, watching television together, or playing board games and video games together.
Discussion and implications for fathers, families, practitioners, and future research are
presented.
Keywords family functioning, family leisure, family leisure satisfaction, father in-
volvement
Over the past two decades, researchers have tried to define father involvement and discover
its impact on children and families (Marks & Palkovitz, 2004). Doherty, Kouneski, and
Erickson (1998) define father involvement in terms of responsible fathering,conveying
fathers who are responsible are those that are present at their childs birth and actively share
with the mother in the continuing emotional and physical care of their child during and
after pregnancy; they also share in the financial responsibility of the child from pregnancy
Received 3 November 2010; accepted 25 March 2011.
Address correspondence to Ramon B. Zabriskie, Department of Recreation Management, Brigham Young
University, W431 TRNB, Provo, UT 84602. E-mail: zabriskie@byu.edu
172
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Father Involvement 173
onwards. Marsiglio (1991) describes a new father as one that is involved in seeking to es-
tablish close, intimate bonds with their children while providing nurturance and affection,
engages in day-to-day caregiving tasks on his own, and is involved with daughters as much
as he is sons. Marks and Palkovitz argue that it is not a new father that is emerging but rather
areturntopostindustrialidealsoffatherhoodwhereinthefatherisinvolvedinmanyaspects
of their child’s life, returning to roles such as “pedagogue, guidance counselor, benefactor,
moral overseer, psychologist, model, progenitor, companion, caregiver, disciplinarian, and
provider” (p. 115). Other ideas of fathering include engagement, accessibility, and respon-
sibility (Marsiglio) as well as “generative fathering” (Brotherson, Dollahite, & Hawkins,
2005), which all encompass similar characteristics to the new father. Among these concepts
of fatherhood is the underlying trend that fathers are becoming more involved in the home
with their children in an effort to provide better outcomes for their children.
Research has suggested that fathers who are involved with their children in playing
and caregiving tasks such as diapering, preparing meals, dressing the child, and getting up
at night with infants are related to positive outcomes for their children (Brotherson et al.,
2005; Pettit, Brown, Mize, & Lindsey, 1998). Some outcomes include positive cognitive
development (Roggman, Boyce, Cook, Christiansen, & Jones, 2004), greater problem-
solving skills (Easterbrooks & Goldberg, 1984), greater peer competence (Pettit et al.),
and school readiness (Fagan & Iglesias, 1999). Although there is considerable research
examining the relationship between father in v olvement and child outcomes, limited research
has extended beyond the individual to include broader family outcomes such as quality of
family life, family life satisfaction, or family functioning.
Olson (1993) described family functioning as a delicate balance between family close-
ness or cohesion and family adaptability or the capacity to be flexible and adjust to changes
and challenges both within the family and within their environment. Family systems theory
is one of the most widely accepted and used paradigms for understanding family functioning
and related family behaviors (Larnera, 2004). This framework describes the family through
the heuristic of a working system that interacts as it progresses through the dynamics of
family life. Because the family is seen as a working unit that is greater than the sum of
its parts, each individual affects the family as a whole, while the family also affects each
individual (White & Klein, 2008). Therefore, a father’s involvement with his children in the
home is likely associated with individual child outcomes, and according to family systems
theory, such involvement is also likely to be related to broader family outcomes such as
family functioning. Many behavioral characteristics have been related to healthy family
functioning, one of which is family leisure.
Researchers have consistently reported positive relationships between family leisure
and family functioning variables for many years (Hawks, 1991; Holman & Epperson, 1984;
Orthner & Mancini, 1991). Zabriskie and McCormick (2001) reported a direct relationship
between different types of family leisure involvement and aspects of family functioning,
namely cohesion and adaptability. Such findings have been consistent among different types
of families such as adoptive families (Freeman & Zabriskie, 2003), single-parent families
(Hornberger, Zabriskie, & Freeman, 2010), and families with a child with a disability
(Dodd, Zabriskie, Widmer, & Eggett, 2009) and have been examined from both parent
and child perspectives. Satisfaction with family leisure is also an important component of
family life. Agate, Zabriskie, Agate, and Poff (2009) found a positi v e relationship between
satisfaction with family leisure and satisfaction with family life, and such a relationship
may exist between satisfaction with family leisure and family functioning as well. The
specific relationship between father involvement in family leisure and family functioning,
however, has not been examined. This study is one of the first to explore the relationship
between father involvement in family leisure and perceptions of family functioning.
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174 L. Buswell et al.
Review of Literature
Fat her Involvement
Many scholars have attempted to describe father involvement as being involved in caregiv-
ing tasks as well as providing emotional and psychological support and guidance to their
children (Marks & Palkovitz, 2004). Hawkins and Palkovitz (1999) argue that conceptual-
izations of father involvement have been dominated by a focus on the amount of time spent
in caring f or children and that this conceptualization lacks other important dimensions of
father in v olvement such as the nature and experience of the activities a father is inv olved
in with his children. Drawing upon Erikson’s (1963) concept of generativity, Hawkins and
Palkovitz suggest it is an ethic of care and desire to nurture the rising generation that
is a central component of father involvement. Dollahite and Hawkins (1998) further this
conceptualization of father involvement, describing this ethic as generative fathering, or
fatherwork.Theyposeseventypesofgenerativeworkthatrespondtothechallengesofthe
human condition, including the work of recreation. The work of recreation that fathers are
involved in incorporates teaching children about cooperation and challenge through play.
According to Dollahite and Hawkins, this work of recreation is among the most valuable
in caring for the next generation. In the background of this and other conceptualizations
of father involvement is recognition that fathers are becoming more involved with their
children in an effort to provide them with better outcomes.
Bianchi, Robinson, and Milkie (2006) reported an increase in married fathers routine
care activities as well as interactive activities. Furthermore, the increase has been far
greater in routine care activities—more than three-fold the increase, versus only doubling
their time in interactive activities. Concurrent to the increase in father involvement has been
an increase of attention in the popular press and research of father involvement (Eggebeen,
2002). One main area of research among fathers has been the relationship between father
involvement and child outcomes (Eggebeen) with father involvement often being defined
by participating in caregiving tasks and playing with their children (Marsiglio, 1991). A
growing number of researchers have examined fathers’ play involvement with their children
and the relationship to positive child outcomes in areas such as cognitive development,
problem solving, attachment, peer competence, and school readiness (e.g., Easterbrooks &
Goldberg, 1984; Pettit et al., 1998; Roggman et al., 2004). For example, Roggman et al.
found father-toddler social toy play (i.e., play interactions that included conversation and
meaningful responses) was positively related to children’s cognitive development, language
development, and emotional regulation at both 24 and 36 months, even after controlling
for earlier childhood functioning. Easterbrooks and Goldberg argue that the amount of
time fathers spend with their children in play and caregiving activities is more related to
their performance in a socio-cognitive task (i.e., problem-solving behavior) rather than
socio-emotional development (i.e., attachment). Pettit et al. (1998) found that fathers’
individual hands-on involvement in their children’s play with a peer predicted higher levels
of peer acceptance. Although father involvement in play and caregiving activities with
their children appears to be related to positive individual child outcomes, limited research
extends to in v olvement with adolescents or goes beyond individual child outcomes to
include broader family outcomes such as quality of family life, family life satisfaction, or
family functioning.
Fam ily Func tioning
Family functioning is regularly examined and interpreted through a family systems the-
oretical perspective. Family systems theory focuses on family dynamics, which include
relationships, power, structures, boundaries, family roles, and communication patterns
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Father Involvement 175
(Rothbaum, Rosen, Ujiie, & Uchida, 2002). Using this framework, family behavior is un-
derstood by viewing the family as a unit rather than just individual parts. Therefore, changes
in each individual affect the family unit’s behavior as a whole, just as changes in the family
unit affect each individual family member’s behavior (White & Klein, 2008). Zabriskie
and McCormick (2001) summarized family systems theory by stating families can be seen
“goal directed, self-correcting, dynamic, interconnected systems that both affect and are
affected by their environment and by qualities within the family system itself (p. 281).
Because family systems theory suggests that each individual affects the family as a whole,
afathersinvolvementinthehomeshouldalsobeassociatedwithfamilyoutcomes,such
as family functioning.
Olson’s (1993) Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems is a well established
model commonly used to operationalize the family systems framework. It was developed
to help bridge the gap among research, theory, and practice. It focuses on a relations system
and integrates three dimensions considered essential in most family theory models: family
cohesion, adaptability, and communication. Olson and DeFrain (1997) define cohesion as
“a feeling of emotional closeness with another person” (p. 72) and adaptability as “the
ability of the family to change power structure, roles and rules in the relationship” (p. 75).
Family communication (or lack thereof) is considered a facilitating dimension for the other
two dimensions. From this framework, both family cohesion and family adaptability are
defining characteristics of healthy family functioning (Olson & DeFrain).
Esposito (1995) used the Family Circumplex Model to examine the quality of non-
resident father interaction and family functioning. Father interaction was defined by how
the father feels about the interactions he has with his child(ren). A correlation was found
between the quality of the father-child interaction and cohesion but not adaptability. These
findings are also supported by Nicholls and Pike (2002) who suggest that the quality of
father-child interactions among nonresident fathers predicted cohesion but not adaptabil-
ity in the father-child relationship. Although these studies have examined the relationship
between father involvement and family functioning, they are limited by only examining
nonresident fathers as well as only defining father involvement by how fathers feel about
the quality of interactions with their child. Other behavioral characteristics that are consis-
tently related to family functioning, such as a father’s involvement with family leisure and
recreational habits, have not been explicitly examined. Zabriskie and McCormick (2001)
suggested that all three dimensions of Olson’s model (i.e., cohesion, adaptability, and
communication) were facilitated through family leisure involvement.
Fam ily Leis ure and Family F un ctionin g
Historically, it has been argued that family leisure is beneficial to families in the areas of
family satisfaction, marital interaction, and family stability (Orthner & Mancini, 1991).
Multiple studies have found married couples who participate in joint leisure are more
satisfied in their relationships than those who participate in individual leisure activities
(Orthner, 1975, 1976; Orthner & Mancini, 1990; Palisi, 1984; Smith, Snyder, & Monsma,
1988). These early studies are limited by reports of married couples being generalized to
the family as a whole.
In more recent decades, several studies have investigated the family as a whole. Shaw
and Dawson (2001) found that families intentionally used family leisure as a means to
enhance family functioning, calling this type of leisure purposive leisure.Theyreported
that parents tend to set goals to improve family communication, cohesion, and create a
strong sense of family through the use of family leisure. After reviewing six decades of
research, Hawks (1991) also concluded that family leisure is related to cohesiveness among
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176 L. Buswell et al.
FIGURE 1 Core and balance model of family leisure functioning.
family members. Zabriskie and McCormick (2001) reported direct relationships between
family leisure involvement and family cohesion, adaptability, and overall family functioning
using a Core and Balance family leisure framework.
The Core and Balance Model of Family Leisure Functioning is grounded in family
systems theory and implies a direct relationship between family leisure and aspects of
family functioning, namely cohesion and adaptability (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001). It
classifies family leisure into two basic types or categories: core and balance (see Figure 1).
Core family activity patterns tend to meet the need “for familiarity and stability” by
providing regular experiences in family leisure that are predictable and promote closeness
among family members as well as personal relatedness (Zabriskie & McCormick, p. 283).
These activities are those which are usually done inside or near the home, are performed
often, and typically require little or no financial resources. Examples of core activities
include watching television or movies together, shooting hoops in the driveway, playing
board games and video games together, or going on family walks.
On the other hand, balance family activity patterns, tend to meet the need for challenge
and change as they provide avenues for the family to grow, be challenged, and develop
as a functioning system (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001). These activities are those which
are usually done away from the home, are novel experiences, not done as often, and may
require more resources such as time, effort, and finances. Examples of these activities
include family vacation, camping out, going on a hike, or attending a public swimming
pool together.
In a study among college-aged young adults, Zabriskie and McCormick (2001) found
core family leisure involvement was related to greater family cohesion and balance family
leisure involvement was related to family adaptability. Overall, those who reported more
family leisure in v olvement also reported higher family functioning. Freeman and Zabriskie
(2003) found among families with bi-racial adoptive children that family leisure involve-
ment was the strongest predictor of family functioning even when considering sociodemo-
graphic variables such as age, gender, race, family size, religion, history of divorce, and
annual income. Findings have been consistent from multiple perspectives including parents,
young adults, and adolescents from a variety of samples including two-parent, biological
families (Zabriskie & McCormick), families with a child with a disability (Dodd et al.,
2009), single-parent families (Hornberger et al., 2010; Smith, Taylor, Hill, & Zabriskie,
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Father Involvement 177
2004), and Hispanic families (Christenson, Zabriskie, Eggett, & Freeman, 2006), which
suggest that both core and balance family leisure activities are essential, and that families
who regularly participate in both types of family leisure activities report higher levels of
family functioning than those who participate in low amounts of either activity category.
Hilbrecht, Shaw, Havitz, and Delemere (2008) reported similar findings after exploring
school age children’s perspectives of family vacations. The children conveyed the impor-
tance of having adventure and novel experiences within a consistent and stable environment.
In other words, the children interviewed felt that it was important for them to have novel
experiences as well as experiences that were familiar to them, such as the balance between
core and balance family activities.
The Core and Balance Model appears to offer a sound theoretical framework from
which to examine fathers’ family leisure involvement and family functioning. It must be
acknowledged, however, that most empirical evidence supporting the model is a result of
correlational research. Therefore, while the model’s directional relationships have been
supported theoretically, further research is still needed before causality can be empirically
reported. Nevertheless, the model has provided a consistent theoretically sound framework
for many studies with large family samples which have contributed meaningful insights
into family leisure and a variety of family-related variables (Poff, Zabriskie, & Townsend,
2010). The majority of responses (70–90%) in most of these studies, however, have been
from a mother’s perspective and may or may not have included family leisure with the
father present.
It is also important to note that until recently many large family leisure studies in this
line have been limited to the measurement of family leisure involvement or participation
only, without any indication of quality or the individual’s satisfaction with their family
leisure involvement. This limits the ability to account for individual value judgments
related to family leisure involvement whether negative, positive, or otherwise. By including
ameasureoffamilyleisuresatisfaction,researchersexaminingbroadconstructsacross
large samples of families can account for some variance possibly related to the conflict,
contradictions, and possible family stress reported in some earlier qualitative family studies
(Larson, Gillman, & Richards, 1997; Shaw, 1997; Shaw & Dawson, 2001). Poff et al.
(2010) reported that from a parent perspective family leisure involvement contributed to the
explanation of variance in variables such as family communication and family functioning,
but ultimately it was core and balance family leisure satisfaction that explained variance
in overall satisfaction with family life. Agate et al. (2009) found satisfaction with core
family leisure to be the single greatest positive predictor of satisfaction with family life
among a national sample of families, explaining much more variance than family leisure
involvement alone. Likewise, Johnson, Zabriskie, and Hill (2006) reported satisfaction with
marital leisure involvement as the strongest predictor of marital satisfaction in couples even
when controlling for leisure involvement and other sociodemographic variables. Yet to date
no studies have included family leisure satisfaction when examining the family leisure and
family functioning relationship.
Father Involvement in Family Leisure
Kay (2006) suggests that, compared to other activities for fathers, engaging in play and
leisure activities with children provides an important setting to explore contemporary
fatherhood practices. While father involvement in family leisure is typically overlooked in
the literature, Swinton, Zabriskie, Freeman, and Fields (2008) used the Core and Balance
Model as a framework to examine nonresident fathers’ family leisure patterns. They reported
nonresident fathers participated in more core family leisure than balance family leisure,
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178 L. Buswell et al.
which is quite the opposite of their Disneyland dad reputation or dads who only participate
in extraordinary and often expensive activities with their children. Although this study
has provided some insight into family leisure patterns and father involvement, family
functioning was not specifically examined.
Afewqualitativestudieshavefoundlinksbetweenfatherinvolvement,leisure,and
aspects of family functioning among resident fathers (Brotherson et al., 2005; Harrington,
2006). In a qualitative analysis of interviews from 16 resident fathers, Brotherson et al.
discovered fathers were able to feel connected with their children through spending mean-
ingful time together in activities of recreation (e.g., camping, hunting, picnicking) and
activities of play or learning (e.g., hide and seek, checkers, word games). Brotherson et al.
argue that “in a society that increasingly demands the time and attention of parents, these
connecting moments in a father-child relationship gain greater importance and suggest
the value of the ‘little things’ that create a sense of connection” (p. 16). Call (2002) also
suggests that common, ordinary parts of fathers’ relationships with their children (e.g.,
cuddling on the couch, talking over dinner, sharing sodas) are crucial to experiencing a
connection between a father and child. In a qualitative study among Australian fathers,
Harrington found that sports were a common way fathers interacted and bonded with their
children. Fathers sought to instill positive memories of family life that they hoped would
be passed on through generations. These studies support the relationship between father
involvement in leisure and family cohesion and personal relatedness with their children.
Although there has been a strong focus of past research on father involvement in
family work to various child outcomes and a limited focus on fathers play interactions
related to child outcomes (Grossman et al., 2002; Pettit et al., 1998; Roggman et al.,
2004), scholars have not examined father involvement in family leisure and its relationship
to family outcomes. Considering the trend of increased father involvement (Bianchi et al.,
2006), it is likely that a father’s involvement with his children in leisure is related to broader
family outcomes such as family functioning. The Core and Balance Model also suggests
that fathers who are involved in more family leisure with their children are likely to report
higher family functioning than those who participate in less. Therefore, the purpose of
this study was to examine the relationship between fathers’ involvement in family leisure
and aspects of family functioning. Specifically, it was hypothesized that father involvement
in core and balance family leisure would be related to family cohesion, adaptability, and
overall family functioning. Furthermore, satisfaction with family leisure in volvement with
the father present would also be related to family cohesion, adaptability, and overall family
functioning from both a father and young adolescent perspective.
Methods
Sample
This study was a cross-sectional, web-based design. During fall 2009, data were collected
in cooperation with an online survey sampling company which draws subjects from a
representative multisource Internet panel of 2.2 million households willing to participate
in online research based on the researchers sample criteria. The research instrument was
completed by a national sample of families (n = 647) residing in U.S. households containing
at least one youth (11–15 years old). Each responding family was required to submit two
completed responses: one from a father and one from a youth between the ages of 11 and 15.
The majority of respondents (69.2%) lived in urban/suburban areas (population > 50,000).
The households were located in the following census regions: Northeast (23.8%), Midwest
(24.6%), South (34.5%), and West (17.2%). The average family size was 3.80 people with
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Father Involvement 179
areportedrangeof2to8familymembers.Annualincome($US) ranged from less than
$10,000 to more than $150,000 with a median income of $60,000–69,999.
Slightly more than half of the youth respondents were male (62.6%) with a mean age of
13.1 (SD = 1.40) and ranged from 11 to 15. The ethnic majority of youth was White (69.6%)
with minority represented by Black (12.2%), Hispanic (11.4%), Other (6.8%). Ages of the
fathers ranged from 29 to 71 with a mean age of 44.2 (SD = 8.55). Approximately 80%
of the fathers were married, 7.3% were single/never married, 2.5% were separated, 13.8%
were divorced, 1.5% were widowed, and 7.9% were unmarried and living with a partner.
Ahistoryofdivorcewasreportedby28.6%ofthefathers.Nearly45%ofthefathers
completed at least a four-year bachelor degree. Fathers were predominately White (69.7%),
with minority represented by Black (13.0%), Hispanic (11.9%), and Other (5.4%). Nearly
25% of fathers had been unemployed within the past year. Months of unemployment ranged
from one to 12 with an average of 7.56 (SD = 4.415).
When compared with census data for the United States, White ethnicity of this sample
was reflective of census data (75.0%), compared with 69.7% in the current sample. The
current sample also was quite reflective of minorities: Hispanic (15.4%) and Black (12.4%)
in the U.S. census data (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008). In terms of census regions the current
sample was quite similar to census data (Northeast 19.1%, Midwest 22.9%, South 35.6%,
and West 22.5%), with slightly more respondents from the Northeast and slightly fewer
from the West. The current sample reflected a slightly higher annual income compared to
the real median income for all households in 2007 being $50,233 (DeNavas-Walt, Proctor,
&Smith,2008).Furthermore,maritalstatuswas80%inthesamplecomparedto60%
in the census data (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). Overall the current sample was generally
reflective of the U.S. population.
Instrumentation
The research instrument included three sections: (a) the Family Adaptability and Cohesion
Scales (FACES II) used to measure aspects of family functioning (Olson et al., 1992), (b) the
Family Leisure Activity Profile (FLAP) used to measure family leisure involvement which
includes the imbedded Family Leisure Satisfaction Scale (FLSS) (Zabriskie & McCormick,
2001), and (c) sociodemographic questions.
FACES II. FACES II includes 30 items used to measure an individual’s perceptions
of family adaptability, family cohesion, and overall family functioning based on Olson’s
Family Circumplex Model (Olson & DeFrain, 1997). There are 16 questions that measure
family cohesion and 14 that measure family adaptability on a Likert scale from 1 (almost
never) to 5 (almost always). For example, participants responded to statements such as
“Family members are supportive of each other during difficult times” and “In our family,
everyone shares responsibilities. ” Scores for family cohesion and family adaptability were
calculated based on a scoring formula that accounts for reverse coded questions. After
obtaining total family adaptability and family cohesion scores, the linear scoring interpre-
tation procedures (Olson et al., 1992) were used to calculate an indicator of overall family
functioning with higher scores equaling higher family functioning. Acceptable psychome-
tric properties have been consistently reported for the use of FACES II (Olson et al.) and
Cronbach Alpha coefficients for the current sample were .86 (father) and .86 (youth) for
cohesion, .76 (father) and .83 (youth) for adaptability, and .89 (father) and .89 (youth) for
the total scale.
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180 L. Buswell et al.
FLAP. The FLAP is an activity inventory that measures family leisure involvement
based on the Core and Balance Model of Family Leisure Functioning (Zabriskie, 2000).
Respondents identified participation (yes/no) with family members across 16 activity cate-
gories. Eight categories of activities are representative of core family leisure patterns (e.g.,
family dinners, home-based TV/videos, games, and yard activities), and eight categories
are representative of balance family leisure patterns (e.g., community-based events, out-
door activities, water-based activities, adventure activities, and tourism). If the respondent
answered, they completed ordinal scales of frequency and duration for each category. An
index score was computed for each item by multiplying the ordinal frequency and du-
ration scores. Core and Balance family leisure involvement scores were then calculated
by summing the appropriate indices with higher scores indicating greater involvement in
family leisure (Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001). Acceptable psychometric properties ha v e
been reported for the FLAP with evidence of construct validity, content validity, inter-rater
reliability, and test-retest reliability for core (r = .74), balance (r = .78), and total family
leisure involvement (r = .78; Zabriskie, 2001). The directions of this scale were modified
from its original form to ask fathers specifically about their participation in family leisure
and to ask the youth about family leisure involvement in which the father was involved or
included.
The FLSS is embedded into the FLAP and measures satisfaction with current involve-
ment in each of the family leisure activity categories and are indicated on a 5-point Likert
scale ranging from 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). Scores were calculated by
summing the core and balance family leisure satisfaction items. Acceptable psychometric
properties have been reported including internal consistencies of α = .90 from both parent
and youth perspectives (Agate et al., 2009). Cronbach Alpha coefficients for the current
sample were .90 (father) and .91 (youth) for core family leisure satisfaction and .90 (father)
and .91 (youth) for balance family leisure satisfaction.
Demographics. Sociodemographic questions were included to identify the underlying
characteristics of the sample. These items included age of the father and youth, ethnicity
of the father and youth, gender of father and youth, marital status, history of divorce, state
of residence, population of place of residence, highest level of education, annual family
income, employment status, and family size.
Analysis
The statistical package SPSS (v. 17) was used to analyze the data. Data were compiled
into two data s ets: responses of fathers and responses of youth. Data were reviewed for
missing responses and examined for outliers to be sure all responses fit within the sample
parameters. Underlying characteristics of the research variables were examined with de-
scriptive statistics. Zero-order correlations between variables in each of the two data sets
were examined for multicolinearity as well as to identify possible control variables to be
included in subsequent multiple regression equations. Blocked entry multiple regression
analyses were then conducted. Sociodemographic variables that were significantly corre-
lated with the dependent variables were included in the first block as controlling factors to
facilitate examination of the unique contribution of fathers involvement in family leisure
to variance in family functioning. The second block included family leisure involvement
variables (core family leisure and balance family leisure). The third block included core and
balance family leisure satisfaction variables. Multiple regression analyses were performed
on each of the three dependent variables (family cohesion, family adaptability, and family
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Father Involvement 181
functioning) from both the father and youth perspective. The relative contribution of each
variable in significant models was determined using standardized regression coefficients
(β). Cases with missing data (even one item) were excluded from the multiple regression
analyses; hence, 14 cases were excluded from the youth data set (see Table 2).
Results
Scores fell within established norms for each scale. Multicolinearity, as indicated by r >
.90 (Tabachnick & Fidell, 1996) was not found between any of the sociodemographic
variables in either the father or youth data set. In the father data set, zero-order correlations
were reported between family adaptability and the independent variables of income (r =
.25, p < .01), history of divorce (r = .13, p < .01), unemployment within the past year
(r = .10, p < .01), and highest level of education (r = .21, p < .01). Therefore, these
variables were included in the multiple regression equations for the father perspective. In
the youth data set, zero-order correlations were reported between family adaptability and
the sociodemographic variables of family size (r =.08, p < .05), income (r = .26, p <
.01), history of divorce (r = .14, p < .01), unemployment within the past year (r = .12,
p < .01), and highest level of education (r = .18, p < .01). Therefore, these variables were
included in the multiple regression equations for the youth perspective.
Results from the father’s perspective were reported for each of the three blocked
regression models on the dependent variables of family cohesion, family adaptability, and
family functioning respectively (see Table 1). In each of the models there was a significant
change in the variance explained after adding fathers’ involvement in family leisure in the
second block (cohesion #F
(2, 640)
= 31.99, #R
2
= .090, p < .001; adaptability #F
(2, 640)
=
35.13, #R
2
= .092, p < .001; family functioning #F
(2, 640)
= 42.40, #R
2
= .113, p < .001),
with both core and balance being significant predictors. There was also a significant change
in the variance explained by each model after adding fathers’ family leisure satisfaction in
the third block (cohesion #F
(2, 638)
= 50.50, #R
2
= .123, p < .001; adaptability #F
(2, 638)
=
100.02, #R
2
= .199, p < .001; family functioning #F
(2, 638)
= 84.13, #R
2
= .178, p <
.001) with core family leisure satisfaction becoming the strongest single predictor. The
three models explained from 22.2–36.5% of the total variance.
Results from the youth’s perspective were also reported for each of the three blocked
regression models on the dependent variables of family cohesion, family adaptability, and
family functioning respectively (see Table 2). In each of the models there was a significant
change in the variance explained after adding fathers’ involvement in family leisure in the
second block (cohesion #F
(2, 625)
= 31.40, #R
2
= .090, p < .001; adaptability #F
(2, 625)
=
25.23, #R
2
= .068, p < .001; family functioning #F
(2, 625)
= 37.69, #R
2
= .104,
p < .001), with core being the strongest or only significant predictor. There was also a
significant change in the variance explained by each model after adding youth’s family
leisure satisfaction in the third block (cohesion #F
(2, 623)
= 53.08, #R
2
= .131, p < .001;
adaptability #F
(2, 623)
= 72.41, #R
2
= .159, p < .001; family functioning #F
(2, 623)
=
81.33, #R
2
= .178, p < .001) with core family leisure satisfaction becoming the single
strongest or only significant predictor. The three models explained from 23.4–31.9% of the
total variance.
Discussion
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between fathers’ involvement
in family leisure and aspects of family functioning. Results from the father and youth
perspectives indicated significant relationships between father involvement in both core and
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182 L. Buswell et al.
TABLE 1 Summary of Blocked Regressions Equations Predicting Family Cohesion,
Adaptability, and Functioning: Father Data
Cohesion Adaptability Functioning
Predictor SE β SE β SE β
Block 1 R
2
.009 .075
∗∗
.032
∗∗
Highest level of education .308 .060 .236 .092
.049 .003
Estimated annual income .174 .097 .134 .180
∗∗
.028 .160
∗∗
Unemployed within past
year
.975 .018 .749 .005 .155 .009
History of divorce .871 .029 .669 .084
.139 .055
Block 2 #R
2
.090
∗∗
.092
∗∗
.113
∗∗
Highest level of education .294 .071 .225 .082 .046 .014
Estimated annual income .167 .058 .128 .142
∗∗
.026 .117
Unemployed within past
year
.933 .032 .714 .017 .146 .023
History of divorce .833 .037 .637 .090
∗∗
.131 .063
Core family leisure .025 .181
∗∗
.019 .208
∗∗
.004 .218
∗∗
Balance family leisure .017 .158
∗∗
.013 .131
∗∗
.003 .161
∗∗
Block 3 #R
2
.123
∗∗
.199
∗∗
.178
∗∗
Highest level of education .274 .075 .197 .073 .041 .020
Estimated annual income .157 .015 .112 .087
.024 .064
Unemployed within past
year
.870 .018 .625 .002 .131 .006
History of divorce .776 .027 .557 .078
.117 .050
Core family leisure .026 .033 .019 .042 .004 .043
Balance family leisure .016 .139
∗∗
.012 .087
.002 .136
∗∗
Core leisure satisfaction .093 .359
∗∗
.066 .376
∗∗
.014 .422
∗∗
Balance leisure satisfaction .085 .041 .061 .143
∗∗
.013 .061
Total R
2
.222
∗∗
.365
∗∗
.323
∗∗
Note.
p < .05;
∗∗
p < .01; n = 647.
balance family leisure and various aspects of family functioning (cohesion, adaptability, and
total family functioning). Father involvement in core family leisure activities proved to be
strongly related to all aspects of family functioning. Of particular interest was the finding that
father in volvement in core family leisure was the strongest predictor of family adaptability
from the youth perspective. Examining satisfaction with family leisure participation also
provided interesting insights. Satisfaction with core family leisure with the father involved
was the single best predictor of all aspects of family functioning from both the father and
youth perspective.
Comparing Reports from Fathers, Mothers, and Youths
This is one of the first broad scale family leisure studies to examine a father’s involvement in
family leisure and its relation to family functioning from both a father and youth perspective.
Previous studies have examined family leisure involvement and family functioning using
mostly mothers’ reports and may or may not have included family leisure with the father
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Father Involvement 183
TABLE 2 Summary of Blocked Regressions Equations Predicting Family Cohesion,
Adaptability, Functioning: Youth Data
Cohesion Adaptability Functioning
Predictor SE β SE β SE β
Block 1 R
2
.013 .089
∗∗
.038
∗∗
Highest level of education .308 .073 .258 .032 .050 .021
Estimated annual income .174 .139
∗∗
.146 .224
∗∗
.028 .197
∗∗
Unemployed within past year .977 .019 .818 .008 .157 .017
History of divorce .878 .007 .735 .120
∗∗
.141 .049
Family size .351 .028 .294 .099
.056 .035
Block 2 #R
2
.090
∗∗
.068
∗∗
.104
∗∗
Highest level of education .295 .058 .249 .047 .047 .004
Estimated annual income .168 .092 .142 .182
∗∗
.027 .147
∗∗
Unemployed within past year .935 .003 .790 .026 .149 .006
History of divorce .838 .001 .708 .123
∗∗
.133 .054
Family size .336 .004 .284 .120
∗∗
.053 .061
Core family leisure .027 .197
∗∗
.023 .229
∗∗
.004 .241
∗∗
Balance family leisure .016 .134
∗∗
.014 .048 .003 .110
Block 3 #R
2
.131
∗∗
.159
∗∗
.178
∗∗
Highest level of education .274 .064 .225 .042 .042 .009
Estimated annual income .157 .032 .129 .115
∗∗
.024 .076
Unemployed within past year .866 .005 .713 .027 .133 .007
History of divorce .776 .007 .639 .117
∗∗
.119 .048
Family size .314 .045 .258 .075
.048 .014
Core family leisure .026 .075 .021 .093
.004 .093
Balance family leisure .016 .076 .013 .014 .002 .049
Core leisure satisfaction .103 .354
∗∗
.085 .398
∗∗
.016 .450
∗∗
Balance leisure satisfaction .097 .060 .080 .058 .015 .027
Total variance explained R
2
.234
∗∗
.316
∗∗
.319
∗∗
Note.
p < .05;
∗∗
p < .01; n = 633.
present (Dodd et al., 2009; Freeman & Zabriskie, 2003; Zabriskie & McCormick, 2001).
The current study is unique in that it examined a father’s involvement in family leisure from
the father’s perspective. Findings from the present study indicate fathers are involved in
nearly the same amount of core family leisure activities as reported in previous studies but
less balance leisure activities (from both the father and youth perspective) (see Zabriskie &
McCormick). Fathers report being involved in nearly the same amount of core family leisure
as mothers’ reports of general family involvement. Such (2006) suggested that compared
to mothers, fathers view their leisure time as “being with” their children and enjoying time
together while mothers focus more of their time on ‘being there’ for their children and
being able to respond to their needs. Current findings provide further support to the trend
of increased father involvement in the home (Bianchi et al., 2006) and are consistent with
previous research which suggests that for fathers, family and home-based leisure activities
are a primary context for leisure and familial attachment (Larson, Gillman, & Richards,
1997).
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184 L. Buswell et al.
Relationship Between Family Leisure Involvement and Family Functioning
Researchers have consistently found a relationship between family leisure involvement and
family functioning (Dodd et al., 2009; Hornberger et al., 2010; Freeman & Zabriskie, 2003).
While recent qualitative studies have emerged finding links and significant meaning among
father involvement, leisure, and aspects of family functioning (Brotherson et al., 2005;
Harrington, 2006), the current study is among the first to examine that relationship on a
broad scale with a large sample of families, which allows some level of generalizability and
provides details into specific patterns of family leisure involvement that stand out across
many families. Therefore, this study both supports and adds additional insight to the present
body of knowledge concerning father involvement in family leisure and its contribution to
family life.
Multivariate analyses indicated a positive relationship between core and balance family
leisure involvement and family cohesion from both a father and youth perspective. Core
family leisure acti vities are usually common, low-cost, home-based, spontaneous, and
require little planning. Even after taking into account other family characteristics such as
highest level of education, annual income, unemployment, and history of divorce, father
involvement in core family leisure was the strongest predictor of family cohesion from
both the father and youth perspective. In other words, fathers who regularly participated
in activities such as watching television and movies, playing board games and video
games, eating home meals, playing sports in the yard or park, attending their children’s
performances or competitions, gardening, reading books, etc., together with their families
reported higher levels of family cohesion. Such findings are consistent with those of a
recent study indicating that daughters who play age-appropriate video games with their
fathers report stronger mental health, a stronger sense of family connectedness, and exhibit
better behavior (Coyne, Padilla-Walker, Stockdale, & Day, 2011). They are also in line
with earlier reports (Brotherson et al., 2005) suggesting shared activities of play between
afatherandhischildareconnectedtoasenseofcompanionshipandenjoyment.Current
findings extend beyond the connection between a father and child only and report a sense
of cohesion, or connectedness, among the complete family unit, which contradicts a long
standing previous mindset or stereotype about father involvement in family leisure.
In the 1970s terms such as Disneyland dad became commonly used to describe the
leisure patterns of fathers, particularly nonresident fathers. This term characterized fathers
in a negative light suggesting they interacted only occasionally with their children often
disrupting regular family life by showing up and only participating in family activities
that were expensive and extraordinary, or in other words, balance family leisure activities.
Employing the core and balance framework, Swinton et al. (2008) examined nonresident
fathers’ leisure patterns and found that this was not the case in her sample and reported
higher levels of core family leisure involvement. Findings from the current study add further
support by indicating that participation in core family leisure activities explained more
variance with respect to family functioning than participation in balance family leisure
among this broad national sample of families. Although participation in balance family
leisure activities is important and needed, it was fathers’ involvement in the everyday, home-
based, common family leisure activities that held more weight than the large, extravagant,
out-of-the-ordinary types of activities when examining family functioning.
Contrary to what is predicted by the Core and Balance Model, findings indicated
father involvement in core family leisure activities as the strongest predictor of family
adaptability (before adding the third block with the family leisure satisfaction variables)
from the father perspective and the only family leisure involvement variable to predict family
adaptability from the youth perspective. While this finding may be related to the s omewhat
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Father Involvement 185
lower participation in balance family activities that fathers reported, it may also suggest
that a father’s participation in regular core family leisure activities also provides children
necessary experiences to learn flexibility in various family situations, especially according
to the view of the youth. Perhaps young adolescents view their father’s participation in
everyday recreation as not only a time to bond with their father and other family members but
also a time where they learn various skills that allow them to be more adaptable. Dollahite
and Hawkins (1998) propose the fatherwork of recreation as a means by which fathers
help children to cooperate and challenge their skills and coping abilities. Current findings
clearly provide empirical support to this reasoning. Furthermore, Harrington (2006) found
that fathers used the context of sport to show an interest in and bond with their children
as well as to inculcate values and lifelong social skills, which is in line with Shaw and
Dawson’s (2001) purposive leisure concept. Our findings also suggest that youth view the
everyday leisure activities with their fathers as an opportunity to refine social skills and
coping abilities that may help them adapt and be flexible in various family situations just
as much as fathers in previous studies view leisure time as a time to teach such skills.
Findings also indicated father involvement in both core and balance family leisure
predicted total family functioning from both the father and youth perspective, with core
family leisure being a slightly stronger predictor than balance (before adding the third
block with the family leisure satisfaction variables). This finding is consistent with previous
research examining family leisure involvement and has been found in a variety of family
structures, including families with bi-racial adoptive children (Freeman & Zabriskie, 2003),
Hispanic families (Christenson et al., 2006), and single-parent families (Hornberger et al.,
2010; Smith et al., 2004). This is the first study, however, to look specifically at father
involvement in family leisure and to evaluate it from a father and youth perspective. It is
also the first to examine father involvement in family leisure and its relation to a family
variable such as family cohesion, family adaptability, and family functioning, and it does
so using a large, nationally reflective sample. Furthermore, this study also extended beyond
measuring only the level of family leisure participation to examine the quality of the
experiences as well, or the satisfaction with family leisure and its relationship to aspects of
family functioning.
Relationship Between Satisfaction with Family Leisure Involvement
and Family Functioning
Whereas past research has primarily focused on participation in various aspects of family
leisure, additional insights from current findings include evaluating the quality, or satisfac-
tion with family leisure involvement. Findings from both the father and youth perspective
indicated core family leisure satisfaction as the single greatest contributor to all aspects of
family functioning (cohesion, adaptability, and total family functioning), even after control-
ling for sociodemographic variables such as annual income, family size, history of divorce,
level of education, and unemployment. Satisfaction with balance family leisure involve-
ment was only significantly related to family adaptability from the father perspective. These
findings emphasize that it is not simply the amount of involvement fathers spend in leisure
activities with their youth and family that is related to greater family functioning. Rather,
leisure provides a context through which quality, meaningful, and satisfying interactions
may take place, which in turn predicts greater family functioning. This is particularly true
concerning core family leisure activities. In today’s busy society, fathers often have com-
mitments in multiple places while also placing weight on the amount of time spent in family
leisure. It appears that the s atisfaction of father involvement in everyday leisure activities
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186 L. Buswell et al.
is more important than the amount of involvement when considering various aspects of
family functioning.
Such findings related to core family leisure satisfaction are consistent with previous
work (Agate et al., 2009). While examining satisfaction with family life, Agate et al. found
core family leisure satisfaction to be the single strongest predictor from both a parent and
youth perspective. The consistency and strength of the contribution of core family leisure
satisfaction to the various aspects of family functioning not only confirm the importance
of core family leisure but also add strength to its significance, particularly from the youth
perspective. Data suggest that when youth are satisfied with the fathers being present in core
family leisure activities they tend to report their family functioning higher than when they
are not satisfied. In other words, rather than the occasional expensive family vacation alone,
the satisfaction with regularly occurring home-based family activities such as eating dinner
together, participating in hobbies and informal sports and yard activities together, watching
television together, or playing board games and video games together with the father present
was the single strongest predictor of all aspects of family functioning, particularly from the
youth perspective. Scholars, professionals, families, and fathers would benefit to examine
the emphasis placed on fathers spending time with their families in everyday activities.
More importantly, it should be recognized that in the case of family functioning, fathers
should focus on the quality of interaction and satisfaction of family members during the
regular time they spend together in family leisure.
Practitioner Implications
These findings indicate that father involvement in family leisure is an important component
of family life. This study provides empirical evidence with a large, relatively representa-
tive sample, with both a father and adolescent perspective, having controlled for various
demographic variables. Findings from this study have several valuable implications for
professionals who work with and study fathers and families and often overlook the role of
father involvement in family leisure. Our findings give direction about the kinds of family
leisure activities that may be most essential for fathers to be involved in.
It is important for family professionals to identify fathers’ involvement in core family
leisure involvement and core family leisure satisfaction as valuable elements of family life.
In other words, it is the common, ordinary parts of a father’s relationship with his children
in family leisure (Call, 2002) that contribute most to family functioning. Professionals who
work with families and particularly fathers would do well to use this information to help
develop programs that promote fathers being involved in quality, everyday, home-based
leisure activities with their families. Fathers may want to consider participating in activities
such as family meals, board/video games, practicing sports and hobbies, reading together,
or other common activities that can be done together at home with little or no resources.
Professionals could also consider teaching fathers the importance of their involvement in
everyday leisure activities, provide ideas for activities fathers could be involved in, and
facilitate regular participation in such home-based activities.
Future Research
Although several implications exist from this study, limitations must be acknowledged.
Correlational techniques were used to determine relationships; therefore, causal inferences
cannot be determined or assumed without further research. In order to determine direction-
ality of the relationships, longitudinal studies and studies with experimental designs need
to be employed. Although this study accessed a large sample that approximated national
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Father Involvement 187
averages for ethnicity, marital status, and regional representation, it was not a true random
sample and therefore the results cannot simply be generalized to all families. A large, ran-
domized, national sample is recommended for use in future studies to allow generalization
to a broader population.
Furthermore, the authors were interested in possible differences between perspectives
of fathers and their adolescent children particularly considering that the majority of the
father in v olvement literature rev olves around babies, toddlers, or much younger children.
Therefore, data were treated as two separate data sets in an effort to focus on adolescent
perspectives of family variables if needed. Future analyses including dyadic modeling or
other techniques for nesting data at the family level are recommended. Future research
may also benefit by collecting data from all family members so as to gain a more complete
family vie w of a father’s in v olvement in family leisure. Although this study captured the
views of adolescent youth and a parent, exploration of father-son and father-daughter dyads
were not examined and would perhaps yield interesting results as well.
Future research would also do well to examine other related dependent variables, such
as satisfaction with family life or family communication and their relationship to father
involvement in family leisure. Possible societal factors that may have contributed to the
importance of father involvement in core family leisure and satisfaction of those activities
should also be explored. Considering nearly 25% of the sample was unemployed for some
time during the year before completing the survey, unemployment and its relationship
with father involvement in family leisure or other family behavior and family relationships
should be explored further. Although, current findings revealed no significant multivariate
relationships with unemployment, future research focused on the impact and meaning of
prolonged unemployment including personal and family conflict or other outcomes related
to fatherhood, family leisure, and family life are recommended.
Finally, it is recommended that Shaw’s (1997) encouragement to come together in
terms of paradigmatic approaches in order to understand positives, negatives, and all the
interrelated contradictions of family leisure must continue to be adhered to in order to
further our understanding of the unique role and meaning of family leisure in family life
today. Such a coming together must also include recognizing and embracing the strengths
and weaknesses of different methodologies and effectively using both qualitative and quan-
titative approaches to further understand both broader relationships as well as interpretive
meanings related to family leisure. Although current findings contribute to the literature
particularly in regards to the importance adolescents placed on father involvement in core
family leisure and its positive relation to family adaptability, the deeper meaning and all
the subtleties of core family leisure with the father involved cannot be understood without
further qualitative inquiry. As the significance of core family leisure, particularly from an
adolescent’s perspective, has been consistently identified in many recent studies using both
methodological approaches among broad samples of families, adoptive families (Freeman
&Zabriskie,2003),familieswithachildwithadisability(Doddetal.,2009),single-parent
families (Hornberger et al., 2010), divorced families (Hutchinson, Afifi, & Krause, 2007),
and so on, it stands to reason that family scholars must gain a better understanding of this
phenomenon. What does it actually mean to adolescents to have their fathers involved in
home-based family leisure experiences on a daily basis? What does it mean to mothers? Why
does core family leisure stand out across so many different kinds of families, particularly
among those that do not fit the “traditional” mold of heterosexual, married one-time, bio-
logical parents of 2.3 children? Does it help negotiate related conflicts, contradictions, and
pleasures? Further study within the current framework among families in diverse cultures
and situations coupled with related qualitative inquiry must be pursued in order to continue
to understand the meaning, intricacies, and impact of family leisure in family life today.
Downloaded by [BYU Brigham Young University], [Dr Ramon B. Zabriskie] at 08:07 02 March 2012
188 L. Buswell et al.
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This paper investigates the relationship between the proportion of time husbands and wives spend in individual, joint, and parallel leisure activities and marital satisfaction over five marital career periods. A probability sample of upper-middle-class families in a moderate-sized Southeastern city yielded 216 husbands and 226 wives for the study. The results suggest that the three leisure activity patterns are differentially related to marital satisfaction, that husbands and wives are not influenced alike by leisure, and that the marital career period is a most critical variable in determining the influence of leisure.