The relationship between demographic variables and leisure perceptions of selected South African first year university students
Weilbach, Johannes Theron
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Participation in campus leisure and recreation programmes can provide university students with various benefits, but the provision of effective leisure programmes are complicated by the changes that have taken place in the demographic composition of the student population attending South African universities. Increases in the proportion of black students attending university, and decreases in the proportion of white students means that current students possibly exhibit leisure behaviours that differ from those of their predecessors. With eleven official languages in South Africa, the language diversity among students is a further issue with which leisure professionals have to contend. Students also come from different economic backgrounds, posing additional challenges to universities’ leisure service providers. Since demographic factors, including culturally based perceptions and values, ethnic identity, language, religious beliefs and family structure (Outley & Witt, 2006:112) may influence leisure behaviour and preferences, it is important for leisure professionals to understand how these factors influence the perceptions students have of leisure. For purposes of this study, leisure perceptions are conceptualised to include leisure meanings, leisure experiences and leisure constraints. Due to the lack of research regarding leisure within a South African context (Goslin, 2003:39; Wegner et al. 2006:249) the purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between demographic variables and leisure perceptions of selected South African first-year university students. The study utilised a once off crosssectional research design, using three research instruments, the Leisure Meanings Inventory (LMI), Leisure Experience Battery for Young Adults (LEBYA) and the leisure constraint questionnaire by Raymore et al. (1993:104). An availability sample was used that comprised 344 first-year students in academic programmes related to sport, leisure and recreation studies from six South African universities. Data analysis included confirmatory factor analyses, t-tests, ANOVA and 2-way ANOVA. For leisure meanings, results indicate that female students are more likely to see leisure as Exercising Choice and Achieving Fulfilment than are male students. Home language also influences leisure meanings, with Afrikaans students seeing leisure as Escaping Pressure, whereas English-speaking students associate it with Passing Time. Students staying in private accommodation associated leisure more with Passing Time than those in university hostels. Furthermore, students that are in a relationship are less likely to see leisure as Achieving Fulfilment than those that are not. For leisure experiences, white students are more aware of leisure benefits and opportunities than are black students, and experience less boredom and distress during their leisure. Additionally, white students are more aware of leisure benefits and opportunities than are Coloured students. Seeing that a lack of awareness of leisure participation benefits and opportunities often are associated with boredom, which in turn is associated with delinquent behaviour, the possibility exists that increased awareness of leisure may assist in combating delinquent behaviour among students. In terms of language, Afrikaans-speaking students and students that speak African languages experienced more challenge in their leisure than their English-speaking counterparts. This result may be either because of ethnic factors, such as traditions or customs associated with specific languages or because of language, per se, as proposed by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. With regard to leisure constraints, black students experienced greater interpersonal constraints than did white students, while white students experienced greater structural constraints than did black students. Additionally, Indian students experienced more intrapersonal constraints than did black students. Students staying in university hostels experience less structural constraints than those in private accommodation. Lastly, students from rural areas/informal settlements experienced less intrapersonal and structural constraints than students that grew up in towns and cities. The study is the first of its kind in South Africa, providing a new insight into leisure, and addressing the paucity of research within the South African context. Recommendations include the implementation of comprehensive leisure education programmes to inform students of the benefits of leisure and the opportunities available to them. In so doing, students can be assisted in negotiating constraints and in developing more complex leisure meanings. In order to meet the challenges, leisure professionals need to know how student diversity affects leisure programming; hence training of current leisure practitioners in the form of short learning programmes is suggested. Future research should include: a) modifications to the research instruments to accommodate the South African population and to increase reliability, b) replicating the study on a broader student population to provide a more detailed picture of leisure perception at South African universities, and c) using a mixed-method research design, including both quantitative and qualitative methods for gathering data.
- Humanities