By: Natalie G.
Single-parent families are more common in today’s contemporary society than ever before. As we all know as kinesiology students, physical activity and leisure are important in our daily lives and foster many benefits. We, as students, take the time out of our week to go to the gym to workout or engage in a sport/leisure activity despite all of the workloads we have. However, in single-parent families, the barriers are far greater which prevents them from engaging in physical activity to receive the benefits and socially connect through leisure. In class, we have gone over the challenges single-parent families face and they are economic challenges, parental conflict, less parental supervision of children, and less time for household tasks, child care tasks, and personal leisure (Shannon-McCallum, 2018). From a personal perspective, I grew up in a single-parent home as an only child and my mother never engaged in leisure activities due to financial issues, lack of time, unmotivated, supervision issues, and many more. Results of her not engaging in physical activity or leisure have increased her risks of health issues and lessened our social connectedness as a family.
As a class, we looked into considering family. We need to consider family, especially single-parent families because family is a location/context in which we enjoy leisure, it is often the most important social agent as family transmits attitudes, values, behaviour, and culture from one generation to another, and children are taught and reproduce gender roles (Shannon-McCallum, 2018). Families play a large influence on children on whether they are going to engage in physical activity/leisure activities or not. Children will develop values and attitudes towards leisure and sport and are likely to reproduce their family gender roles from their own parents. Therefore, is it important for parents (particularly single-parent families) to engage in physical activity and leisure by possibly removing or decreasing their barriers to participate, and remodel for their children.
Digging deeper into this topic, an article by Azar, Naughton, and Joseph (2009) explored physical activity and social connectedness in single-parent families. They found that single-parent families have more challenges than dual-parent families. “Often single-parents report less perceived social support, fewer connections with friends and families and lower levels of social engagement than parents in ‘coupled’ families” (Azar et al., 2009, p. 2). Through the study, a program at the YMCA (Active Families Project) was developed for families (parents) to engage in physical activity, reduce their barriers, and build a better social network with others. The results found that the single parents had reduced barriers, stronger social networks, and supervision. The program at the YMCA found a threefold in the results. The first one was the number of perceived barriers to physical activity decreased over time. The second one was improved social connections with friends and family by more conversations over the phone and more visits. The third one was increased physical activity through the single-parents and their children (Azar et al., 2018).
Growing up, if there was a program in my community willing to help out families at the time, my mother would have been more engaged in her leisure pursuits and our social connectedness would have been greater. She felt that her lack of time due to work and supervision issues was the main factor as to why she did not engage in physical activity or her leisure pursuits. Programs at the YMCA that focus on families are important because this gives parents the opportunities to engage in leisure and sports activities, by removing the barriers and create stronger social networks. Single-parents need programs in their community like this to receive the benefits of physical activity and social networking, and to feel that their barriers are not as heavy as dual-parent families. Additionally, single-parents have to want the help from programs and others, to reduce their barriers. Throughout the study, 20 participants were unable to be contacted, 11 of them withdrew, and 3 loss interests (Azar et al., 2009); thus, parents have to want the help to be committed to reducing their barriers to increase their physical activity and leisure. Although this study was just a project, the benefits are similar to a real program that wants to help out local families.
Looking more into single-parent mothers versus single-parent fathers, the barriers are still similar. Beginning with single-parent mothers, “Single mothers are often the primary or sole income provider for the family and spend nearly as much time with their children as married mothers (Kendig & Bianchi, 2008), potentially leaving less time for engaging in physical activity” (Dlugonski & Motl, 2014, p. 2). To bring back my personal experience with a single-parent mother, she was also considered low income, which had an impact on her physical activity and leisure. “Low-income single mothers reported feeling fatigued and stressed because of work-family conflicts in a qualitative study (Son & Bauer, 2010) and these feelings might further impact motivation to participate in physical activity” (Dlygonski & Motl, 2014, p.2). Due to her low-income salary, this had an impact on her participation in leisure and sports due to fees and equipment costs, which resulted in her motivation to be absent to participate in physical activity.
On the contrary, single-parent fathers also have the same barriers to their physical activity and leisure. Although there is not much research on single-parent fathers, they experience the same barriers. They are the providers of their children and may have issues with supervision and financial costs, which can result in lack of participation in physical activity and their leisure pursuits. They are consumed in taking their children to their sports and leisure activities every week; they struggle to find time for their own physical activity, which can create a large barrier.
In relation to the Gender, Leisure, and Sport course, this topic is significant. I believe it is important to provide support to the single-parent families considering they are more common in today’s society. Single-parent mother and fathers have a lot more responsibilities than dual parent families. Therefore, it is important for organizations to provide programs in place for local families to create those opportunities for them to engage in physical activity and leisure and reduce those barriers. Single-parents also have to want the help offered by the organizations to create opportunities for themselves. Many benefits are fostered when single-parents barriers are reduced such as their perceived barriers to physical activity decreases, improved social connections, and increased physical activity levels (Azar et al., 2009).
Azar, D., Naughton, G. A. & Joseph, C.W. (2009). Physical activity and social connectedness in single-parent families. Leisure Studies, 28(3), 349-358
Shannon-McCallum, C. (2018). Lecture 9 – Family and Leisure(I)_Cole. In Lecture at UNB.
Dlugonski, D. & Motl, R. (2014). Social cognitive correlates of physical activity among single-parent mothers with young children. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 637-641