What to Do?: Mothers' Accounts of Their Children's Discretionary Time-Use




Verspoor, Anna

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It is suggested in both academic literature and popular media that many children’s opportunities for play, particularly in North America and during middle childhood are decreasing and that the consequences include negative impacts on social, emotional and physical well being. One of the explanations for the decline in play, particularly amongst middle and high socio-economic-status families is an increased participation in structured extracurricular programming. This qualitative study explores parental accounts in order to understand some of the underlying ideas that shape their decision-making. Semi-structured individual interviews conducted using questions generated from a background literature review are implemented with five mothers, four of whom are spoken with twice. A thematic analysis approach is used to analyze the data. Integrating further literature, the ensuing discussion focuses on how a culture of fear may be contributing to an uncontrollable busyness of both parents’ and children’s lives. Protection, prevention and preparation are identified as specific motivations for structured program involvement that stem from a culture of fear. Particular focus is given to ideas behind the preparation mentality. The importance of early exposure, the intensity of extracurricular involvement, lost investment, wasted time, and the relationship these ideas have with discourses of intensive mothering are all explored. This study contributes new information to the existing dialogue about changes in children’s time-use, and provides insight into avenues for further qualitative research in the field.



parents, school-age, thematic analysis, qualitative, discretionary time-use, mothering, childhood