Pleasant Family Leisure at Home May Satisfy Families More than Fun Together Elsewhere, Baylor Study Finds

  • Family leisure
    (iStockphoto)
  • karen 2
    Baylor researcher Karen Melton, Ph.D. (Courtesy photo)
Oct. 5, 2016

Focusing on unfamiliar activities in new locations may leave less ‘brain power’ to spend on family closeness, researcher says

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Contact: Terry Goodrich,(254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Oct. 5, 2016) — While family fun often is associated with new and exciting activities, family leisure spent at home in familiar pastimes may be a more effective route to happiness, according to a Baylor University study.

“That may be because when the brain is focused on processing new information — such as taking part in an unfamiliar activity with unfamiliar people in a new location — less ‘brain power’ is available to focus on the family relationships,” said lead author Karen K. Melton, Ph.D., assistant professor of child and family studies in Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences.

While research results suggest that all quality time together contributes to satisfaction with family life, “all family leisure is not equal,” she said. “The best predictor of happiness for families may be spending quality time together in familiar activities inside the home. And that’s great news for families who have little time or few resources.”

The study — “In the Pursuit of Happiness All Family Leisure is Not Equal” — is published in World Leisure Journal.

For the study, researchers used a sample of 1,502 individuals in 884 families in the United Kingdom. Each family unit taking part in the online research had at least one child between the ages of 11 and 15. Participants answered questions about whether they took part in family leisure in the past 12 months, if so, what activities (from 16 categories) they did, how much time they spent doing them and how frequently they did so.

Melton said that the catchy expression “The family that plays together, stays together!” carries two misconceptions: that all family leisure brings positive results and that all family activities are equal.

“Family members also can express stress and conflict as well as pleasure during leisure time,” she said. “The activities alone will not heal the scars of hurting families.”

Melton noted that some studies support the idea that eating together is one of the best predictors of functioning families, while watching TV is seen as ineffective for individual happiness or family function. But families should question one-size-fits-all notions.

“For some families, quality togetherness is having dinner together or playing games; for others, it may be hobbies, videos or TV, music,” Melton said. “At the end of the day, what matters is that we are social beings who crave a sense of belonging and connectivity.”

*Co-researcher was Ramon B. Zabriskie, Ph.D., professor of recreation management at Brigham Young University.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT THE ROBBINS COLLEGE OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SCIENCES

The anchor academic units that form the College — Communication Sciences and Disorders, Family and Consumer Sciences and Health, Human Performance and Recreation — share the common purpose of improving health and the quality of life. The College uses a team-based approach to promote patient care and establish interdisciplinary research collaborations to advance solutions for improving the quality of life for individuals, families and communities.

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