Individual Motivation and Parental Influence on Adolescents’ Experiences of Interest in Free Time: A Longitudinal Examination

  • Erin Hiley SharpEmail author
  • Linda L. Caldwell
  • John W. Graham
  • Ty A. Ridenour

Time spent in freely chosen leisure activities offers a distinct developmental context that can support positive youth development; however this potential for growth depends in part on adolescent interest and engagement in their free time activities. Research indicates that many adolescents report experiencing boredom, instead of interest, in their free time. This study utilized longitudinal data from 354 rural middle school students to investigate how parenting practices and adolescent motivational styles influence adolescents’ experience of interest in their free time. Findings indicated that adolescent self-regulated motivation and parental knowledge related to the free time context were positively associated with experiences of interest, while adolescent amotivation and parental control were negatively associated with interest in free time. The effect of parental knowledge and parental control on adolescents’ experiences of interest was mediated by adolescent motivational styles. These results were similar across grade level and gender. Implications for interventions promoting positive youth development are discussed.


adolescence leisure motivation parenting time use 



This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Award Nos. 1R21 DA13193-01 and R01 15984. This project was totally financed by federal funds in the amount of $420,900.


  1. Baldwin, C. K., and Caldwell, L. L. (2003). Development of the free time motivation scale for adolescents. J. Leisure Res. 35: 129–151.Google Scholar
  2. Barber, B. K., and Harmon, E. L. (2002). Violating the self: Parental psychological control of children and adolescents. In Barber B. K., (ed.), Intrusive Parenting: How Psychological Control Affects Children and Adolescents. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, pp. 15–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borawski, E. A., Ievers-Landis, C. E., Lovegreen, L. D., and Trapl, E. S. (2003). Parenting monitoring, negotiated unsupervised time, and parental trust: The role of perceived parenting practices in adolescent health risk behaviors. J. Adolesc. Health 33: 60–70.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, J. E., and Mann, L. (1990). The relationship between family structure and process variables and adolescent decision making. J. Adolesc. 13: 25–37.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bumpus, M. F., Crouter, A. C., and McHale, S. M. (2001). Parental autonomy granting during adolescence: Exploring gender differences in context. Dev. Psychol. 37: 163–173.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caldwell, L. L. (2005a). Educating for, about and through leisure. In Witt P. A., and Caldwell L. L., (eds.), Recreation and Youth Development. Venture, State College, PA.Google Scholar
  7. Caldwell, L. L. (2005b). Being or Not Being… Motivated. Allen V. Sapora Research lecture, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, April, 2005.Google Scholar
  8. Caldwell, L. L. (2004). TimeWise: Taking Charge of Free Time Curricular for Middle School Students. ETR Associates, Scotts Valley, CA.Google Scholar
  9. Caldwell, L. L., Baldwin, C. K., Walls, T., and Smith, E. (2004). Preliminary effects of a leisure education program to promote healthy use of free time among middle school adolescents. J. Leisure Res. 36: 310–335.Google Scholar
  10. Caldwell, L. L., Darling, N., Payne, L., and Dowdy, B. (1999). “Why are you bored?” An examination of psychological and social control causes of boredom among adolescents. J. Leisure Res. 31: 103–121.Google Scholar
  11. Caldwell, L. L., Smith, E. A., and Weissinger, E. (1992). The relationships of leisure activities and perceived health of college students. Leisure. Soc. 15: 545–556.Google Scholar
  12. Caldwell, L. L., and Smith, E. A. (1995). Health behaviors of leisure alienated youth. Leisure Soc. 18: 143–156.Google Scholar
  13. Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development (1992). A Matter of Time: Risk and Opportunity in the Nonschool Hours. Report of the Task Force on Youth Development and Community Programs. Carnegie Corporation of New York, New York.Google Scholar
  14. Chilcoat H. D., Dishion T. J., and Anthony J. C. (1995). Parent monitoring and the incidence of early drug sampling in urban elementary school children. Am. J. Epidemiol. 141: 25–31.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Crouter, A. C., and Head, M. R. (2002). Parental monitoring and knowledge of children. In Bornstein M. H., (ed.), Handbook of Parenting: Vol. 3: Being and Becoming a Parent, 2nd edn. Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, pp. 461–483.Google Scholar
  16. Csikszentmihalyi, M., and Kleiber, D. A. (1991). Leisure and self-actualization. In Driver O. L., Brown P. J., and Peterson G. L., (eds.), Benefits of Leisure. Venture, State College, PA, pp. 91–102.Google Scholar
  17. Csikszentmihalyi, M., and Larson, R. W. (1984). Being Adolescent: Conflict and Growth in the Teenage Years, Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Dishion, T. J., and McMahon, R. J. (1998). Parental monitoring and the prevention of child and adolescent problem behavior: A conceptual and empirical formulation. Clin. Child Fam. Psychol. Rev. 1: 61–75.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. du Toit, M., and du Toit, S. (2001). Interactive LISREL: User's Guide. Scientific Software International, Lincolnwood, IL.Google Scholar
  20. Eccles, J. S., and Barber, B. L. (1999). Student council, volunteering, basketball, or marching band: What kind of extracurricular involvement matters? J. Adolesc. Res. 14: 10–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eccles, J. S., Lord, S. E., and Roeser, R. W. (1996). Round holes, square pegs, rocky roads, and sore feet: The impact of stage-environment fit on youth adolescents’ experiences in schools and families. In Toth S. L., and Cicchetti D. (eds.), Adolescence: Opportunities and Challenges. University of Rochester Press, Rochester, NY, pp. 47–92.Google Scholar
  22. Eccles, J. S., and Midgley, C. (1990). Changes in academic motivation and self-perception during early adolescence. In Adams G. R., and Montemayor, R. (eds.), From childhood to Adolescence: A Transition Period? Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 134–155.Google Scholar
  23. Eccles, J. S., Midgley, C., Buchanan, C. M., Wigfield, A. Reuman, D., and MacIver, D. (1993). Development during adolescence: The impact of stage/environment fit. Am. Psychol. 48: 90–101.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Eccles, J. S., and Wigfield, A. (2002). Motivational beliefs, values, and goals. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 53: 109–132.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fletcher, A. C., Darling, N., and Steinberg, L. (1995). Parental monitoring and peer influences on adolescent substance use. In McCord J. (ed.), Coercion and Punishment in Long-term Perspectives. Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 259–271.Google Scholar
  26. Foote, N. N. (1951). Identification as the basis for a theory of motivation. Am. Sociol. Rev. 26: 14–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fuligni, A. J., and Eccles, J. S. (1993). Perceived parent–child relationships and early adolescents’ orientation toward peers. Dev. Psychol. 29: 622–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Graham, J. W., Cumsille, P. E., and Elek-Fisk, E. (2003). Methods for handling missing data. In Schinka, J. A., and Velicer, W. F. (eds.), Research Methods in Psychology. Vol. 2: Handbook of Psychology (I. B. Weiner, editor-in-chief). Wiley, New York, pp. 87–114.Google Scholar
  29. Grolnick, W. S., Deci, E. L., and Ryan, R. M. (1997). Internalization within the family: The self-determination theory perspective. In Grusec J. E., and Kuczynski, L. (eds.), Parenting and Children's Internalization of Values: A Handbook of Contemporary Theory. Wiley, New York, pp. 135–161.Google Scholar
  30. Hagan, J., Simpson, J. H., and Gillis, A. R. (1987). Class in the household: A power-control theory of gender and delinquency. Am. J. Sociol. 92: 788–816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hansen, D. M., Larson, R. W., and Dworkin, J. B. (2003). What adolescents learn in organized youth activities: A survey of self-reported developmental experiences. J. Res. Adolesc. 13: 25–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Henry, K. L., Smith, E. A., and Hopkins, A. M. (2002). The effect of active parental consent on the ability to generalize the results of an alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention trial to rural adolescents. Evaluat. Rev. 26: 645–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Huebner, A., and Howell, L. (2003). Examining the relationship between adolescent sexual risk-taking and perceptions of monitoring, communication, and parenting styles. J. Adolesc. Health 33: 71–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hunter, J. P., and Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). The positive psychology of interested adolescents. J. Youth Adolesc. 32: 27–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hutchinson, S. L., Baldwin, C. K., and Caldwell, L. L. (2003). Differentiating parent practices related to adolescent behavior in the free time context. J. Leisure Res. 35: 396–422.Google Scholar
  36. Izard, C. E. (1991). The Psychology of Emotions. Plenum, New York.Google Scholar
  37. Jöreskog, K. G., and Sörbom, D. (1996). LISREL 8 User's Reference Guide. Scientific Software, Moorseville, IN.Google Scholar
  38. Kleiber, D. A. (1999). Leisure Experience and Human Development: A Dialectical Interpretation. Basic Books, New York.Google Scholar
  39. Kloep, M., and Hendry, L. B. (2003). Adult control and adolescent challenge? Dilemmas and paradoxes in young people's leisure. World Leisure 3: 24–34.Google Scholar
  40. Krapp, A. (1999). Interest, motivation, and learning: An educational-psychological perspective. Eur. J. Psychol. Educ. 14, 23–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Laird, R. D., Pettit, G. S., Dodge, K. A., and Bates, J. E. (2003). Change in parents’ monitoring knowledge: Links with parenting, relationship quality, adolescent beliefs, and antisocial behavior. Soc. Dev. 12: 401–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Larson, R. W. (2000). Toward a psychology of positive youth development. Am. Psychol. 55: 170–183.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Larson, R. W., and Richards, M. H. (1991). Boredom in the middle school years: Blaming schools versus blaming students. Am. J. Educ. 99: 418–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Larson, R. W., and Verma, S. (1999). How children and adolescents spend time across the world: Work, play, and developmental opportunities. Psychol. Bull. 25: 701–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Little, R. J. A., and Rubin, D. B. (2002). Statistical Analysis With Missing Data, 2nd edn. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  46. MacKinnon, D. P., Lockwood, C. M., Hoffman, J. M., West, S. G., and Sheets, V. (2002). A comparison of methods to test mediation and other intervening variable effects. Psychol. Methods 7(1), 83–104.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mahoney, J. L., Cairns, B. D., and Farmer, T. W. (2003). Promoting interpersonal competence and educational success through extracurricular activity participation. J. Educ. Psychol. 95: 409–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Use (2003). National survey of American attitudes on substance abuse VIII: Teens and parents. Retrieved November 15, 2003, from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University Website:
  49. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Use (2001). National survey of American attitudes on substance abuse VI: Teens. Retrieved September 5, 2003, from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University Website:
  50. Pettit, G. S., Laird, R. D., Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., and Criss, M. M. (2001). Antecedents and behavior-problem outcomes of parental monitoring and psychological control in early adolescence. Child Dev. 72: 583–598.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pittman, K., Irby, M., Tolman, J., Yohalem, N., and Ferber, T. (2001). Preventing Problems, Promoting Development, Encouraging Engagement: Competing Priorities or Inseparable Goals? The Forum for Youth Investment, International Youth Foundation, Takoma Park, MD.Google Scholar
  52. Ryan, R. M., and Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. Am. Psychol. 55: 68–78.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ryan, R. M., Mims, V., and Koestner, R. (1983). Relation of reward contingency and interpersonal context to intrinsic motivation: A review and test using cognitive evaluation theory. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 45: 736–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schafer, J. L. (1997). Analysis of Incomplete Multivariate Data. Chapman and Hall, New York.Google Scholar
  55. Schafer, J. L., and Graham, J. W. (2002). Missing data: Our view of the state of the art. Psychol. Methods 7: 147–177.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Seydlitz, R. (1991). The effects of age and gender on parental control and delinquency. Youth Soc. 23: 175–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shaw, S. M., Caldwell, L. L., and Kleiber, D. K. (1996). Boredom, stress and social control in the daily activities of adolescents. J. Leisure Res. 28: 274–292.Google Scholar
  58. Sheldon, K. M., Ryan, R. M., Deci, E. L., and Kasser, T. (2004). The independent effects of goal contents and motives on well-being: It's both what you pursue and why you pursue it. Pers. Soc. Psychol Bull. 30:, 475–486.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Silbereisen, R. K., and Todt, E. (1994). Adolescence in Context: The Interplay of Family, School, Peers, and Work in Adjustment. Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  60. Smetana, J. G., and Daddis, C. (2002). Domain-specific antecedents of parental psychological control and monitoring: The role of parenting beliefs and practices. Child Dev. 73: 563–580.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stattin, H., and Kerr, M. (2000). Parental monitoring: A reinterpretation. Child Dev. 71: 1072–1085.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Steinberg, L. (1986). Latchkey children and susceptibility to peer pressure: An ecological analysis. Dev. Psychol. 22: 433–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tracey, T. J. G. (2002). Development of interests and competency beliefs: A 1-year longitudinal study of fifth- to eighth-grade students using the ICA-R and structural equation modeling. J. Counsel Psychol. 49:, 148–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Waizenhofer, R. N., Buchanan, C. M., and Jackson-Newsom, J. (2004). Mothers’ and fathers’ knowledge of adolescents’ daily activities: Its sources and its links with adolescent adjustment. J. Fam. Psychol. 18: 348–360.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Waterman, A. S. (2004). Finding someone to be: Studies on the role of intrinsic motivation in identity formation. Identity 4: 209–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Watt, J. D., and Vodanovich, S. J. (1992). Relationship between boredom proneness and impulsivity. Psychol. Rep 70: 688–690.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Watt, J. D., and Vodanovich, S. J. (1999). Boredom proneness and psychosocial development. J. Psychol. 133: 303–314.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Weissinger, E., Caldwell, L. L., and Bandalos, D. L. (1992). Relation between intrinsic motivation and boredom in leisure time. Leisure Sci. 14: 317–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wigfield, A., and Eccles, J. S. (2002). Students’ motivation during the middle school years. In Aronson, J. (ed.), Improving Academic Achievement: Impact of Psychological Factors on Education. Academic Press, San Diego, CA, pp. 159–184.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erin Hiley Sharp
    • 1
    • 5
    Email author
  • Linda L. Caldwell
    • 2
  • John W. Graham
    • 3
  • Ty A. Ridenour
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family Studies at The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management at The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biobehavioral Health at The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  4. 4.Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development at The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA
  5. 5.The Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

Personalised recommendations