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Re-injecting spontaneity and balance in family life: parents’ perspectives on recreation in families that include children with developmental disability


Dr Jennifer Mactavish, Health, Leisure and Human Performance Research Institute, 313 Max Bell Centre, The University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2 (e-mail:


Methods  Grounded in the naturalistic paradigm, a mixed-method research design (survey questionnaire, n = 65; and interview, n = 16) was used to explore the nature and benefits of, and constraints to, family recreation in families that included children with developmental disability. Statistical analyses were conducted on the quantitative data, while key theme and constant comparative methods were used to analyse the qualitative data.

Results  These analyses revealed that family recreation most often involved small combinations of family members – usually mothers and their children – in physical recreation activities (e.g. swimming, walking, bike riding). Parents viewed these interactions as beneficial for enhancing family relationships and providing children, particularly those with a disability, opportunities for skill and self development within an accepting and supportive environment.

Difficulties in coordinating family members schedules, finding activities to accommodate wide age and skill ranges, planning demands, and limitations in marketing and promotional materials were among the constraints most commonly identified in relation to the family as a whole and the children with developmental disability. Links to existing family and leisure research, family systems theory, and considerations for future research also are discussed.