Discretionary Time Over Time: A Longitudinal View of Adults’ Lives and Leisure

Gaylene Carpenter, Jean Stockard

discretionary time, life experiences, life structure, leisure perceptions

This study examined how middle-aged adults perceive discretionary or free time in their lives and the ways in which their life experiences and reflections on life structure are related to these perceptions. Research focused specifically on how changes in perceptions of available discretionary time were related to changing life experiences, assessments of life structure, and perceptions regarding leisure over a nine-year period. Data came from the longitudinal investigation of leisure, life perceptions, and life values: A Study of Leisure During Adulthood, ASOLDA. Descriptive statistics and mixed models were used to examine longitudinal quantitative data from eighty-four study participants. Results indicated that perceptions of time scarcity were most common for adults in years in which they had experienced more negative life events, especially when these life experiences prompted them to rethink and re-evaluate their lives. This pattern was most marked for those who had more positive perceptions of leisure. Data from four qualitative case studies further illustrate findings and future theoretical directions are discussed.