Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure


Business and Law

First Advisor

Professor Ross Dowling

Second Advisor

Dr Ruth Sibson


The key research question on which this study was based concerned the transition period from first time pregnancy through to first time parenthood for heterosexual couples in Christchurch, New Zealand. The particular focus on this study was on how this transition impacted upon access, opportunity and experiences of family leisure. As a result this study can claim to be longitudinal as it follows a number of couples from the stage of pregnancy into early parenthood. A number of subsidiary questions were developed to explore the different dimensions of the key research question in terms of: the impact of gender; the major constraints to couples‟ leisure; preparation, expectations and realities of parenthood; and perceptions and opinions on leisure facilities and programmes for families, from couples, and a number of providers employed as leisure managers, within the study area. To answer the key research question two focus group studies were undertaken, one with pre-birth couples and the other with post-birth couples, followed by a number of interviews with different pre-birth and post-birth couples, both individually and collectively. Interviews were also conducted with a number of leisure facility managers to ascertain the extent to which, the facility they managed provided for, and met the needs of, families in terms of leisure.

The findings from this study show that gender was important in explaining the nature and characteristics of men‟s and women‟s leisure. In terms of access and opportunity for leisure, women were more constrained than men, as the significant life event loomed and this became even more evident during the early stages of parenthood. In preparing for parenthood, couples used a range of strategies, which included reading parenting literature; watching instructional DVDs and videos on different aspects of parenting; talking with friends and family about parenting issues; attending antenatal class and reflection on their own experience of being parented. In addition, this study highlights that women undertook the primary role in parenting and men provided a supporting role and the majority of first-time parents described parenting as enjoyable and rewarding, but time pressured, challenging and stressful.

Couples reported that finding time for coupled leisure, solo leisure and other leisure such as time out with friends became more difficult during the latter stages of pregnancy, and was even more limited after their child was born. Much of their freetime was taken up with preparing for the birth of their child or in meeting the needs of their new born, with a discernible shift in their lifestyle, from an adult to a child centered focus.

The majority of couples described the range and choice of leisure facilities in Christchurch as adequate and most of them used leisure facilities that were local and easily accessible on foot or via public transport. Accessibility and affordability was important for couples and the most popular leisure facilities mentioned were local parks, libraries, swimming pools and walking tracks. Leisure managers‟ reported a number of constraints limiting their ability to provide opportunities for families and included, outdated management styles and philosophies that emphasized a facility oriented approach in meeting the needs of the „whole‟ community, rather than specific communities, such as families.

This research study follows a number of couples from the stage of pregnancy into early parenthood and provides new insights for first time parents through this transition. These transitions impact upon family leisure and other types of leisure such as solo leisure, coupled leisure and other leisure such as time out with friends for heterosexual couples. As a result of this study, a number of recommendations are provided to enhance and improve leisure provision for families. Also, a number of research priorities for family leisure research in the future are identified to encourage research using a wider range of methods.

Previous studies of family leisure have tended to focus their analysis across all stages of the lifecycle. Such studies have had little or no specific reference to particular lifecycle stages. In this study men‟s stories are told which helps fill the gap in the literature concerning men‟s experience of family leisure and the voices of those responsible for providing family leisure opportunities are heard in relation to family leisure. Finally, this study contributes to the family leisure literature and the parenting/family based literature and helps fill an important gap in our knowledge about the transition period between pregnancy and first time parenthood.


Paper Location