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Carving out collective spaces: Exploring the complexities of gender and everyday stressors within rural youth leisure
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Global Health. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå Centre for Gender Studies (UCGS).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5011-2233
2021 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Background: The reasons why young people are increasingly suffering frommental health problems, and the opportunities to turn this development aroundare globally debated. Stressors such as education, relationships, futuretrajectories of housing and employment all constitute important factors affectingyoung people’s mental health, leading to stress and achievement pressureespecially among girls and young women. The need to reduce individualization ofyoung people’s health problems, and instead encourage spaces for collectivesupport, action, and change has been called for in previous studies. Leisureparticipation has the potential to be such a collective space where young peopletogether can respond to stressors experienced in their daily life. Apart fromstudies on individual behavior change, leisure participation has been anoverlooked arena within public health and within research on young people’smental health and stress in particular. The complexity of youth leisure, especiallyin relation to gender and spatiality, calls for further investigation, exploring thesocial places of leisure that young people create themselves.

Aim: The aim of this thesis is to understand how places of youth leisure areperceived and collectively constructed as social factors of youth mental health,and to analyze the strategies developed within these places to handle and respondto the everyday stressors experienced by young people.

Conceptual framework: The analysis builds on four conceptual sections: (i)The stress process model explores stressors as situated in a wider social context,where social factors shape both the stressors that affect mental health, theresources to handle those stressors as well as the mental health outcomes. (ii) Thesocial practice theory highlights how social practices within places of leisure canbe identified as resources in relation to responses to stressors. (iii) The thirdsection of the framework takes on the relationship between stress, leisure, andpost-feminist perspectives on gender and successful femininity. The final section(iv) outlines leisure as a spatial (re)construction; emphasizing rural space andplace in relation to gender, stress, and precarity.

Methods: This thesis builds on two sub-studies, generating three papers. SubstudyI is based on data from individual interviews with eight adult leaders fromdifferent leisure organizations (paper 1), and sub-study II (paper 2 and 3) is basedon an ethnographic multiple-case study with 16 girls (age 14-21) from two leisureorganizations. The setting for both sub-studies is rural northern Sweden. Thematerial from the ethnographic study was collected through participatoryobservations and focus group discussions using photo elicitation. For the first andsecond paper, thematic analysis was used as an analytical strategy, while a4discursive psychology approach (interpretative repertoires) was used for the thirdand final paper.

Results: The first part of the results concerns how girls and adult leadersperceived and experienced daily stressors within the context of youth leisure.Such stressors were represented by the high demands girls face in relation toachievement pressure and time management, school, gender norms andexpectations, but also in relation to their leisure engagement. The second partexplores how the girls and adult leaders developed and negotiated strategies torespond to stressors, within the context of leisure. Responses were constructedthrough daily social practices within the context of leisure e.g. through sharingexperiences of stress with each other, based on a sense of belonging and trust. Inthe final part, rurality holds a central position in how place and space werediscursively constructed by the participants, in relation to leisure, gender, andstressors. Here, one of the main results in the third part was the complexity ofhow the participants’ constructed leisure as a place of wellbeing. In order to buildand maintain a space that enabled responses to stressors, the girls constantlyneeded to invest time, engagement, achievements, and emotions. In addition,places of leisure needed to be constructed in certain ways to be perceived asbeneficial and ‘positive’, for example as a place marked by respectability and selfdevelopment.This illustrates the precarity of youth leisure where educational andlabor-market opportunities have changed how young people now understand freetime as something that should be ‘productive and meaningful’. The metaphor of‘carving out spaces’ speaks for the effort the girls had to make in order to createand sustain such places; not only in relation to a successful femininity, but alsoin relation to the rural community and the survival of rural places of leisure.

Conclusions: This study contributes to a better understanding of youth leisure,and how to build sustainable and inclusive places of leisure from a gender andrural perspective. Places of leisure and civic engagement are perceived asimportant social factors of youth mental health, and needs to be taken intoconsiderations when young people’s stress and mental health are discussed.Places of youth leisure are spaces where responses to everyday stressors can becollectively developed. At the same time, youth leisure is also precarious,demanding, and contributes to the reproduction of gendered discourses onrespectability and responsibility, both in relation to a successful femininity, butalso in making it work for the rural collective.

Abstract [sv]

Bakgrund: Orsakerna till att unga rapporterar allt sämre psykisk hälsa och vilka åtgärder som kan vända detta diskuteras på både global och nationell nivå. I Sverige visar undersökningar att fler unga rapporterar att de känner sig stressade, i synnerhet tjejer. Tjejer rapporterar också högre grad av ångest och fler psykosomatiska besvär relaterade till stress och prestationskrav än killar. Stressfaktorer relaterade till skola, framtida möjligheter på bostads – och arbetsmarknaden och sociala relationer utgör viktiga faktorer som påverkar ungdomars psykiska hälsa, vilka kan resultera i stress och prestationskrav. Jag ser ett behov av att minska den rådande individualiseringen av psykisk ohälsa bland unga, och istället främja miljöer och mötesplatser för kollektivt stöd och möjlighet till förändring. Ungdomars fritidsarenor kan vara en sådan kollektiv plats där unga tillsammans kan hantera de stressfaktorer som de upplever i sin vardag och utveckla kollektiva strategier för att möta dessa. Utöver studier om fritid kopplat till ungas beteendeförändringar på individnivå har ungdomars fritid varit en förbisedd arena inom folkhälsan och i relation till ungdomars psykiska hälsa och stress. Ungas fritid är en komplex arena som i större utsträckning behöver undersökas i relation till psykisk hälsa bland unga, särskilt i förhållande till genus och ungdomars egna platsskapande inom ramen för sin fritid. Syftet med studien är att fördjupa kunskapen om hur platser för ungas fritid kan utgöra en social faktor för ungdomars psykiska hälsa och vilka erfarenheter och strategier som ungdomar och vuxna ledare utvecklar inom fritidsverksamheter för att hantera och svara mot de dagliga stressfaktorer som unga människor upplever.

Metod: Ungas och vuxna ledares tankar och erfarenheter om behov och strategier för att hantera stress i vardagen är viktiga kunskapskällor. Avhandlingen bygger på två delstudier. Delstudie I är baserad på material från åtta intervjuer med vuxna ledare inom fritidsverksamhet för ungdomar (artikel 1). Delstudie II (artikel 2 och 3) bygger på en etnografisk fallstudie med 16 tjejer (ålder 14-21) från två idrottsföreningar i två olika landsbygdskommuner i norra Sverige. För denna delstudie samlade jag in material genom att göra deltagande observationer och fokusgrupper med hjälp av foto-elicitering. I den första och andra artikeln genomfördes analysen med hjälp av tematisk analys. Den tredje artikeln bygger på diskursanalys (discursive psychology) med särskilt fokus på olikatolkningsrepertoarer.

Resultat: De vuxna ledarnas och tjejernas erfarenheter visar hur höga krav i förhållande till skolprestationer, tidsplanering och könade normer utgjorde stressfaktorer som påverkade ungas psykiska hälsa, men även krav och 6 förväntningar kopplade till ungas fritidsengagemang. Den andra delen av studien visar hur tjejerna och ledarna utvecklade och förhandlade fram strategier för att kunna hantera de dagliga stressfaktorer som unga upplever. Dessa strategier skapades genom dagliga rutiner och sociala praktiker inom fritidsverksamheterna, till exempel genom att dela erfarenheter av stress och ansvar med varandra. Gemenskap och tillit var centralt i dessa processer. Denna gemenskap beskrevs dock också som sårbar eftersom den kunde vara kopplad till tjejernas prestationer på fritiden, exempelvis i form idrottsresultat. Den tredje delen av studien tar sin utgångspunkt i den diskursiva konstruktionen av plats och rum i rurala områden, särskilt i relation till fritid, kön, stress och psykisk hälsa. Ett av de viktigaste resultaten var komplexiteten i tjejernas platsskapande och konstruktioner av fritid som en plats för välbefinnande. Paradoxalt nog utgjorde tjejernas fritidsengagemang både en viktig social plats för att dela individuella erfarenheter av psykisk ohälsa och stress, men var samtidigt också en källa till ökad stress och prestationskrav. Platsskapandet krävde mycket av tjejerna i form av tid, resurser, prestationer, ansvar, engagemang och känslor, vilket också gjorde att de kände sig ännu mer stressade och pressade. För att deras fritid skulle upplevas som positiv behövde den även konstrueras utifrån diskurser om respektabilitet och personlig utveckling. Detta illustrerar hur det prekära i ungas utbildning- och arbetsmarknad också återfinns i hur unga förstår och upplever sin fritid. Fritiden är nu något som bör vara produktivt och självutvecklande. Tjejerna var alltså konstant involverade i ett platsskapande, inte bara i relation till könade normer kring framgångsrik femininitet utan också i relation till ungdomars fritid på landsbygden och föreningslivets överlevnad.

Slutsatser och implikationer: Denna studie bidrar till en bättre förståelse för ungdomars fritid och hur man bygger hållbara och inkluderande fritidsplatser ur ett genus- och landsbygdsperspektiv. Platser för fritid och delaktighet i civilsamhället uppfattas som viktiga sociala faktorer för ungdomars psykiska hälsa. Föreningar och andra platser för ungas fritid kan utgöra platser där kollektiva strategier för att hantera dagliga stressfaktorer kan utvecklas. Samtidigt är ungas fritid och föreningsengagemang krävande och bidrar till att reproducera könade normer kring respektabilitet och ansvarstagande. Fritid utgör en prekär arena där tjejer återigen ska ta ansvar, vara framgångsrika och duktiga, både i förhållande till en ambitiös femininitet men också i relation till landsbygden och i solidaritet med det rurala samhället och föreningslivet.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå Universitet , 2021. , p. 97
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 2136
Keywords [en]
Youth mental health, stressors, leisure participation, gender, femininities, rurality, precarity, space and place, visual methods, ethnography
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Gender Studies
Research subject
Public health; gender studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-182842ISBN: 978-91-7855-549-9 (electronic)ISBN: 978-91-7855-548-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-182842DiVA, id: diva2:1553053
Public defence
2021-06-04, Zoom, Umeå, 13:00 (English)
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Supervisors
Note

Zoom: https://umu.zoom.us/j/64199831602

Password: 070480

Available from: 2021-05-12 Created: 2021-05-07 Last updated: 2023-03-07Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. 'I teach them that anything is possible': exploring how adult leaders perceive and handle social factors of youth mental health in the context of young people’s civic engagement
Open this publication in new window or tab >>'I teach them that anything is possible': exploring how adult leaders perceive and handle social factors of youth mental health in the context of young people’s civic engagement
2021 (English)In: Community Development Journal, ISSN 0010-3802, E-ISSN 1468-2656, Vol. 56, no 3, p. 506-523Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of this qualitative study was 2-fold: to explore, in the context of young people’s civic engagement in Sweden, (i) how adult leaders perceive social factors of youth mental health and (ii) how adult leaders handle such social factors within their organizations. Interviews were conducted with leaders engaged in various civic organizations that provide leisure activities for young people. Using thematic analysis, three themes were constructed. Firstly, the social landscape of youth mental health described how adult leaders perceived the social factors of youth mental health within the context of civic engagement. Secondly, the organizational structures developed by adult leaders illustrated the organizing forms that leaders created for young people’s civic engagement. Thirdly, adult leaders’ strategies for addressing the social factors of youth mental health reflected the strategies developed to handle e.g. stress and achievement pressure. The adult leaders recognized the importance of their organizations and their huge potential to have a positive impact on youth mental health. However, some participants also saw limitations in terms of their own resources and competence. They found themselves having to address the complex issue of social factors of youth mental health regardless of whether they felt competent and prepared to do this or not. Our findings contribute to the existing knowledge on youth and community development via the role of adult leaders in promoting young people’s mental health by highlighting the organizational structures and leadership strategies developed by them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford University Press, 2021
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-177505 (URN)10.1093/cdj/bsaa010 (DOI)000743471800009 ()2-s2.0-85115019502 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2020-12-10 Created: 2020-12-10 Last updated: 2023-09-05Bibliographically approved
2. Carving out space for collective action: a study on how girls respond to everyday stressors within leisure participation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Carving out space for collective action: a study on how girls respond to everyday stressors within leisure participation
2020 (English)In: International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, ISSN 1748-2623, E-ISSN 1748-2631, Vol. 15, no 1, article id 1815486Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: Stress and achievement pressure constitute factors affecting young people's mental health, especially among girls. Leisure participation holds the potential to be a collective space where young people can respond to stressors together. This study explores how girls collectively construct responses to daily stressors within the context of leisure participation.

Methods: Nine focus groups were conducted with 16 girls aged 14-21 who were active members in two sport organizations in northern Sweden. Data was collected by using participatory observations and photo-elicited focus group discussions.

Results: Our findings from the inductive thematic analysis were interpreted by combining the stress process model with social practice theory, resulting in three subthemes or responses: sharing sites of responsibility, resisting norms related to (gendered) youth and focused distraction. The subthemes were abstracted into the central theme of trustful belonging as a resource for collective responses, representing what pre-conditions need to be in place to make the responses possible.

Conclusion: Leisure participation is an important relational space for young people to respond to stressors by making use of everyday routines, and the agency these social practices hold. However, the effort needed to respond to these stressors brought additional pressure in terms of responsibilities, and achievements.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2020
Keywords
Youth mental health, leisure participation, case study, stress process, social practice theory, participatory observations, photo elicitation, thematic analysis
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-175214 (URN)10.1080/17482631.2020.1815486 (DOI)000571299900001 ()32954966 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-85091264623 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2020-09-22 Created: 2020-09-22 Last updated: 2023-03-24Bibliographically approved
3. Precarious leisure in a teenage wasteland?: Intertwining discourses on responsibility and girls’ place-making in rural Northern Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Precarious leisure in a teenage wasteland?: Intertwining discourses on responsibility and girls’ place-making in rural Northern Sweden
2022 (English)In: Journal of Youth Studies, ISSN 1367-6261, E-ISSN 1469-9680, Vol. 25, no 10, p. 1350-1366Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The relationship with place has been recognized as a significant dimension of rural youth leisure, both through the discursive constructions of place, but also as affective and embodied dimensions. This study captures these processes by applying the concept of place-making as a set of recurrent discursive processes, analyzing how girls in Northern Sweden engage in place-making alongside, beyond, and in contrast to dominant discourses on leisure, rurality and wellbeing. The study draws on data from photo-elicited focus groups with girls from two sports organizations. The discursive psychology analysis resulted in three interpretative repertoires. The first repertoire describes the sharp contrast between discourses of the ‘rural dull’ and how stressful the participants constructed their own places of leisure. The second illustrates the gendered discourses around what is considered to be productive and respectable leisure. The third shows how the participants are made responsible for the survival of their leisure. Through place-making, the participants shape places of leisure, affecting both themselves and their rural community. They engage in, conform to, and challenge place-making within discourses of responsibility and precariousness, creating space for their own initiatives, which are simultaneously shaped by the material conditions under which these practices take place.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2022
Keywords
gender, Leisure, place-making, rurality, wellbeing, youth
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Gender Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-182821 (URN)10.1080/13676261.2021.1957086 (DOI)000677994300001 ()2-s2.0-85111643497 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2021-05-06 Created: 2021-05-06 Last updated: 2023-03-07Bibliographically approved

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