Family Time and Own Time on Holiday: Generation, Gender, and Group Dynamic Perspectives from New Zealand
This thesis is about the family holiday experiences of the whole family group and its individual members by studying the anticipations before the holiday and the short- and longer-term holiday experiences/recollections after their holiday. This primarily qualitative study links a survey with data triangulation of whole-family interviews. The combination of different methods reflects the holistic and critical research approach within the interpretive research paradigm. It takes a symbolic interactionist perspective which allows a focus on inter-personal relations and forms the basis for a grounded theory methodology (GTM). There is an absence of family tourism research on the experiences of the father, the child, and on group dynamics which has excluded the individual and collective perspectives on the different phases of the holiday. The conceptual framework addresses the gaps identified (as reflected in the research question) by exploring the social experiences and meanings of family holidays over time using gender, generation, and group perspectives. This study is based on a parental survey through schools which was followed by three rounds of whole-family interviews (once before and twice after the holiday) conducted over about one year (2006-2007). The survey with 110 parents provided context and selection of participants for the intensive study of 10 families and their members (20 parents and 20 children). This study resulted in a definition of family holidays based on parental perspectives from the survey and familial perspectives from the interviews which encapsulated notions of togetherness, plurality of families, purpose, change of routine, fun, balance, individual pursuits, compromise, conflict, and length. The iterative research combined with the GTM resulted in a theoretical framework of the main themes on family holidays as governed by family time and own time. Family time encapsulates the time spent together with the immediate and extended family while own time encapsulates freedoms from family commitments to pursue own interests alone or with peers. The relationship between these notions of time leads to the internal family group dynamics of cooperation, compromise, and conflict which are influenced by contextual factors. While family time dominates the Western discourse on family life, it is the inclusion of more individualistic elements in own time that acknowledges a more realistic and sustainable presentation of family holidays. Other results highlight that parents and children bring different purposes on holiday in that parents are more deliberate about social identity formation whereas children seek fun and sociality. The findings also emphasise the undervaluation of the fathers' role as main entertainer of the children. Thus, more debate is needed about the different generational, gendered, and group roles and understandings on holiday. Family holidays, then, have multiple meanings and purposes reflecting the multivocality of its members. A more holistic and critical approach in thinking and research is needed to allow for a homeostasis between social identities based on collective pursuits and on more individual interests.