Intergenerational Continuity and Discontinuity in Mexican-Origin Youths' Participation in Organized Activities: Insights From Mixed-Methods

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Abstract

Motivation theories suggest that parents are an integral support for adolescents' participation in organized activities. Despite the importance of parents, the field knows very little about how parents' own experiences in activities influence the participation of their adolescent children. The goals of this study were to examine (a) the patterns of intergenerational continuity and discontinuity in parents' activity participation during adolescence and their adolescents' activity participation, and (b) the processes underlying each of these patterns within Mexican-origin families. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected through three in-depth interviews conducted with 31 seventh-grade adolescents and their parents at three time points over a year. The quantitative data suggested there was modest intergenerational continuity in activity participation. There were three distinct patterns: nine families were continuous participants, seven families were continuous nonparticipants, and 15 families were discontinuous, where the parent did not participate but the youth did participate in activities. The continuous participant families included families in which parents valued how organized activities contributed to their own lives and actively encouraged their adolescents' participation. The continuous nonparticipant families reported less knowledge and experience with activities along with numerous barriers to participation. There were three central reasons for the change in the discontinuous families. For a third of these families, parents felt strongly about providing a different childhood for their adolescents than what they experienced. The intergenerational discontinuity in participation was also likely to be sparked by someone else in the family or an external influence (i.e., friends, schools).

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