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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Improving access to municipal recreation programs : what mothers on low income have to say Taylor, Janna


Poor women and their families have been excluded from participating in many facets of civil society, including public recreation (Reid, 2004; Morris, 2002; Reid, Frisby & Ponic 2002). Research indicates that participating in physical activity and recreation programs is beneficial to social, physical and psychological health (Reid et al., 2002; Harvey, 2001; Reid & Dyck, 2000). Despite this knowledge, access to municipal recreation programs for low income families has been limited due to cultural, institutional and material forms of exclusion (Reid, 2004). It is important that women on low income be involved in public policy development to deal with inadequacies of current leisure access policies (Frisby, Alexander, Taylor, Tirone, Watson, Harvey & Laplante, 2005)). The purpose of my study was to gather the views of mothers on low income (with children 12 years and under) regarding existing municipal recreation programs and policies. My research questions were: i) Do mothers on low income see benefits of their children participating in municipal recreation activities, ii) What are the barriers facing mothers on low income attempting to involve their children in recreation programs and services, iii) What is their assessment of the leisure access policy in their community? The research methods included focus groups with mothers on low income who varied in ethnicity that were conducted in 3 cities including: Richmond (n=3), Winnipeg (n=7) and the York Region (n=4). Mothers on low income were chosen because lone parent families headed by women constitute the largest population living below the poverty line in Canada and their children are the least likely to participate in public recreation (Morris, 2002; Jackson, Roberts, & Harman, 2001) The documents analyzed incorporated program brochures, budget and program information from city web sites; written leisure access policies, and department information provided by recreation department staff. Field notes and transcripts were analyzed using Atlasti, a qualitative data analysis package. The mothers on low income acknowledged the importance of their children’s participation in recreation programs and how this could benefit them socially, physically and psychologically, which confirms research in this area (Donnelly & Coakley, 2002; Jackson, et al., 2001). They also identified program costs, inadequate transportation, and poor treatment by staff when applying for leisure access policies as barriers hindering their children’s participation. Additional barriers included experiences with racism and violence, making the safety of their children a major concern. Mothers in two of the three cities were unaware of leisure access policies and all of them provided suggestions on how such policies could be improved. Based on the results of the study, it is recommended that municipal recreation departments adopt a community development strategy that includes involving mothers on low income in public policy development to more effectively address the barriers to participation that they and their children face. Future research is required to determine if the patterns uncovered in this study are more extensive in the municipal recreation field.

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