The purpose of this study was to investigate whether an adolescent's experience with different types of leisure (achievement, social or time-out) would moderate the negative effects of dysfunctional family process on an adolescent's emotional health. A model was tested that hypothesized that leisure experienced as achievement or social by adolescents would buffer the negative effects of a dysfunctional family. A sample of 243 clinical and non-clinical adolescents completed the Global Severity Index, the Family Assessment Device, and the Leisure Questionnaire. Three regression analyses were run for the whole sample (n=243), the male sample (n=150), and the female sample (n=93). In each analysis, more family dysfunction predicted more psychological symptoms. Using the whole sample, it was found that both social and time-out leisure (solitary activities) had a negative moderating effect, that is, increasing psychological symptoms, while achievement leisure had no moderating effects on symptoms. When looking at the regression analysis results for each gender, the male sample showed a time-out leisure moderating effect and the female sample showed a social leisure moderating effect—both increasing psychological symptoms. These findings were contrary to the hypothesis that leisure experienced as achievement or social leisure would buffer the negative effects of dysfunctional family process on adolescent emotional health. In fact, results suggested that some types of leisure may be harmful to some adolescents and that clinicians need to be aware of the types of leisure their adolescent clients are participating in, i.e. males experiencing leisure as time-out and females experiencing leisure as social may be related to more rather than less severe psychological symptoms. In addition, these results suggest the key importance of family process in adolescent emotional health and how important family-of-origin issues are when working with adolescents in clinical settings. Limitations of the study and implications for future research and clinical practice are discussed.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





adolescents, leisure, family, functioning