Understanding sport and physical activity participation in the transition into early mid-life

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


ABSTRACT In my thesis I explain patterns and developments of current participation in sport and physical activity among a group of men and women in the transition to early mid-life (38-43 years of age). I examine their perceptions of the activity and sense of sporting identity over their lives. There is limited research on mid-life experiences of sport and physical activity and more often this takes a social survey approach. The interpretive research on mid-life is still an emerging field, previous research has often focused on a single sport sub-culture, those who are heavily involved in sport, or women only. In depth, topical life history interviews and written timelines were completed with a group of sixteen individuals in this life stage, with varied experiences of sport and physical activity. The data was analysed using Brown and Gilligan's (1992, 1993) `voice centred relational method' of analysis, followed by 'constant comparison' (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) and coding (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). The major theme identified in this study was the complex construction of sport and participation, understood as it relates to the participants lives as a whole and its impact on their participation decision making. Sub-themes included; the different meaning and value of sport and self definition in relation to this, and changes in these across the life course (particularly the transition to midlife) and in relation to the ageing process and relationships. The research demonstrates the relationship between sport and the needs at this life stage, highlighting identity management, and values placed on the ethic of care and sport and physical activity as leisure. Conflicting feelings are experienced in relation to sport and physical activity due to constraints on and into participation. Further to this the thesis provides a grounded theory model of the construction of these activities in the transition to early midlife. The findings were interpreted with theoretical perspectives from: structuration (Giddens, 1979, 1984), dramaturgical (Goffman, 1971, 1972a), relational (Gilligan, 1993), role (Kelly, 1983; Turner, 1956, 1978; Zurcher, 1970, 1979), life cycle (Levinson et al, 1978, 1996), family life cycle (Rapoport & Rapoport, 1975), and role transition (Kelly, 1983) theories.
Original languageEnglish
  • Mellor, Mary, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 24 Jun 2008


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