Freedom can foster passion for hobbies

Children and young adults are more likely to pursue sports, music or other pastimes when given an opportunity to nurture their own passion.

Parental control can predict whether a child develops a harmonious or obsessive passion for a hobby, says Genevive Mageau, psychology professor at Montreal University (MU), who led a three-part study.

“We found that controlling adults can foster obsessive passion in their children by teaching them that social approval can only be obtained through excellence,” says Mageau.

“An activity then becomes highly important for self-protective reasons that don’t necessarily correspond with a child’s true desires.”

As part of the study, the research team evaluated 588 musicians and athletes from swimmers to skiers.

Participants were between six and 38 years and practiced hobbies at different levels: beginner, intermediate and expert.

Kids were recruited from high school or specialised summer camps, while adults were recruited at training camps and competitions.

The scientific team used a Likert-type scale to measure how parents supported child autonomy and evaluated child well-being regarding hobbies.

While parents do well to support their children to pursue an activity, such encouragement can graduate to unwelcome pressure.

“Children and teenagers who are allowed to be autonomous are more likely to actively engage in their activity over time,” says Mageau.

“Being passionate should not be viewed as a personality trait – it is a special relationship one develops with an activity,” adds Mageau.

These findings were published in the latest issue of the Journal of Personality.

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