Serious Leisure: Past, Present, and Possibilities

  • Karen Gallant


This chapter describes the development, use, and potential of serious leisure—the concept developed by sociologist Bob Stebbins to describe the systematic pursuit of hobbyist, amateur, and volunteer activities characterised as unique in both the effort required and the benefits that follow. This chapter explores critiques of serious leisure, such as the lack of attention to its stratified nature and its focus on individual rather than community or collective outcomes. Further, the qualities and types of serious leisure are described as they are understood today, including the place of serious pursuits (serious leisure and devotee work) alongside casual and project-based leisure in what Stebbins refers to as the “serious leisure perspective”. Overall, this chapter both describes and critiques the evolution of serious leisure as a concept and a theory and explores its potential as a framework for studying and understanding leisure in the twenty-first century.


Serious leisure Stebbins Amateurs Hobbyists Career volunteers 


  1. Arai, S. (1997). Volunteers within a changing society: The use of empowerment theory in understanding serious leisure. World Leisure and Recreation, 39, 19–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baldwin, C. K., & Norris, P. A. (1999). Exploring the dimensions of serious leisure: “Love me—Love my dog!”. Journal of Leisure Research, 31, 1–17.Google Scholar
  3. Bartram, S. A. (2001). Serious leisure careers among whitewater kayakers: A feminist perspective. World Leisure, 2, 4–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Dilley, R. E., & Scraton, S. J. (2010). Women, climbing, and serious leisure. Leisure Studies, 29, 125–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Elkington, S. (2006). Exploring the nature of pre and post flow in serious leisure. In S. Elkington, I. Jones, & L. Lawrence (Eds.), Serious leisure: Extensions and applications (pp. 145–159). Eastbourne: LSA Publications, University of Brighton.Google Scholar
  6. Elkington, S., & Stebbins, R. A. (2014). The serious leisure perspective: An introduction. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Fawbert, J. (2006). Replica football shirts: Serious or casual leisure. In S. Elkington, I. Jones, & L. Lawrence (Eds.), Serious leisure: Extensions and applications (pp. 123–144). Eastbourne: LSA Publications, University of Brighton.Google Scholar
  8. Fleming, S. (2006). Local politics and serious leisure: A case study from 1975. In S. Elkington, I. Jones, & L. Lawrence (Eds.), Serious leisure: Extensions and applications (pp. 85–104). Eastbourne: LSA Publications, University of Brighton.Google Scholar
  9. Frew, E. A. (2006). Comedy festival attendance: Serious, project-based or casual leisure? In S. Elkington, I. Jones, & L. Lawrence (Eds.), Serious leisure: Extensions and applications (pp. 105–122). Eastbourne: LSA Publications, University of Brighton.Google Scholar
  10. Gallant, K., Arai, S., & Smale, B. (2013a). Celebrating, challenging, and re-envisioning serious leisure. Leisure/Loisir, 37, 91–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gallant, K., Arai, S., & Smale, B. (2013b). Serious leisure as an avenue for nurturing community. Leisure Sciences, 35, 320–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gibson, H., Willming, C., & Holdnak, A. (2002). “We’re Gators…not just Gator fans”: Serious leisure and University of Florida football. Journal of Leisure Research, 34, 397–425.Google Scholar
  13. Gillespie, D. L., Leffler, A., & Lerner, E. (2002). If it weren’t for my hobby, I’d have a life: Dog sports, serious leisure, and boundary negotiations. Leisure Studies, 21, 285–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gould, J., Moore, D., McGuire, F., & Stebbins, R. (2008). Development of the serious leisure inventory and measure. Journal of Leisure Research, 40, 47–58.Google Scholar
  15. Gould, J., Moore, D., Karlin, N. J., Gaede, D. B., Walker, J., & Dotterweich, A. R. (2011). Measuring serious leisure in chess: Model confirmation and method bias. Leisure Sciences, 33(4), 332–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Green, E. (1998). “Women doing friendship”: An analysis of women’s leisure as a site for identity construction, empowerment, and resistance. Leisure Studies, 17, 171–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jones, I. (2000). A model of serious leisure identification: The case of football fandom. Leisure Studies, 19, 283–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jones, I. (2006). Examining the characteristics of serious leisure from a social identity perspective. In S. Elkington, I. Jones, & L. Lawrence (Eds.), Serious leisure: Extensions and applications (pp. 47–60). Eastbourne: LSA Publications, University of Brighton.Google Scholar
  19. Jones, I., & Symon, G. (2001). Lifelong learning as serious leisure: Policy, practice and potential. Leisure Studies, 20, 269–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kane, M., & Zink, R. (2004). Package adventure tours: Markers in serious leisure careers. Leisure Studies, 23(4), 329–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kennelly, M., Moyle, B., & Lamont, M. (2013). Constraint negotiation in serious leisure: A study of amateur triathletes. Journal of Leisure Research, 45(4), 466–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lamont, M., Kennelly, M., & Moyle, B. D. (2014). Costs and perseverance in serious leisure careers. Leisure Sciences, 36, 144–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lamont, M., Kennelly, M., & Moyle, B. D. (2015). Toward conceptual advancement of costs and perseverance within the serious leisure perspective. Journal of Leisure Research, 47, 647–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lawrence, L. (2006). To obsessively go…exploring serious leisure and the “other” side of leisure in cult fandom. In S. Elkington, I. Jones, & L. Lawrence (Eds.), Serious leisure: Extensions and applications (pp. 33–46). Eastbourne: LSA Publications, University of Brighton.Google Scholar
  25. Lee, J. H., & Scott, D. (2006). For better or worse? A structural model of the benefits and costs associated with recreational specialization. Leisure Sciences, 28, 17–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Littlefield, J., & Sindzinski, R. A. (2012). “Hike your own hike”: Equipment and serious leisure along the Appalachian Trail. Leisure Studies, 31, 465–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Major, W. F. (2001). The benefits and costs of serious running. World Leisure, 2, 12–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Patterson, I. (2001). Serious leisure as a positive contributor to social inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities. World Leisure Journal, 43(3), 16–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Perkins, K. B., & Benoit, J. (2004). Volunteer satisfaction and serious leisure in rural fire departments: Implications for human capital and social capital. In R. A. Stebbins & M. M. Graham (Eds.), Volunteering as leisure/leisure as volunteering: An international assessment (pp. 71–86). Wallingford: CAB International.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Raisborough, J. (2006). Getting onboard: Women, access and serious leisure. Sociological Review, 54, 242–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reid, D., & van Dreunen, E. (1996). Leisure as a social transformation mechanism in community development practice. Journal of Applied Recreation Research, 21(1), 45–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rojek, C. (1997). Leisure theory: Retrospect and prospect. Loisir et societe/Society and Leisure, 20, 383–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rojek, C. (2001). Preface. In R. Stebbins (Ed.), New directions in the theory and research of serious leisure (pp. i–iv). Lewiston: Edward Mellen Press.Google Scholar
  34. Scott, D. (2012). Serious leisure and recreation specialization: An uneasy marriage. Leisure Sciences, 34(4), 366–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shen, X. S., & Yarnal, C. (2010). Blowing open the serious leisure-casual leisure dichotomy: What’s in there? Leisure Sciences, 32, 162–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stebbins, R. A. (1977). The amateur: Two sociological definitions. Pacific Sociological Review, 20, 582–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Stebbins, R. A. (1978). Classical music amateurs: A definitional study. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 5(2), 78–103.Google Scholar
  38. Stebbins, R. A. (1981). Science amateurs? Rewards and costs in amateur astronomy and archaeology. Journal of Leisure Research, 13, 289–304.Google Scholar
  39. Stebbins, R. A. (1982a). Serious leisure: A conceptual statement. Pacific Sociological Review., 25, 251–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stebbins, R. A. (1982b). Amateur and professional astronomers: A study of their interrelationships. Urban Life, 10, 433–454.Google Scholar
  41. Stebbins, R. A. (1991/1992). Costs and rewards in barbershop singing. Leisure Studies, 10/11, 123–133.Google Scholar
  42. Stebbins, R. A. (1992). Amateurs, professionals, and serious leisure. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Stebbins, R. A. (1996). Casual and serious leisure and post-traditional thought in the information age. World Leisure and Recreation, 38(3), 4–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Stebbins, R. A. (1997). Casual leisure: A conceptual statement. Leisure Studies, 16, 17–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Stebbins, R. (2001). The costs and benefits of hedonism: Some consequences of taking casual leisure seriously. Leisure Studies, 20, 305–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stebbins, R. A. (2007). Serious leisure: A perspective for our time. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
  47. Stebbins, R. A. (2014). Careers in serious leisure: From dabbler to devotee in search of fulfillment. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Thurnell-Read, T. (2016). ‘Real ale’ enthusiasts, serious leisure and the costs of getting ‘too serious’ about beer. Leisure Sciences, 38(1), 68–84. doi: 10.1080/01490400.2015.1046618.
  49. Unruh, D. R. (1979). Characteristics and types of participation in social worlds. Symbolic Interaction, 1/2, 115–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Veal, T. (2015). Critically examining the creative part of serious leisure: Development of an optimal leisure lifestyle. Presentation at the Leisure Studies Association 2015 Conference: Creating Leisure, Bournemouth.Google Scholar
  51. Williams, D. J., & Walker, G. J. (2006). Leisure, deviant leisure, and crime: “Caution: Objects may be closer than they appear”. Leisure/Loisir, 30, 193–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Yarnal, C. M., & Dowler, L. (2002/2003). Who is answering the call? Volunteer firefighting as serious leisure. Leisure/Loisir, 27, 161–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Gallant
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Health and Human PerformanceDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

Personalised recommendations