When Culture Speaks: Indian Immigrant Families' Participation in Sport and Physical Activity

Fernandes, Siona Fatima
Hinckson, Erica
Ferkins, Lesley
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Master of Sport and Exercise
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Auckland University of Technology

This study investigated the experiences of Indian immigrant families’ participation in sport and physical activity (PA) in Auckland, New Zealand (NZ). Drawing from previous knowledge and research involving South Asian immigrants, case-study research was undertaken to answer the question, “What influences the decision of Indian immigrant families to participate in sport and physical activity (PA) in NZ?”

A single case-study design with embedded units included three Indian immigrant families (parents, one child) with differing backgrounds (sport, spontaneous, inactive-interested) as the participants. Information was gathered for each parent and child adopting qualitative methods of inquiry (in-depth interviews, participant self-reflection reports, researcher journal). Thematic analysis of the data revealed that the three emerging themes of 1) Neighbourhood 2) Multiculturalism and 3) Evolving Social Mindset and Beliefs, were major influencers on the decisions of Indian immigrant families to participate in sport and PA. In particular, the difference between everyday lifestyle activities in India versus NZ that arose from culturally distinctive neighbourhood behaviours and practices had created a perceived lack of opportunity and appeared to encourage sedentary practices among Indian immigrant children. As Indian immigrant families experienced NZ’s diverse social cultures, they perceived barriers in finding common sporting interests within multicultural societies, resulting in a ‘cultural disconnect’ in sport and PA in NZ. The outcome of the perceived disconnect had initiated for Indian immigrants the need to promote Indian cultural modes of PA, recognising a greater need in using not only sport but also cultural activity as a medium to connect diverse cultures. Within NZ’s social egalitarian principles (no caste, gender roles, socio-political impacts) and good infrastructure (cycle lanes, foot-paths), Indian immigrant families experienced equal rights and opportunities. As a result, motivating mindsets and a willingness to participate in PA behaviours, with positive experiences for the Indian immigrant mother as these families evolved from their traditional beliefs and practices (shared housework duties).

In summary, there is a strong need for integrating immigrant Indian perspectives alongside cultural values within initiatives and interventions that might be implemented. In other words, it is imperative that cultural values and belief systems be well understood and reflected, and may necessitate the collaboration with the Indian communities (collective-cultural intelligence) in NZ. As ‘not everyone fits the mold’ aiming to increase PA participation should be tailored to the adopted cultural practice and tradition. This study sets the foundation for future research and sports systems aimed at the social inclusion of Indian immigrant participation and practices of sport and PA in NZ.

Neighbourhoods , Multiculturalism , Indian participation and practices , Socio-cultural determinants , Qualitative research , Cultural insider research
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