A child's day: trends in time use in the UK from 1975 to 2015

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This paper examines change in school‐age children’s (8–16 years) time use in the United Kingdom between 1975 and 2015. Over this period, concerns for children’s safety, technological change, and increased emphasis on success in school are widely argued to have altered children’s daily lives, leading for example to less time outdoors, more time in screen‐based activities, and more time focused on education. Using data from three national time use surveys collected in 1974–5, 2000–01 and 2014–15, this paper explores the extent to which these arguments reflect actual change in how children spend their time throughout the day. The results show that between 1975 and 2015 children increased their time at home, and spent more time in screen‐based activities and doing homework. Decreases in time in out‐of‐home activities were concentrated in time in unstructured play, partially offset by increased time in sport. A decomposition of trends revealed that, despite a narrowing of the gender gap in time in housework, gender remains a significant factor determining many aspects of children’s time use. In contrast, the significance of age declined in most leisure activities, with the exception of screen‐based activities where significant age differences emerged in 2000 and widened further in 2015.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)997-1024
Number of pages28
JournalBritish Journal of Sociology
Issue number3
Early online date11 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


  • Children
  • UK Time Use Survey
  • social change
  • time use


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