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Work and Play

Child and adolescent time use in Finland, Spain and the UK

To investigate how child and adolescent time use differs across societies, Pablo Gracia (Trinity College Dublin), Joan Garcia-Roman (Centre for Demographic Studies, UAB), Tomi Oinas and Timo Antilla (University of Jyväskylä) used 2009-2015 time-diary data on children and adolescents aged 10-17 from Finland, Spain and the UK. Time-diary data allowed the authors to capture time use with high accuracy and comparability within a 24-hour framework. Using this data, Gracia and colleagues find very strong cross-national differences in child and adolescent time use, net of multiple demographic factors. Socioeconomic measures (i.e. maternal employment and parental education) contribute little to explain cross-country variations in child time use.

On a random day - net of demographics - Finnish children spend two hours and 30 minutes less time with their parents than Spanish children do. Spanish children spend two hours more alone and one hour more with others, compared to Finnish children. The UK falls in between both countries regarding time spent with parents (where they are more similar to Spanish children) and time with other people (where they are more similar to Finnish children).

Common cultural stereotypes about lifestyles and routines affect these scenarios as well. Every day, children in Spain spend one hour and 40 minutes eating, versus about one hour in Finland and UK. In addition, screen time is higher in Finland and the UK (three hours and 20 minutes) and lower in Spain (two hours and 45 min). However, the authors’ analyses also resulted in some less-stereotypical findings. Finnish children spend almost 30 minutes more time socialising each day than Spanish children do. Spanish children spend 110 daily minutes engaged in non-schooling educational activities; British children spend only 67 minutes.

Overall, Gracia and colleagues argue that cross-cultural variations in family values, parenting ideologies and social relations, embedded into specific institutional contexts of daily organisation, are critical to understand cross-country differences in children’s daily activities, which shape key societal variations in the rhythms of daily life.

Author(s) of the original publication: 
Emily Frank