Adolescents’ Time Use in Context: Institutional, Demographic, and Socioeconomic Factors

Joan Garcia Roman, Centre d''Estudis Demogràfics
Pablo Gracia, Trinity College Dublin

This study analyzes the role of institutional, demographic, and socioeconomic factors in influencing adolescents’ daily activities. Previous studies suggested that adolescents’ daily activities are closely connected to their well-being and accumulation of skills, which motivates the study on the inconclusive question of how micro-level and macro-level factors intersect in influencing adolescents’ time use in contemporary societies. We use data of 3,457 diaries reported by adolescents aged 11-17 in France (2009-10), Spain (2009-10), and the United Kingdom (2014-15). These three countries represent three contexts with important variations in their policy and cultural characteristics. Our analyses look at five activities that are seen as important markers of adolescents’ well-being and skills formation: (1) educational activities; (2) television time; (3) electronic activities; (4) sleeping; (5) sports. We pay particular attention to three key micro-level factors: (i) social background, (ii) family structure, and (ii) maternal employment. We believe that this study, currently in a preliminary stage, can offer interesting insights into how adolescents’ daily lives differ across societal and family contexts in ways that reflect variations in their potential well-being and formation of skills.

In this study, we analyze the institutional, demographic, and socioeconomic determinants of adolescents’ participation in different relevant daily activities for adolescents’ present and future development. Empirical analyses employ data from the Multinational Time Use Study, covering (at this stage) a total of three countries: France, Spain and the United Kingdom. Our study adopts a multidimensional approach for adolescents aged 11-17, the ages for which we have comparable data, including young adolescents (ages 11-14) and old adolescents (15-17) who were students at the time of interview. Empirical analyses look at five important activities: (1) educational activities; (2) television time; (3) electronic activities; (4) sleeping; (5) sports. Apart from looking at cross-national variations in adolescents’ time use, our analyses pay attention to three key micro-level factors: (i) social background, (ii) family structure, and (ii) maternal employment. By adopting a micro-macro analyses of adolescents’ time use our study seeks to contribute to the literature by providing a better understanding of adolescents’ daily activities in contemporary Western societies.


We use five dependent variables that count the number of minutes that the adolescent allocated to each activity on the day of observation, considering only primary activities (we did not include secondary activities in the analyses): (1) daily minutes allocated to educational activities outside schooling activities; (2) daily minutes allocated to watching television in the day of observation; (3) daily minutes allocated to electronic activities; (4) daily minutes allocated to sports; (5) daily minutes on sleeping. Our micro-level independent variables include three categorical measures. Maternal education has three categories based on the maximum level of education obtained by the mother (below high school, high school, college). Family structure differentiates between adolescents living in a two-parent heterosexual family and those living in a single-mother family. Maternal employment establishes a distinction between mothers who were not employed and those who were employed at the moment of the interview. We added two main control variables that are well known to be critical predictors of adolescents’ time use, namely sex (a binary measure of the respondents’ sex) and age (a continuous measure of the respondent’s age) (Wight et al., 2009). Finally, in those analyses where we include all our diaries of study (merging weekends and weekdays) we control for whether the diary referred to a weekday (Monday-Friday) or weekend (Saturday-Sunday).

Analytical Strategy

Our will be based on multivariate statistical regressions. Our empirical strategy will follow three main steps: (1) We will run multivariate analyses for a pooled sample with data on the three countries of study (separately by weekdays and weekends), where we will use weights that correct for the size of each country for both the sample of weekdays and weekends (results remained very similar when we did not balance the presence of countries by using weights); (2) we will employ multivariate analyses for the same pooled sample, but including country dummy variables for our three countries, examining country-level differences after controlling for all our independent variables and control variables in the study; (3) We will run country-level interactions with our three micro variables of interest (maternal education, family structure, maternal employment).

Presented in Session 1102: Families and Households