Home > The changing social worlds of 9-year-olds.

Smyth, Emer (2022) The changing social worlds of 9-year-olds. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute. Research series number 151.

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This report compared the experiences of 9-year-olds born a decade apart by drawing on Wave 1 of the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) Cohort ’98, conducted in 2007/08, and Wave 5 of GUI Cohort ‘08, conducted in 2017/18. It documents changes in their lives across the domains of relationships with family and peers, day-to-day activities and engagement with formal and informal learning. The analyses draw on survey data as well as time-use diaries completed by the children and their families, providing rich insights into their lives against a backdrop of rapid societal transformation. The decade between the two waves, 2007/08 to 2017/18, saw significant economic and social change as well as important policy developments. However, to date little has been known about how these changes have impacted on the lives of children. 

This study looks not only at overall change in the experiences of 9-year-olds but also examines whether any changes are due to the shifting profile of their families over time (in particular, rising educational levels among parents). It also explores whether gender and social background differences have increased or diminished over time. The main research questions addressed in the study are:

  • How have the quality of relationships, experience of learning and activities engaged in by 9-year-olds changed over the course of a decade?
  • Are any differences found due to changes in child, family and social background characteristics?
  • Are any such changes more evident for boys or girls or for children from different social backgrounds (in terms of parental education, social class, income and financial strain)? In other words, is differentiation by gender and social background in children’s social worlds less evident for the younger cohort than previously? 

The remainder of this report’s executive summary outlines the main findings of the study and the implications for policy development.

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