How U.S. Children and adolescents spend time: What it does (and doesn't) tell us about their development

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Young people develop as "the sum of past experiences," and data on their time use are one means of quantifying those experiences. U.S. children and adolescents spend dramatically less time than in the agrarian past in household and income-generating labor. Because such labor is usually repetitive and unchallenging, this reduction has probably not deprived youths of crucial developmental experience. The schoolwork replacing this time has a clearer relationship to developmental outcomes. American teens, however, spend less time on schoolwork than teens in other industrialized countries. American teenagers have more discretionary time, much spent watching television or interacting with friends; spending large amounts of time in these activities related to negative developmental outcomes. Increasing amounts of young people's discretionary time, however, appear to be spent in structured voluntary activities, like arts, sports, and organizations, which may foster initiative, identity, and other positive developmental outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-164
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2001


  • Developmental experiences
  • Time use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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