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There is growing concern around the widespread mental health issues that teenagers face, and while finding causes can be elusive, a recent study reveals a new angle—rooted in childhood development—that is gaining traction.
In 2023, researchers compiled and assessed data trends that showed a drop in opportunities for children to engage in play, chores, and roles that are not directly overseen and controlled by adults. Unsupervised play and purposeful work contribute to the development of important feelings of competence, autonomy, and relatedness in childhood and adolescence, which lead to healthy young adults. Without those opportunities, children may be missing out on a critical part of their growth. The message seems clear—adults should strive to ensure that children have ample chances to grow in their confidence through independent play and exploration.
To read the research cited in the video, check out the links below:
- Peter Gray, David F. Lancy, and David F. Bjorklund’s study on the decline in independent activity as a cause of decline in children’s mental well-being (2023)
- Ben Shaw, Ben Watson, Björn Frauendienst, Andreas Redecker, Tim Jones, and Mayer Hillman’s comparative study on children’s independent mobility in England and Germany (2012)
- Noreen C. McDonald, Austin L. Brown, Lauren M. Marchetti, and Margo S. Pedroso’s assessment of trends in travel to school for students in the U.S. from 1969 to 2009 (2011)
- Natasha Goodhall and Cathy Atkinson’s literature review of how children distinguish between play and work (2017)
To learn more about 2023’s most compelling research findings for educators, visit The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2023.