Trends in attitudes to child necessities 1999 and 2012

This table shows the percentage of the survey sample in Great Britain in 1999 and in 2012 describing each item or activity for children as necessary. It covers items and activities asked about in 2012 which were also asked in 1999.

The table is ranked by the percentage thinking the item is necessary in 2012. You can rank by 1999 by clicking on that year. Colour gradients have been applied to each item in each year so where 100% think an item is ‘necessary’ it is shaded deep red moving through orange to yellow where around 50% think the item is necessary and then moving to green as the percentages further decline so it is the deepest green when 0% think the item is a necessity. So looking at the table as a whole, the more uniform the shading in both years, the less change there has been between the two years. Changes stand out because the different years are coloured differently (more red if a higher proportion in a particular year think the item a necessity and more orange and then yellow and then green if a lower proportion do).

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Source: PSE UK, Necessities of life survey, 1999, 2012

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The table shows that there is a core to what is regarded as necessities for children that does not change over time. However, new items do come to be seen as necessities to reflect new patterns of behaviour and expectations. Two-thirds of UK adults now believe that children need a computer and internet access for homework. As an item become more widespread, people’s behaviours change and the item become embedded into how we, as a society, operate.  There comes a moment when lack of the item means the person can no longer participate fully.  Without a computer with internet access a child is severely disadvantaged at school and recognition of this lies behind the sharp rise in the proportions now seeing this as a necessity for children.

The table also suggests that in the harder economic conditions of 2012, people take a slightly less generous view as to what is a necessity.  There have been falls in support for a number of items and there is one that was was seen as a necessity in 1999 and no longer is: being able to have their friends to visit for tea or a snack once a fortnight now just falls short of the 50% approval mark.

For a commentary on this table see Facts and Findings 3: What do we think we need?We will be publishing detailed working papers analysing these findings shortly.

Survey details

The ‘Necessities of Life’ survey was carried out between May and June 2012 and is based on a sample of 1,447 adults aged 16 or over in the Britain and 1,015 in Northern Ireland. The survey was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in Britain and by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) in Northern Ireland as part of their Omnibus surveys.

* Garden in 1999, ** Books of their own in 1999, *** Twice a day in 1999