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Changing Patterns in Parental Time Use and Their Implications for Parental Wellbeing

Parental Time Use
Published: December 2019

Exploring how patterns of parental time use have changed in the UK over the past 15 years.


The research aims of the study are to:

  • Analyse how patterns of mothers’ and fathers’ time use have changed in the UK over the past 15 years;
  • Examine the role of individual and household circumstances in how parents use their time;
  • Explore the relationship between time-use patterns and parental wellbeing including parents’ enjoyment of childcare and other activities;
  • Assess the role of flexible working in shaping parental time-use patterns and supporting greater wellbeing.


The study uses time use diary data from the 2000/01 and 2014/15 United Kingdom Time Use Surveys. This is a largescale household survey that collects data on respondents’ time use in 10-minute intervals, as well as recording respondents’ enjoyment of each activity and their general wellbeing.

Key findings 

These key findings come from the December 2019 report, "Parents and time pressure: evidence from time use diaries", available here and in the Publications section below.

How often parents feel rushed

Rushed Parents

One-third of mothers (33%) reported always feeling rushed, compared with just under one-quarter of fathers (24%). The vast majority of parents felt rushed at least some of the time with only 8% of mothers and 12% of fathers reporting never feeling rushed.

Multitasking among parents


Mothers multitasked slightly more than fathers, multitasking 29% of their non-sleep, nonpaid work time while fathers multitasked 27% of their day. This equated to 3 hours and 48 minutes per day for mothers, and 2 hours and 59 minutes for fathers.

Fragmented time

Activities Time

Mothers’ time was also more fragmented than fathers’. Mothers switched from one activity to another every 38 minutes throughout the day, excluding time spent sleeping or in paid work, while fathers switched activities every 43 minutes.

Time pressure

Perhaps surprisingly, time pressure has not increased over the past 15 years. In fact, along most measures analysed, time pressure has declined. Mothers and fathers are now less likely to report “always” feeling rushed than they were in 2001.


Research reports

Research articles


This study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of their Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. NatCen is carrying out this study in partnership with Working Families and  Professor Oriel Sullivan (Co-Director of the Centre for Time Use Research, University College London)

Slides from 2nd December event: Parental time use and wellbeing

Introduction To Time Use Research - December Event Slides

Changing Patterns in Parental Time Use - December Event Slides

Parental Wellbeing: Relationship With Time Use - December Event Slides

Parents and Time Pressure: Evidence From Time Use Diaries - December Event Slides