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Life at age 14: initial findings from the Growing Up in Scotland study

Growing Up in Scotland is a longitudinal study following the lives of young people. The report is based on data collected in 2019/20, when participants were 14 years, from 2,943 families. The report presents high level findings relating to young people’s experiences across a range of life domains.

Views on school were largely positive amongst young people; 84.8% said their teacher ‘always/often’ treats them fairly and 61.3% said they ‘always/often’ enjoyed learning at school. Furthermore, 91.9% said they ‘always/often’ tried their best at school and 70.5% of young people said they felt ‘not at all/a little’ pressured by their school work. Just over half (56.4%) said that they ‘sometimes/ never’ looked forward to going to school, however only 19.6% had ever skipped school.

Looking towards the future, 79.5% of young people said they wanted to stay on at school or college full-time after S4. The most commonly chosen options for what they saw themselves doing when they left school were ‘going to University’ (47.7%) or ‘going to College’ (15.1%), although a substantial minority (21.1%) were ‘not sure’.

Young people’s views of their parents were generally positive; the majority said their parent ‘always’ listened to what they had to say, that they can count on them to help them with a problem, that their parent would ask if they knew something was bothering them and that they ‘paid attention to them’. Just over one quarter (27.3%) of young people had at least one parent who lived elsewhere. Over half (57.5%) saw this parent once a week or more, whilst 15.1% said they never saw this parent.

The vast majority of parents (93.9%) felt either ‘very competent and confident’ or ‘moderately competent and confident’ in their parenting and 87.2% felt either ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ close to their child. However, over half of parents (53.3%) said it was ‘very/somewhat’ true that they are ‘overprotective of their child’.

Relationships with peers also appeared to be largely positive; 85.1% reported their friends ‘always/often’ paid attention to them, and 84.4% said it was ‘always/often’ true that their friends ‘listened to what they had to say’. The majority of young people felt ‘not at all’ pressured by their friends. However, 32.9% felt ‘a little’ or ‘a lot / quite a lot’ pressured to act tough or hard, whilst 40% felt ‘a little’ or ‘a lot / quite a lot’ pressured to look or dress a certain way.

Half of young people (49.1%) had been bullied by being picked on, called names or been made fun of, and just under one in five were picked on in this way at least once a week or more. The majority (70.4%) of young people said they had not been treated unfairly because of any of their characteristics. However, 22% said they were treated unfairly because of their body shape, size or physical appearance.

Two thirds of young people reported having no sexual experience, whilst 9.5% said they had ‘some experience, but not sexual intercourse’ or ‘more experience, including sexual intercourse’. The majority of parents had spoken to their child more than once about ‘sex, including sexual intercourse’ and ‘how to behave in relation to people he/she might be sexually attracted to, and/or how to respond to sexual advances.’

Spending time on screen activities and social media was common; 85.6% of young people spent at least one hour per day watching videos, television programmes or films, 59% spent at least one hour playing online or electronic games, whilst 69.2% spent at least one hour on social media or messaging people they know.

The most common activities undertaken outside of school were ‘team sports’ (39.4%), ‘art, music, performance’ (28.2%), and ‘individual sport’ (26.4%). The majority of young people had not participated in any youth work activities. However, one in five were ‘involved in a group working towards a youth award’, whilst 15.5% were ‘members of uniformed youth’.

Parents generally knew where their child was and what they were doing; three quarters said they knew ‘all of the time’ where their child was after school. 11.1% of parents said their child had caring responsibilities. Of those, the majority (62.6%) reported that their child spent less than 4 hours a week providing help.

Looking at risky behaviours; just over half of young people had tried alcohol (54.9%), whilst around one in five had tried smoking a cigarette or vape. Only a small minority had tried cannabis or other drugs. 69.2% of young people had not engaged in any of the anti-social behaviours. However, the most commonly named behaviours were ‘hit, kicked or punched someone’ (17.1%) and ‘been rowdy or rude in a public’ (14%).

Almost half of young people (47.2%) had had a period in their life lasting several days or longer when on most of the days they felt depressed, and just under three quarters of those who experienced depression said they had a lot more trouble concentrating than usual and felt down on themselves, whilst half thought a lot about death.

Furthermore, 13.9% of young people said they had experienced any emotional or mental health difficulties to the extent that they had received a diagnosis or sought help for it, and 11.6% reported having hurt themselves on purpose in any way in the last 12 months.

However, life satisfaction was overall high; just under two thirds (63.6%) said they ‘always’ or ‘often’ felt their life was just about right, and three quarters (74.8%) said they ‘always’ or ‘often’ felt they had what they wanted in life. The vast majority of young people also said that it was ‘completely’ (73.8%) or ‘somewhat’ (20.8%) true, that they had a trusted adult to talk to.

When rating their general health, 65.1% of young people said it was ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’. A third of young people said they either met or exceeded the minimum physical activity hours recommended by the NHS (7 hours).

Around half thought their body size was about right, however more than one third thought they were ‘a bit too fat’ or ‘much too fat’, whilst a smaller proportion thought their body was ‘much too thin’ or ‘a bit too thin’. Furthermore, three quarters (75.6%) said they felt ‘very happy’ or ‘quite happy’, about how they look, whilst the remainder (24.4%) felt ‘not very happy’ or ‘not at all happy’.

Over half (62.1%) of young people said they got between eight and ten hours sleep on a school night. Two out of five (37.2%) said they got less sleep than the recommended eight to ten hours. Young people got more sleep when they did not have school the next day; only 24.7% got less than eight hours of sleep, whilst 14.5% got more than ten hours of sleep.

Life at age 14: initial findings from the Growing Up in Scotland study 74 page PDF 715.1 kB


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