The impact of the commercial world on children's wellbeing

Report of an independent assessment

The impact of the commercial world on children's wellbeing - DCSF

Two years ago, in the Children's Plan, the DCSF committed itself to commission an independent assessment of the impact of the commercial world on children's wellbeing. That assessment, led by Professor David Buckingham, is now complete. As part of the process SIRC was commissioned to undertake two major reviews: Children and Family Life: Socio-Demographic Changes and The Ecology of Family Life.

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Framing the issues:

the public debate

The assessment took place against a background of public debate about childhood, which has frequently been intense and highly polarised. Debates of this kind are by no means new. Numerous influential commentators have pointed to a crisis in children's wellbeing, for which rising commercialism is seen as a major cause. Children are often seen here as passive victims of commercial influences. Meanwhile, the news media often portray young people in very negative terms, although it is not clear how far this influences public attitudes towards young people more broadly. Others — particularly marketers — tend to present children as active agents, who are empowered through their dealings with the commercial world. In general, we have concluded that the issues involved are very much more complex than is often implied in all of these accounts.

The Impact of the Commercial World on Children's Wellbeing: Report of an Independent Assessment


The Social Issues Research Centre was commissioned in 2008 by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to undertake two extensive reviews to inform a wider independent assessment of the impact of the commercial world on children's wellbeing.

The first of the SIRC reviews, Children and Family Life: Socio-Demographic Changes focuses on the engagement of families and children in the commercial world by taking a longitudinal approach to the changes and continuities in family life over the past half century. It is divided into three sections that deal with different aspects of children's and families' commercial engagement:

The second of the SIRC reviews, The Ecology of Family Life focuses in particular on the role of consumption in the ecology of family life in contemporary Britain, providing an 'inside' account of the changing processes of consumption that take place within different types of families. The review also explores the ways in which commercial activities relate to broader relationships between family members. The first SIRC report (Childhood and family life: Socio-demographic changes) paves the way for the more in-depth account presented here, in which we rely on additional qualitative studies to capture the lived experiences of children and families.

The assessment, led by Professor David Buckingham and conducted by an independent multidisciplinary panel of experts is now complete.

The full report (including appendices) is available from the DCSF website here

Follow the links below to download SIRC's contributions to the assessment directly from the DCSF website.