Family and Disability Studies Initiative

The Loneliness Crisis and the Decline of Free Play

The Loneliness Crisis and the Decline of Free Play: Pathways and Effects 

Over the past few decades, Canada, like other post-industrial societies, has undergone a number of sweeping social, demographic and economic changes which have transformed the conditions of contemporary family life. Many parents are now struggling to meet the demands of a workplace that can reach out to them 24/7, care for children and ageing parents, and maintain satisfying social relationships. Consequently, chronic loneliness is widespread. The implications of chronic loneliness for parents and children, including parents of children with disabilities who are particularly vulnerable to loneliness, may be far-reaching. This study investigates the intriguing possibility that a rise in the prevalence of loneliness among parents of children with and without disabilities may have contributed to the decline of free and outdoor play, and portend a rise in the prevalence of children’s mental health issues.

This study is partially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.