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Encourage children today to build audiences for tomorrow

Evidence from the Taking Part survey on how childhood involvement in the arts affects arts engagement in adulthood

October 15, 201215 October 2012

Arts education

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This report examines the relationship between childhood arts experiences and adult arts participation, based on a survey of 13,500 English adults who were asked to recall their childhood arts experiences. Overall, the report found that “being exposed to arts events and encouraged to participate in arts activities when growing up indeed makes a positive contribution to the chances of people developing a life-long interest in and active relationship with the arts”.

Regarding being taken by parents to arts events, the survey results show that 22% of respondents were taken at least once a year. Another 16% were taken less than once a year, while 63% were never taken to arts events by their parents. Regarding being encouraged by parents to actively participate in arts activities, the survey shows that 18% of respondents were encouraged “a lot”, 24% “a little”, and 59% “not at all”.

The survey found that “parents of high social status are significantly more likely to take their children to arts events and to encourage them to participate in arts activities, as compared with parents of lower social status.” In addition, “parents are significantly more likely to encourage and foster arts engagement among girls than among boys”. Younger respondents were more likely than older respondents to report being taken to arts events and encouraged to participate in artistic activities.

The report found “consistent evidence of impact” of childhood arts experiences on adult attendance and active arts participation, even when taking other socio-demographic factors into account (e.g., education level, age, gender, social status). Interestingly, the survey results show that “the effect [of childhood arts experiences] on attendance is the strongest at the lowest level of education”. Among all respondents, however, the report found that overall level of education is an even stronger factor in adult arts participation than childhood arts experience (“but not by very much”).

The report indicates that further research is required “to fully understand the relative role and potential of the family, the school, peers, the media and other external agencies in the shaping of children’s attitudes, values and preferences when it comes to arts and culture”.

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