You can’t pick your family, but you can curate everything else



In our second blog based on Thread & Fable’s Engaging Youth 2019 research and the latest findings that have been out since, we take a wonder through the key relationships surrounding young people and how these can shape and inform our approach to engaging them.

No matter what product or service you’re offering, or the impact you’re trying to have, the influences on your target audience and how they shape their view of the world as they grow up are critical.


It’s perhaps no surprise that family influence is high among young people before wider influences shape their view of the world, but with the gap between parents and young people becoming closer than ever before, we are seeing some interesting changes.

Young people are closer to their parents and sharing more with them than even say 15 years ago. Not only are supportive parents and good communications with them a key determinant of behaviours, reports are also indicating the impact these relationships can have in the changing environment around young people. For instance, stronger communications with parents is said to mitigate some of the negative impacts of electronic media and role modelling things such as screen time and also even healthy eating whilst watching media are all attributable to habits.

As Millennial’s themselves are becoming parents there are findings emerging around the pressure of ‘perfectionism’ and curating family lives on social as well as new forms of monitoring/control over their children.  Other key trends include young people living at home for longer than ever before, due to cost of living and being able to afford to buy for themselves and dads today spending roughly three times as much time on child care than 50 years ago, changing the influences on children throughout family life into parenthood themselves.


Friendship circles have always played a significant role in shaping trends and behaviours but as well as these playing out in real life, there is also a social media friendship circle to manage, often across multiple accounts and channels, each with their own pressure and dynamic.

Gender differences in friendship findings was perhaps the biggest angle our Engaging Youth report highlighted. Girls are more likely to have friendships associated with stronger one-to-one discussions and disclosure for instance, whilst boys are most likely to have friendships through group activities such as sport. One of the big questions is how the social media landscape and decreasing real-life interactions today impact these friendship preferences and who is losing out the most? For girls the pressure and dynamics of interactions is clearly a factor, whilst for boys increasing isolation and a lack of social support could be aligned to patterns of increasing levels of mental wellbeing concerns among young men.

Over half of 8-17-year-olds say they’d feel isolated if they couldn’t talk to their friends via technology and almost 40% say they’ve made friends online that they wouldn’t have in real life. SnapChat’s Friendship Report 2019 found that Britons have fewer “best friends”, 2.6 on average, than those in other countries, with more background friends and acquaintances. Are there issues over real-life connections in the UK among young people, or do friendship patterns

Whilst it would be hard to compare young peoples’ lives with and without technology being a central part of it, there are perhaps signs of more responsible functionality – such as likes being removed from Instagram – and better ways to take away harmful content that tech platforms are being challenged with.


Generation Z and Alpha have a broader view on relationships than previous generations, with many viewing themselves in less binary terms when it comes to gender and sexuality than ever before, more accepting of different types of relationships and indeed, use the technological landscape around them to find and form relationships too.

The notion of acceptance and equality goes beyond sexual preferences into race and religion too, with interracial marriage on the rise, alongside more tolerance among younger audiences when it comes to relationships with people following a different religion. In her recent book, The Company You Keep, Yale sociologist Grace Kao examined datasets on friendship and romance of more than 15,000 students from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health in the US and found that the more diverse a child’s upbringing and school, the more likely they are to form friendships or data people of a different race.

Around half of 18-34s use dating apps, with a higher proportion of same-sex couples doing so. However, the majority of this group far prefer to meet someone in real life rather than through the apps and traditional notions of family and marriage still hold firm among teens’ longer-term aspirations in life.


And there’s lots more but that’s just a quick run through of some of the highlights. Links to all of the sources are in Engaging Youth 2019.

If you have any youth research or insights you’d like to share for any of our blogs or forthcoming reports, please email

One thought on “You can’t pick your family, but you can curate everything else

Comments are closed.