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About the Research

‘British Families in Lockdown’ (BFiL) is a qualitative study led by Leeds Trinity University which has investigated the initial responses and day-to-day experiences of British families during the first seven weeks of lockdown. Fifty-six families from a diverse set of socio-economic backgrounds, geographies, religions and cultures participated in semi-structured interviews whilst under lockdown in their homes, using VOIP protocols to communicate with the researchers. Family members shared their detailed, personal stories and experiences of employment, children’s schooling, health, well-being, family life, leisure time and technology use during the first phase of lockdown when restrictions were at their severest.

Outside of this study, reported lockdown evidence is overwhelmingly quantitative based, scientific, clinical, anecdotal or journalistic, as such, these qualitative insights help build a more rounded and detailed picture of British family experiences. The study was quick to respond to the pandemic and is one of the few qualitative studies collecting a broad range of data from the UK population during this unprecedented period.

By investigating the impact of the national lockdown on families in a qualitative manner, this study can improve policy and professional support responses in this area, with the potential to make a positive difference to the lives of parents and their children.  Furthermore, this study may help to empower families should future social restrictions be in place.

From our initial analysis it has become clear that lockdown has given families the opportunity to reflect on  many aspects of their day to day life and the experience has changed outlooks, attitudes and expectations for the majority of our participants. Different families have responded in different ways, with some demonstrating more ability to cope than others, and some families being more prepared or adaptable than others. We have identified a number of difficult experiences for families, yet we have also heard about many positive and enriching experiences too.

Key areas of investigation

BFIL highlighted several important themes in relation to the potentially dichotomic experiences of British families including family relationships, connectedness with others, technology and media use, education, work demands, finances, well-being of household members and responses to government guidance. Our initial findings demonstrate some of the complex ways in which lockdown has impacted the lives of families including marginalised parents such as young fathers and those from BAME communities. Our data supports quantitative reports to some extent but there is contrasting evidence and wider issues to also consider. These include:

  • Critical Workers and Access to Education
  • Early Years Closures: Childcare and Child Development
  • Children’s Support Services
  • Cancelled Exams
  • Contact with Schools
  • Children’s Mental Health
  • Financial Implication for Children and Families
  • Impact on Disadvantaged Groups
  • Impact on Businesses
  • Impact on Workers
  • Home Working
  • Home Learning
  • Impact on Disabilities
  • Impact on Gender
  • Impact on BAME People
  • Engagement with Technology
  • Video Communication
  • Home Entertainment


UK Government commitees have accepted the research as evidence, including:

  1. Women and Equalities Committee inquiry- Unequal impact? Coronavirus and BAME people. 
  2. Women and Equalities Committee inquiry-  Unequal impact?Coronavirus, disability and access to services. 

  3. Women and Equalities Committee inquiry-  Unequal impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact. 

  4. Education Committee’s inquiry into the impact of Covid 19 on education and children’s services.

  5. Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s inquiry into the impact of coronavirus on businesses and workers.

Research team

Carmen Clayton is Reader in Family and Cultural Dynamics. Carmen’s research interests revolve around young people, families and childhood with specific expertise concerning young fatherhood, migration, ethnicity, and culture. She has been researching children, young people, and families since 2006, with various research funding grants awarded by the ESRC (Economic Social Research Council), Research England and others.

Marie Potter is a Senior Lecturer specialising in Childhood, Early Learning and Development Studies and is also Programme Coordinator for the MA Childhood and Education. She has considerable practical experience, working with, and supporting children and their families from a range of backgrounds and circumstances. She is currently member of the Advisory Committee for the Leeds Early Years Network. 

Rafe Clayton is a visiting academic in film practice at Leeds Arts University and is undertaking research at the University of York into the relationship between smart phones and mobile devices for media consumption. He is particularly interested in the creative uses of technology by families during the government lockdown, including how apps, tablets, phones, and other devices are impacting family dynamics, work life, socialising, and home schooling.

Contact the research team

For all enquiries relating to the study including press and publication please email the team.

Email the research team