A YouGov study involving 1176 adults in the UK with at least one child 6 years old or younger, found that children are staying in diapers one year longer than they were 17 years earlier. The original study which was conducted in 2004 indicated the average child remained in diapers until 3 years of age. Specifically, 95% of 3-year-olds were completely potty trained according to the 2004 survey from YouGov. The most recent survey in 2021 concluded that 95% of children were potty trained by the age of 4.
In 17 years the potty training age grew by 12 months which resulted in an additional 1 billion diapers being disposed of in landfills which is trending in the wrong direction when considering the environmental implications. According to government figures one child’s use of disposable diapers for a day is the equivalent of disposing of 17 plastic bags in landfills or 6,000 annually.
The study was the result of 2,000 surveys handed out and 1,176 completed surveys. There were several explanations for the delay in potty training children that were theorized. The primary culprit is thought to be the child-led parenting movement which allows for children to begin potty training only when they are interested and show the desire to begin getting out of diapers.
Also, busier parents with both mothers and fathers working to make ends meet leaves less time to dedicate to potty training and the time commitment that it requires. For example, it is difficult to implement the very popular three day potty training method, that requires three full days at home, with intensive focus on the potty training child, if both parents work normal weekday jobs.
The other factor considered to play a role in the later potty training for children, is the fact that diapers have become increasingly more comfortable and more absorbent throughout the years. As the two major manufacturers Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly Clark, with Pampers and Huggies brands respectively, continue to rake in record profits due to the ever growing potty training age. The incentive to invest in Research and Development grows as well, since neither company wants to lag behind the other in regards to innovation and miss out on this very profitable niche. The result is children stay dry and comfortable even longer as the diapers are constantly improving over time. When kids are comfortable and dry, parents are in no hurry to get their children potty trained and out of diapers. Since kids are not expressing signs of discomfort, which is the cue for parents to make the effort to get their children out of dirty diapers.
Another significant finding from the study is the number of children in recyclable diapers has jumped from 6% to 20% which is a substantial win and trending in the right direction with concerns about the environmental impact of disposable diapers. Children in recyclable diapers are not shielded from the wet diapers like those wearing the more absorptive and comfortable disposable diapers. As children become uncomfortable quickly in recyclable diapers, there is a greater need for them to shed diapers and potty train earlier.