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Throwing lavish dinner parties may be a fading trend. According to a University of Toronto study, people are socializing less with their family and friends at home but, instead, are spending more time at home alone.

"As a result of social and demographic changes, the private dwelling is less of a context for social company," says Glenn Stalker, a PhD student in sociology and author of the study, Change in the use of the dwelling space as an environmental context for social engagement during leisure time, 1986 to 1998.

"That is largely due to changes in the structure of the family, higher rates of separation and divorce, smaller households with fewer children, delayed marriages and more individuals living alone."

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Mr. Stalker, under the supervision of sociology professor William Michelson, examined three sets of data from the Canadian General Social Survey from 1986, 1992 and 1998.

He analyzed where Canadians spent their leisure time (at home, in transit, outside the home) and with whom: themselves, friends and family and other members of the public.

Mr. Stalker found that in 1998, Canadians spent 34 per cent of their spare time alone at home, up from 28 per cent in 1986.

In addition, time spent with friends and family at home dropped to 58 per cent of their leisure time in 1998, a decrease of five per cent from 1986.

He also found that although people are spending slightly more time outside their home with friends and family in places like cafes or restaurants, this growth has not kept pace with the decline in home-centred social contact.

The study, partially funded by Statistics Canada, will be presented at the International Housing Research Conference in Toronto June 24 to 27.

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