2 What do children and young people think?
While the term ‘wellbeing’ is in common use, it is not necessarily one that children or young people use when talking about their own lives. What do they say? This issue is explored in the next activity.
Activity 2 A good childhood?
(Children’s Society, 2015) is an extensive survey of the wellbeing of children and young people in the UK. The survey has been developed and repeated, so has built up a detailed picture over time. The whole of the report is relevant to this course, and it is a useful resource to draw on. Here, though, you just need to read from page 12 – from the heading ‘What does subjective wellbeing mean from children’s perspectives?’ – to page 15. You’ll be asked to answer a series of questions in the next task, so you might want to bear them in mind as you read.
As time passes since this course's publication, you may like to look for the newest edition of The Good Childhood Report and look at how things have developed.
Now write your responses to the following questions. Try to answer each question as fully as possible before reading the discussion.
- How did the research team ascertain the initial ideas from children and young people? And how were their ideas used to help create the wellbeing survey?
- What are the three key components that the responses were grouped into?
- Were there any notable differences between adult descriptions of what is important to wellbeing and what children and young people said?
- Rather than use the term ‘wellbeing’, the researchers asked open-ended questions about what makes a ‘good life’ for young people and what the barriers to a good life are. The ideas were initially generated with eight thousand 14- and 15-year-olds, although the survey now covers the 8 to 17 age range.
- You will have seen from Table 3 of the report (p. 13) that a long list of key words was generated from these questions. The top 88 here include a wide range from ‘friends’ to ‘freedom’ to ‘football’. The research team argues that they can all be related to three areas of the lives of children and young people – relationships, self, and environment.
- There are many interesting features to these responses that might not be included in adult perspectives on young people’s lives. Below are some examples.
- a.Surveys with younger children highlighted the importance of pets.
- b.Family structures were less important than the substance of relationships in them.
- c.The most common response to what prevents a good life is bullying.
- d.Children describe the ingredients of relationships in slightly different terms, highlighting love, fairness, support and respect.
- e.An emphasis on the importance of physical spaces that are safe, clean and pleasant.
The kinds of measures used in this report are usually described as ‘subjective’. Another way of trying to gauge the wellbeing of children and young people is to use more ‘objective’ measures some of which were referred to in the newspaper article you read such as poverty and measures of health or education, housing conditions or the quality of the environment. Wellbeing is therefore a broad concept which spans a wide range of physical and mental health as well as emotional and social factors.
The Good Childhood Report is published annually so you can go to the most recent version at the same website to read more.