The charity’s Good Childhood Report 2013 (full report, summary, online version) highlights a period of rising well-being (children’s happiness and satisfaction with their lives) between 1994 and 2008. But this stalled - and may have begun to decline - in recent years.
And younger teenagers have lower well-being than other age groups, the report finds. They are less likely to be happy about school, their appearance and the amount of choice and freedom they have.
Lower well-being reported by teenagers aged 14 and 15
Teenagers aged 14 and 15 are particularly affected as they have the lowest life satisfaction of all children, according to the report. Fourteen to fifteen percent of this age group were found to have low well-being, compared to just 4 percent of eight year olds.
But The Children’s Society warns that we should not dismiss the drop in well-being in the early teens as a normal and inevitable part of growing up.
The charity, which quizzed more than 42,000 eight to 17 year olds, argues that we all have a part to play in boosting children’s well-being. It has launched a guide for parents full of tips and advice about boosting family well-being.
'The well-being of our future generation in the UK is critical'
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: 'The well-being of our future generation in the UK is critical. So it is incredibly worrying that any improvements this country has seen in children’s well-being over the last two decades appear to have stalled.
'These startling findings show that we should be paying particular attention to improving the happiness of this country’s teenagers. These findings clearly show that we can’t simply dismiss their low well-being as inevitable ‘teen grumpiness’. They are facing very real problems we can all work to solve, such as not feeling safe at home, being exposed to family conflict or being bullied.
'It is so important that we all, from governments to professionals to parents, talk, listen and take seriously what children and teenagers are telling us.'
'Being unhappy is definitely not an inevitable part of growing up'
The Good Childhood Report 2013 also sheds light on what life is like for children living in poverty, and shows that children who have experienced deprivation are likely to have significantly lower well-being.
The report follows on from the first Good Childhood Report in 2012, again finding that family relationships are key to children’s well-being. Children said that having loving and supportive family relationships are important. Having a reasonable level of choice and autonomy – particularly for teenagers – was vital.
Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who is supporting the report, said:
'Interestingly, this report suggests that, when it comes to well-being, 14 and 15 year olds fare worse. It is so important that we don’t simply dismiss this dip as an inevitable part of growing up, that it is just teenagers being teenagers. We really must talk to this generation and listen to what they have to say.
'Children and teenagers deserve proper support, choices and a decent say in their own lives. Being unhappy is definitely not an inevitable part of growing up. We owe it to our children to help them flourish as much as possible.'
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Notes to editors
The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.