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The Good Childhood Report 2016



Over the last decade we have asked over 60,000 children how they think their lives are going

Two girls sitting on steps smiling

The Good Childhood Report 2016

Over the last decade we have asked over 60,000 children how they think their lives are going

The Good Childhood Report 2016 is our fifth in-depth study into children’s well-being.


What is children’s subjective well-being?

Subjective well-being is about children’s own assessments of how their lives are going.

Subjective well-being consists of two key elements:

Life satisfaction this relates to the evaluations that children make about their lives at a cognitive level, and comprises judgements about life as a whole, as well as judgements about different aspects of life (eg happiness with family relationships).

The experience of positive and negative emotions at a particular point in time.


We produce the report in partnership with the University of York as part of a ground-breaking research .

A group of boys

This year's findings

There is a growing gap in happiness between girls and boys.

Girls are less happy than they used to be, we have seen more 10 to 15 year old girls unhappy with their lives over a five year period.

Children’s direct experiences affect their well-being more than factors further removed from them.

 

 

Download the report

Endorsements

We are delighted to have celebrities and leading well-being experts supporting this year's Good Childhood Report.

See what they have to say about our report.

Jessie J, singer-songwriter

Jessie J




'So many girls struggle fitting in but should never feel ugly or worthless due to pressures of looks. It's an awful way to feel. It has to change.'

Read more from Jessie J
'I was so sad and shocked to read The Good Childhood Report that shows increasing numbers of girls are feeling ugly and worthless because of pressure with the way they look.

So many girls struggle fitting in but should never feel ugly or worthless due to pressures of looks. It's an awful way to feel. It has to change.'

Read Jessie J's full story on our blog

Lucy Beresford, writer, broadcaster and psychotherapist

Lucy Beresford

'Girls and boys are telling us they need help. We need to listen and act now.'

Read Lucy's full endorsement
'The Good Childhood Report is an annual barometer for the well-being and happiness of children and young people in the UK and the forecast is not good. A steady rise in unhappiness and low self-esteem among so many girls shows an upward trend and action must be taken to reverse this, including better access to mental health support in schools. Girls and boys are telling us they need help. We need to listen and act now.'

Dr Miriam Stoppard OBE, doctor, author, television presenter and advice columnist

Dr Miriam Stoppard

'It is deeply worrying that 700,000 girls in this country are unhappy with their appearance – this has serious implications for their mental health and well-being and must act as a wake-up call.'

Read Miriam's full endorsement
'It is deeply worrying that 700,000 girls in this country are unhappy with their appearance – this has serious implications for their mental health and well-being and must act as a wake-up call. It is critical that, as The Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report shows, effective steps are taken. The Government needs to confirm its commitment to the needs of children and teenagers and make sure that all schools and colleges provide mental health and well-being support so problems are caught before they become crises.'

Tim Hobbs, Head of Analytics at the Dartington Social Research Unit

Tim Hobbs




'This report should make people sit up and pay attention. It is our country's most reliable insight into the subjective well-being of children and young people, in their own words.'

Read Tim's full endorsement
'This report should make people sit up and pay attention. It is our country's most reliable insight into the subjective well-being of children and young people, in their own words.

In some respects, there are grounds for a little optimism. The vast majority of children are generally happy with their life and optimistic about the future.

However, there are also some grounds for concern. One in ten are ‘languishing’ and there are some worrying downward trends - for girls in particular - who report a decreasing happiness with their life as a whole, and their appearance. This is all in the context in which English children are at the bottom of international league tables of subjective well-being.

This report opens up a whole raft of questions, for researchers, but importantly for local and nationally policy-makers committed to improving child well-being. This is why the Dartington Social Research Unit are partnering with The Children's Society to further explore how their measures of subjective well-being can sit alongside our suite of objective indicators of child well-being - the ChildrenCount Well-being Surveys - in order to inform strategic investment decisions in local areas.'

Gender gap in happiness

A significant gap in happiness between boys and girls has opened up in recent years.

Girls are becoming increasingly unhappy with their lives overall and especially with their appearance.

The proportion of 10-15 year old girls who are unhappy with their life as a whole has risen from 11% to 14% in just five years, while the situation for boys has remained unchanged at around 11%.

One in seven girls are unhappy with their lives overall, compared to one in nine boys.

1 in 7 girls are unhappy with their lives overall1 in 9 boys are unhappy with their lives overall

'Girls feel pressured by boys to look a particular way and that leads girls into depression or low self-esteem and makes girls feel ugly or worthless.'

-Teenage girl  

As girls get older they become increasingly unhappy with their appearance.

Older girls are also more likely to experience emotional health problems such as anxiety and depression.

There is an association between emotional problems and happiness with appearance.

A third of girls are unhappy with their appearance.

Well-being and mental health

Low well-being and mental ill- health are related concepts, but not the same thing.

In this report we explore how different aspects of well-being and different types of mental health problems relate to each other.

Unhappiness with life as a whole and unhappiness with appearance are particularly strongly associated with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

This link is worrying based on our findings that the number of girls who are unhappy with their appearance has risen in recent years.   

In comparison, unhappiness with school work is particularly strongly associated with the ‘behavioural’ mental health problems such as hyperactivity / inattention and conduct problems.

This will be of interest to those who work with boys of primary school age. Boys are more likely than girls to experience these problems when they are aged 10 and 11, but the gender gap disappears from age 12 onwards.   

This link is worrying based on our findings that the number of girls who are unhappy with their appearance has risen in recent years.   

Children’s experiences of where they live

We found that how children see their local area is clearly linked to their well-being.

The quality of local facilities, how safe they feel and their experience of local problems are all important.

Noisy neighbours and people drinking or taking drugs are the local problems with the strongest links to well-being.   

This adds to evidence that shows that children’s direct experiences are much more important for their well-being than factors more removed from them.

Factorsthat are known to be related to adults’ well-being are not necessarily linked to children’s well-being.


Factors that are known to be related to adults' well-being.

For example there are links between regional differences and the Index of Multiple Deprivation and adults’ well-being.

In our analysis of geographical differences in children’s well-being we found no evidence of regional differences or links to area-level deprivation.


Children experience well-being differently from adults

Children’s perceptions of their local area – including on the quality of local facilities, how safe they feel, how much freedom they perceive they have and their experiences of local problems – are linked to their well-being.

Here are a handful of factors that they cited.

people drinking or taking drugs graffiti noisy neighbours
neighbours arguing cars driving too fast dangerous dogs off leads

 


Quiz: What factors do you think children said matter most?

Of the six factors illustrated above, children said that two mattered more than others.

Which do you think they were?

Click or tap on one that you think was one of the two most influential.

You're right!Sorry, you're wrong. ‘Noisy neighbours’ and ‘people drinking or taking drugs’ were the two factors that children cited that had the closest relation to their well-being.

According to our research, here's a look at how the well-being rate of children who reported noisy neighbours differed from those who did not report that problem.

Table: Mean well-being scores for children
according to whether they reported 'noisy neighbours'

a graph indicating that having noisy neighbours corresponds to lower levels of well-being than children with no noisy neighbours

Read more in our full report


What needs to be done

 

The Government should introduce a legal requirement for schools and further education colleges across England to provide mental health and well-being support, including appropriate funds.

 

Local authorities across the UK should develop a process to make sure that children have a voice in decision making about their local areas.

 

The Government must reaffirm its commitment to understanding and acting on children’s well-being- including through a commitment to measuring children’s well-being in the future. Especially due to the links between well-being and mental health we have uncovered in this report.