The Good Childhood Report

'Fitting in at school can be very hard because people might judge you for nothing'
- Secondary school pupil


We know that it is critical to listen to what children have to say about their lives - what makes them happy and what we can improve for them and future generations.

Children's well-being is crucial, not just for their own lives, but for society as a whole. That's why each year we produce our well-being report - the most comprehensive research of its kind.


Our key findings

  • Pressure to fit in with society's expectations is making children unhappy
  • Alarming numbers of children are self-harming
  • Non-stop comments about appearance are harmful to girls' well-being
  • Outdated gender stereotypes are damaging to boys' and girls' happiness
  • Family relationships are particularly important for girls


Children's well-being over the years

Looking back over a longer timeframe than ever before, we can see that children's well-being is as low as it was 20 years ago.

Children's happiness with their lives rose steadily from 1995 to 2010, but then this progress started to reverse.

Find out how children's feelings about their family, school work and friends have evolved over two decades.

Childen are under pressure about how they look, their sexuality and how they behave

We looked more closely to identify differences in well-being between children


   Graphic with girls are more unlikely to be unhappy, have depression and self-harm written on    Graphic with children attracted to the same or both genders are more likely to be unhappy with their life on it

'I feel as if people are being awkward and rejecting me because I’m lesbian' - Secondary school girl


'Feeling not pretty enough or good enough as other girls did contribute towards my self-harming.' - Young person

   Graphic with almost 50% of children attracted to the same or both genders self harm written on    Graphic with twice as many girls self harm as boys written on it


If you're affected by self-harm, please read our self-harm advice

'Girls feel pressured by boys that they should look a particular way and that leads girls into depression or low self-esteem' - Secondary school girl

Gender stereotyping

Children are well aware of society's expectations about how boys or girls should behave.

The outdated gender stereotypes of expecting boys to be tough and that girls should wear the right clothes are damaging children's well-being.

'Normally they are treated the same, but people do sometimes say that people can't do something because they are a boy or a girl.' - Primary school girl

A side by side comparison of the qualities young people think
their friends most value in boys and in girls


A gif with expectations for girls and boys written on it

'Most of the time girls are expected to be really girly and wear lots of make-up instead of being able to play sports and be themselves'
- Secondary school girl

Children say they're bombarded by comments about appearance

Our report shows that comments and jokes about appearance are non-stop at school for a quarter of children. These are especially harmful to girls' well-being.

'Some girls wear make-up to fit in, if you don’t wear it you get insulted. If you do, you get told off by teachers' - Secondary school girl.

Read about children's experiences of comments around uniform, looks and sex in a normal school day.



The importance of family and friends

We examine whether family and friends can help protect children's well-being.

Findings show that family relationships make the biggest difference to children's well-being. Fewer arguments and feeling close with parents is particularly important for girls.

'I talk to my family and they help me get through it' - Primary school pupil

Time with friends outside of school is important too. Spending time with mates in the afternoon and weekends is really important for boys.

Read our parenting advice for more information.

'My friends help me by making me laugh' - Primary school boy

We listen. We support. We act.

We listen to what children tell us and fight for change. Read more about our recommendations.

Every child deserves to feel happy and included at school, at home and in our communities.

You can help, by supporting our work and making the change we need in society today.