The relationship between a child’s exposure to disadvantages and their well-being levels

Teenage boy with hood up against wall, looking teary-eyed

Our Good Childhood Report 2017 investigates how a range of 27 serious problems – or disadvantages - are affecting children's well-being. In particular, it looks at how different issues combine to have a more damaging impact on children’s well-being.

We asked children and parents about a list of 27 disadvantages that they may have experienced in the last five years. These relate to family relationships, household circumstances, material factors and neighbourhood experiences among children aged 10 to 17 years old in the UK. This list was selected because existing research evidence shows each of them to be related to negative outcomes for children.

Common problems and problems that are rarer

The findings show the shocking scale of some of these serious problems - from the 200,000 children aged 10 to 17 experiencing emotional neglect, to more than a third living in families struggling to pay the bills.

Some of the problems were relatively common while others were more rare.

Fear of crime is the most common problem of all, affecting 2.2 million children. Almost two fifths (38%) of children are worried that they’ll fall victim to two or more different types of crimes. Furthermore, children who are worried about crime are three times more likely to be unhappy (21%) than those who aren’t (7%).

There are also some less common problems that are important for the well-being of children who experience them. Emotional neglect has the biggest impact of all.

Problems mounting up

Just under a million children aged 10 to 17 are not facing any of these problems – a minority of children. A more widespread experience, affecting more than half of teenagers, is having have three or more serious problems in their lives.

One million children have seven or more serious problems. These young people are ten times more likely to be unhappy with their lives than those with none.

Children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are likely to have more of these serious problems than white children.

When all of these issues are looked at in isolation, almost all have a negative impact on children’s well-being on their own. But some children are contending with several of these issues at once.

Our findings reveal the devastating impact that serious problems can have on how children feel about their lives. The evidence clearly points to a cumulative impact on well-being when problems mount up.

read more about our findings in the good childhood report