The Good Childhood Report 2023
Our Good Childhood Report 2023 shows the latest trends in children's wellbeing. Our research seeks to understand how young people feel about different aspects of their lives. This year, 10% of the children aged 10 to 17 who completed our household survey in May and June 2023 had low wellbeing, and almost a third were unhappy with at least one specific area of their lives.
The Children's Society
Children’s wellbeing over time
We use responses from the Understanding Society survey to look at how children’s wellbeing is changing over time.
In 2020-21, children’s (aged 10 to 15) mean scores for happiness with their life as a whole, their friends, appearance, school, and schoolwork were all significantly lower than when the survey began in 2009-10. Family was the only aspect of life where there had been no significant change in children’s mean happiness score since the survey started.
In 2020-21, on average, children were most happy with their family and least happy with their appearance.
The latest data seem to paint a worrying picture for girls, with their mean happiness scores for each of the six measures significantly lower in 2020-21 than in 2009-10. Also, on average girls were still significantly less happy with their appearance than boys, which has been the case since the survey started.
What have we learnt?
Over the last few years, children and young people have been growing up in the UK in the context of a global pandemic, followed by big increases to the cost of living. The Good Childhood Report 2023 looks at how young people feel about their lives and the future, with some clear areas for attention.
While the majority of children and young people seem to lead relatively happy lives, there is a small, but important, proportion of children and young people who are unhappy with one or more aspect of their life.
Children’s average happiness with all but one of the six Understanding Society measures
(life as a whole, friends, appearance, school, and schoolwork) was lower in the most recent wave (2020-21) than when the survey started in 2009-10. The only exception was family.
The Good Childhood Report 2023 shows that family is important for children’s wellbeing in several different ways:
In Understanding Society’s latest data (2020- 21) and in our household survey 2023, family was the aspect of life that children and young people were, on average, happiest with.
Analysis of both Understanding Society data from 2009-10 to 2020-21 and our household survey 2023 showed that family was the aspect of life most strongly related to children’s overall wellbeing (or being unhappy with life as a whole), echoing our previous research.
Analysis of Understanding Society data showed the importance of positive family relationships for children’s wellbeing, with children who did not feel supported by their family more than six times more likely to feel unhappy with their life as a whole (17.7%) as children who felt supported in most things (2.8%) by their family.
The our household survey 2023 explored how children and young people feel about some aspects of their future and issues in society:
- Having enough money was children and young people’s top worry from a list of seven issues important to their future.
- Of a separate list of nine issues in society, more children and young people were worried about rising prices.
- While many children and young people were optimistic about their own future, a much smaller proportion of them were positive about the future of the country and of the world.
These findings need to be acted upon. The Children’s Society has developed a set of policy recommendations together with children and young people.
Happiness is declining
There can be no further delay in prioritising improvements in children’s wellbeing and happiness with their lives. Families are facing unprecedented pressures. Many are at breaking point and urgently need a safety net.
Over 250 children and young people shared their ideas, experiences, and suggestions for what needs to change to improve children’s wellbeing to help create this year’s policy recommendations. Co-design with children and young people must be at the centre of all proposed reforms.
The our priority recommendations:
- Protecting children from the rising cost of living by renewing investment in social security for children through an increase to child benefits. As a minimum, the Government should target increases for the families facing the brunt of price rises by uplifting the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit and removing the two-child limit.
- Standing up for children to build hope and security for their futures by creating Cabinet- level posts of Minister for Children in both the UK and Welsh governments to share children’s views at the highest level of political decision making and champion children’s needs across all government departments.
- Creating a system that starts with prevention by understanding how children are doing. The Government should measure children’s subjective wellbeing at least annually and on a much larger national scale across England and Wales.
Taking responsibility for girls’ unhappiness by commissioning research without further delay. The Government needs to understand why young people, and especially girls, are more unhappy with their appearance, so that effective action can be taken.
- Enabling schools to support pupils’ wellbeing by expanding mental health support teams (MHSTs) to all schools with long-term funding. DHSC and DfE must make sure that no child in England goes without mental health and wellbeing support at school.
- Responding to the needs of parents, carers, and families by working with the voluntary and community sector. DHSC should pilot innovative parent and carer mental health and wellbeing support offers. These could work in partnership with MHSTs and family hubs, once available in all areas.
Download the reports
Download the full report at the top, or download the summary reports here: