Posted: 12 January 2016

A decade of well-being research

Last month, the research team hosted The Children’s Well-being Seminar together with the Office for National Statistics and the Cabinet Office at Admiralty House. The half-day seminar was packed with interesting talks on research findings about children’s well-being in the UK, and what the government is doing to promote child well-being.

Larissa from our team presented on our well-being research programme:

The beginning

Our well-being research began in 2005, when we realised that subjective measures of children’s well-being were almost non-existent.

At the time there was increasing information on objective measures- like poverty levels, homelessness and indicators of health and education. These are useful things to know, but they are external measures about children’s lives and do not capture how children feel or what they think.

This was a problem, because objective measures do not adequately reflect children’s voices.

We wanted to capture children’s own views about their lives and experiences. That’s why we started up our well-being research programme and began working on subjective measures of children’s well-being.

We developed The Good Childhood Index which asks children how happy they are about different aspects of their lives.

Our research so far

With over 10 years of experience, we have become research leaders on children’s subjective well-being.

We have an ongoing data collection programme on national levels of child well-being, and our recent results were published by the Office for National Statistics last October.

Public Health England recently included our measures of subjective well-being in their guide to measuring well-being in children and young people.

Our work is also influencing research projects across the UK and beyond: subjective well-being questions have been included in the Millennium Cohort Study, a project which follows the lives of around 19,000 children born in the UK in 2000-2001, and in the Children’s Worlds project which has collected data on children’s subjective well-being across 15 countries.

What are our key findings so far?

Every summer, we publish The Good Childhood Report which gives an up-to-date overview of children’s well-being in the UK. We estimate that between 5% and 10% of children aged 10 to 15 in England have low levels of subjective well-being, meaning they are not satisfied with their life.

The Children’s Worlds  survey has revealed that England is doing particularly poorly when it comes to children’s self-confidence, happiness about their appearance (particularly for girls), and relationships with teachers.

The Future of Our Well-Being Research

At The Children’s Well-being Seminar, we heard from the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education about the ways in which they are working towards improving children’s well-being.

This is within the context of how the current UK government is focusing on improving children’s life chances. Subjective well-being must be a core part of that, so we can make sure children’s voices are heard.

Our research on subjective well-being is becoming increasingly important and influential, but there’s more work to be done.

Larissa and I in the research team, together with our collaborators from the University of York, are working hard towards this year’s Good Childhood Report.

In my next blog, I will be talking about our developing work on children’s subjective well-being and mental health. Stay tuned.

By Emily Emmott - Research team
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