Posted: 14 May 2014

Investigating children's well-being

The recent UNICEF Report Card 11 ranked the UK 16 out of 29 developed countries for children’s well-being. 

As a result of our pioneering programme of well-being research, we’ve become experts in field of children’s well-being, and were delighted when the House of Commons Education Select Committee undertook an inquiry into the subject.

We provided written evidence based on the research findings outlined in our most recent Good Childhood Report (interactive version, web page), which looked in-depth at subjective well-being, a measure of how satisfied children feel with their lives. 

Is children’s well-being just nonsense?

Our research into children’s well-being is based on what children think is important in their lives and underpinned by a belief in the inherent importance of listening to what children have to say. 

A child’s sense of satisfaction and self-worth affects their immediate happiness, their educational achievement, their aspirations for the future and the likelihood of them engaging in drug or alcohol misuse. 

Poor well-being early in life can herald a series of more serious, long term problems in adult life. If we listen to what matters to children we can develop early intervention policies that can make a real difference to a young person’s life.

Relationships, choice and money

From our research we know that children are more likely to have low well-being if they:

  • don’t have positive family relationships
  • have little choice or don’t feel listened to
  • don’t have enough in terms of money and possessions

In particular, we are concerned that children’s well-being will suffer that child poverty is projected to rise significantly between now and 2020.

We found that well-being declines between age 8-15, with a particular dip around age 14- 15. This is of particular concern because this is a time when young people are making decisions that affect the rest of their lives. 

Well-being is no longer rising

Research shows that from 1994 to 2008, well-being steadily increased. However this trend has halted and may even have started to reverse. 

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of measuring subjective well-being in a time of austerity. Listening to how children feel is not a frivolous act of benevolence rather it enables the government to ensure their services are effective and preventative. 


We believe in listening to the voice of the child. Our research suggests that by doing so we gain insight into how we can improve positive outcomes for children. 

In addition to a number of practical recommendations, in our submitted evidence we urged the government to measure the subjective well-being of vulnerable groups of children, including children in poverty, children at risk of abuse and unaccompanied and migrant children. 

The committee is now producing a report in response to the written and oral evidence. They will make recommendations based on the evidence that that have received and heard and government will respond to those recommendations.

By Rebecca Young - Policy team

Plain text

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.