In 2008, The Children's Society in partnership with the University of York developed its first ever survey into children and young people's subjective well-being. The survey was composed of a series of questions about overall well-being and well-being in particular areas of children and young people's lives.

The conceptual framework for the questionnaire was drawn from analysis of young people’s responses to the 2005 survey and centred on aspects of the self, relationships and the environments that children and young people inhabit. The questions were tested in focus groups, pilots and cognitive testing interviews with primary school children. The survey was then carried out with a representative sample of 7,000 10- to 15-year-olds in England.

Key findings

  • Most young people are satisfied with their lives. Only 7 to 10% could be said to be 'unhappy' or to have 'low well-being'.
  • As young people get older, they tend to become less happy with their lives.
  • Some groups of young people have lower well-being than others, including girls, young people who define themselves as 'disabled' or 'having difficulties with learning', those who have experienced a recent change in the adults with whom they live, those living with a lone parent, and those living in a family with no adult in paid employment.
  • That said, very little of the variation in well-being can be explained by the individual or family characteristics described above.
  • Much stronger links are found between well-being and the following factors:
     Family conflict – a simple measure of family harmony, 'my family gets along well      together', explains over 20% of the variation in overall well-being, while family structure  explains less than 2%
     Bullying – experience of bullying explains the same variation in overall well-being as all of the socio-demographic factors combined.
  • Young people are least happy with the future, the amount of choice they have, their appearance, the local area and school.

The presentation of these findings [ppt] at our launch event is still available to download as a powerpoint presentation.

Further information

If you would like to know more about the 2008 survey, please contact