The Good Childhood Index is the latest development in our well-being research programme

Teenage girl looking directly to camera

The Good Childhood Index is our new index of subjective well-being for children aged eight and over. We wanted to develop an index of children’s well-being that is statistically robust and covers the main aspects of children’s lives, including those identified by children themselves.

Developed by us in 2010, The Good Childhood Index is a short questionnaire that can be completed by children themselves and used to measure well-being overall and in relation to 10 aspects of life. It includes a single-item measure of happiness with life as a whole, a five-item measure of  overall life satisfaction, and questions about happiness with 10 different aspects of life including happiness with school life and relationships with family and friends.

Overall well-being

We ask children: 'How happy are you with your life as a whole?'

This question is useful for getting a basic picture of how children feel about their lives overall, and mirrors the life satisfaction measure of personal well-being in the ONS Measuring National Well-being Programme (for which we provide the data for children). 

In addition to this, we include a multi-item measure of life satisfaction, consisting of five items derived from a scale originally developed in the US by Scott Huebner:

  • I have what I want in life
  • I have a good life
  • I wish I had a different kind of life
  • My life is just right
  • My life is going well

The Good Childhood Index

As part of our well-being research, we asked children what they felt were the most important things that they needed to have a good life. From this we identified 10 domains that were (a) identified as important by children and young people, and (b) appear to be most strongly linked to their overall well-being. This forms the basis for our Good Childhood Index.

We ask children ‘how happy are you with…’     

  1. Your relationships with your family?
  2. The home that you live in?
  3. How much choice you have in life?
  4. Your relationships with your friends?
  5. The things that you have (like money and the things you own)?
  6. Your health?
  7. Your appearance (the way that you look)?
  8. What may happen to you later in your life (in the future)?
  9. The school that you go to?
  10. The way that you use your time?

Our analysis found that together these factors explained over half of the variation in overall well-being, as described in our report Understanding children’s well-being.

These questions are all based on existing measures that have been tested with children in different parts of the world, primarily in the US and Australia, and in the UK through our research programme.

Testing the index with children

We know that The Good Childhood Index works well for boys and girls and for children of different ages in the UK from age 8 and above. There is no upper age limit, although questions about school can be left out for those who have left school. The index assumes a reading age of about 8.

We refined wording where questions were not initially easily understood by children. Children tell us they enjoy being asked these questions and that the topics are important to them.

How we use the results

Measuring children’s overall well-being is an essential first step to understanding how children are feeling about their lives and what they feel needs to change.

We have identified  a number of differences in well-being, including differences by gender and age. Our research can help us to pinpoint the factors that appear to be most important for children’s well-being and should therefore be the greatest priority.

We use the evidence that is collected in making and directing our influencing decisions about national and regional policy and in how resources available are used in direct practice with children. The findings from our annual report are extremely useful for focusing attention on particular actions that could be taken to make the lives of children across the country better.

With the results, we identify recommendations for policy and practice and we work within our own services and with others to fight for positive changes to children’s lives.

Using the index

If you would like to use the index you can obtain a copy of the short questionnaire by e-mailing Wellbeing.SharedAdmin@childrenssociety.org.uk 

The questionnaire can be used in school and completed by children during lessons.

It’s free to use provided acknowledgement of the source is made.

If the index is being used for research or evaluation purposes, children need to be assured of the confidentiality and anonymity of their responses.

Read the latest findings from the Good Childhood Index