Children’s Well-being Indicators

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The Quality of Childhood working group in the European Parliament held a conference this month on children’s subjective well-being. The main aim of the conference is to contribute in the policy debate in order to develop policy of childhood and protect children’s rights in the EU, it is highly important to have a clear overview on the condition of children’s well-being in the Member States. This event gave a better understanding of children’s general condition, which can help to improve children’s lives.

The conference was hosted by two members of the European Parliament Agnes Jongerius from the Socialist and Democrats Party and Nathalie Griesbeck from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats. The theme presented was a new worldwide research on children’s well-being called Children’s Worlds. The report about the research was released on the day of the conference. The researchers made the survey in 15 countries including developed and developing countries as well. In Europe seven countries were participating in the project such as Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Poland, Estonia, Norway and Romania. The survey examined around 50.000 children in various countries around the world.

The speakers of the conference were invited from the research group to introduce the crucial points of their project. The first speaker, Ferran Casas, professor of Social Pedagogy at University of Girona, presented the objectives and methods of the research. The professor described the data collecting process that started in 2009, then he mentioned the main areas of the research which, among others, included questions about the children’s family, money, school, friends, free time, self-knowledge, overall happiness and satisfaction. The speciality of the survey is that it took under consideration the children’s own point of view about their lives. There were three targeted age-groups: 8, 10 and 12 years old children who were involved in every country. The researchers needed to adapt the questionnaire to the cultural environment of each country they surveyed, but the questions remained 80 % the same everywhere.

Following the introduction of the project, Sabina Andresen (professor at Goethe University, Frankfurt, Germany) gave a summary on the areas of children’s home, family and friends. It was discovered that most of the children in the Western countries have a second home that generally means the father’s home. The indicator of satisfaction with family and home has shown significantly higher points among the younger age-groups than among the 12 year-olds, although for example in Romania there is no significant difference between the age-groups in these areas, that means in this country family has its importance for children in all age-groups. According to the research, friendship also plays a very important role in children’s lives.

The third speaker, prof. Jonathan Bradshaw (professor of Social Policy at the University of York and Durham University) talked about the issues of material well-being, time use, schools and overall satisfaction of the children. In the field of material possession Norway has the highest rates. Besides, it turned out that children are less satisfied with school in the EU than in the developing countries. He concluded that the well-being varies in every country, although there are few similarities between the countries. One of the most important is that in each country boys are more satisfied with themselves than girls given the fact that from an early age, girls start to be concerned about their physical appearance. In addition, children become less satisfied by aging and in general they seem happier in the areas of family, friends, health and material possession than in the areas of school, body and living conditions.

The research will be continued with the strong willingness to survey children’s well-being in other countries in Europe and all over the world. It is important to gain more knowledge on children’s perspective on their well-being and spread it in order to make evidence based policy. For us, young people all over the world from WYA, it is also good to have data coming from the children’s point of view, because we can work easier for a better society which begins in the family. Children’s first understanding on their intrinsic dignity is experienced in the family. That is why family needs to have privileged position all the time in society.