Ask the children: overview of children's understandings of wellbeing

Children Australia

How do kids define well-being? This was the starting point for a this study that aims to make kids' views known to the public and to decision-makers. It explores the views of 126 children and young people, and reveals some surprising facts about what makes up and affects kids’ sense of well-being.

Most research on children’s well-being defines well-being in terms of what is negative in children’s lives. It focuses on topics such as child health problems, child abuse and neglect or risk-taking behaviour. The consequence of this is that we know more about what we don’t want for our children than what we do want. This is reflected in policy and service provision that responds to vulnerability rather than promoting positive standards for children.

This approach is out of step with an increasing body of evidence showing that the best way to prevent negative outcomes for children is to promote well-being throughout their lives, rather than only responding to vulnerability and crisis. We need to know about and respond to both the positive and negative in children’s lives. The other limitation in the well-being literature is the little that is known about what children and young people identify as well-being, what it looks like and the factors which affect their sense of it. This includes whether children and young people think about well-being in both positive or negative terms and, whether they integrate these feelings in their life.

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