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Children ‘happier if families get on’

by Pat Ashworth

FAMILY conflict makes for unhappy children, concludes new research from the Children’s Society and the University of York. Just under 7000 children aged ten to 15 were surveyed, and it is believed to be the most comprehensive study of childhood well-being ever to be undertaken in the UK.

Previous surveys “have tended to focus on problems seen by adults as measures of well-being rather than the views of young people”, the researchers say. The children were asked to evaluate their quality of life on a scale of one to ten from 100 questions such as: “How happy are you with your friends/family/health? How happy are you about doing things away from home/about how you spend your time/about what will happen to you in later life?”

Those who felt their family got along well together scored much more highly than those who did not, irrespective of their family situation. Seven per cent of children in Years 6, 8, and 10 were significantly unhappy; boys tended to be a bit happier than girls; and as young people got older they tended to become less happy with their lives, the survey found.

Children were found to be least happy with their appearance (17.5 per cent) and confidence (16 per cent). Among girls, 21 per cent were unhappy with their appear­ance, compared with 12 per cent of boys. Black African, Caribbean, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi children were significantly happier with their appearance than white children.

Fourteen per cent of children were unhappy with their local area; 12 per cent were unhappy with schoolwork; and ten per cent were unhappy with the amount of free­dom and choice they had in life, and about their expectations for the future.

The report will be followed by a series of more detailed reports over the next two years, and the launch of a “Well-being index” as a baseline for repeat surveys, to ensure that the issue stays at the top of the political agenda.

The chief executive of the Chil­dren’s Society, Bob Reitemeier, described the new report as “a stark reminder that our actions as adults can have a profound impact on our children’s well-being — and the importance of listening to what children are telling us”.

The Society’s report A Good Childhood was commended by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year for asking for “a coherent vision of how human beings grow and become capable of giving and deserving trust” (News, 6 February 2009).

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