CHILDREN who lack basic material goods are five times more
likely to report low levels of well-being than those who lack none,
new research suggests.
The Good Childhood Report 2013 is the product of an continuing
collaboration between the Children's Society and the University of
York. Since 2005, 42,000 children and young people aged eight to 17
have taken part in the researchers' surveys. Last year's report
warned that half-a-million children in the UK suffered from low
levels of well-being (
News, 13 January 2012).
Earlier research suggested that household income had only a
small association with children's well-being. But a new approach,
based on measuring whether children had a list of ten material
goods (which includes pocket money, a family car, and family
holiday), yielded much stronger links. Children lacking five or
more items from the index were five times more likely to have low
well-being than those lacking none.
They were 13 times more likely to disagree with the assertion:
"I feel safe at home"; nine times more likely to disagree with:
"Overall I have a lot to be proud of"; and four times more likely
to say that their health was bad or very bad. It has been estimated
that these "materially deprived" children constitute about five per
cent of all eight- to 15-year-olds.
Children participating in the research were asked questions
exploring their happiness, life satisfaction, and psychological
well-being. The report concludes that about four-fifths of the
children aged ten to 15 were "flourishing" - satisfied with their
lives and finding them worthwhile. About ten per cent, however, had
low levels of well-being.
Between the ages of eight and 15, children's well-being dipped
"significantly". One in seven 14- and 15-year-olds was found to
have "low well-being", compared with one in 20 of
Personal appearance is a problem. The researchers write: "There
is a large drop in happiness with appearance between the ages of
eight and 12, which continues at a low level for 13-, 14- and
15-year-olds, and then increases again at 16/17."
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children's Society,
cautioned against dismissing teenagers' lower well-being as
"grumpiness". "They are facing very real problems we can all work
to solve, such as not feeling safe at home, being exposed to family
conflict, or being bullied.
"It is so important that we all, from governments to
professionals to parents, talk, listen, and take seriously what
children and teenagers are telling us."
In addition to money and possessions, the factors with the
closest association to well-being are the extent to which children
enjoy choice and autonomy. Financially deprived children were eight
times more likely to be unhappy about the amount of choice they
had, and about family relationships.
The report explores actions that could be taken to improve
children's well-being, suggesting that factors such as material
deprivation are amenable to national and local policy. The
Children's Society has launched a guide to give parents advice
about boosting family well-being.
'Free school meals for all'
FREE school meals should be extended to all primary
school children, starting with those in the most deprived areas, an
independent review has recommended, writes a staff
The School Food Plan was commissioned by the Education
Secretary, Michael Gove, and written by two chefs, John Vincent and
Henry Dimbleby, who are the founders of the London-based Leon
The Children's Society, which has campaigned for free
school meals for children in poverty, said that the report was
"fantastic news". Its chief executive, Matthew Reed, said: "The
plan recognises that 700,000 children from very low-income working
families are not allowed free school meals, and cannot afford to
pay for them. The School Food Plan makes a watershed
recommendation, that the Government seriously considers extending
entitlement to free meals so these children do not keep missing
out." The Government has said that it will investigate extending
the free-school-meal entitlement.
The charity has recommended using the roll out of the
Universal Credit system to extend free school meals to all
One of the authors of the report, Mr Dimbleby, has
called for head teachers to ban packed lunches. He said that about
two-thirds of packed lunches contained confectionery, and that
packed lunches were nearly always less nutritious than a cooked