Children know the most about their daily lives than anyone else so it is time to start learning from children. On October 11, the Schubert Center hosted Asher Ben-Arieh, PhD and Sabine Andresen, PhD for “How Children View Their Worlds: Children’s Subjective Well-Being in 19 Countries.” Continuing the Schubert Center’s 2016-2017 Conversation Series, Ben-Arieh and Andresen discussed the empirical findings from the Children’s World study which is an international survey of children’s well-being that has collected data from 54,000 children in 19 countries. Their lectures highlighted why learning from children is important to our understanding of their well-being.
Dr. Asher Ben-Arieh, Director of the Haruv Institute and Professor at the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, began by highlighting changes in the field of child welfare. In fact, the child welfare has moved to child well-being. Child well-being is a relatively new concept that does not even translate in many other languages and has led given more energy and ideas for a child-centered perspective. The field has shifted away from focusing on children’s basic needs and survival to a focus on children’s quality of life and incorporating children’s rights into how we understand their well-being. With this shift came the need to directly ask children about their needs, emotions, relationships, and contributions. The Children’s Word International Survey of Child Well-Being is a world-wide research survey that asks children questions about their subjective well-being and daily activities. The survey was conducted in 19 countries with approximately 89,000 children. Survey questions included asking children about their happiness; safety; relationships with parents, siblings, teachers, and friends; and activities. Results from the survey show that variations of children’s subjective well-being exist across countries. These variations allow researchers to explore what factors are associated with well-being in a variety of cultures and languages, why some children are happier in some countries and not others, and what can be done to improve children’s well-being across the globe. Results from the survey suggest that bullying, children’s perceptions of safety, and children feeling respected and that their voices are being heard are important for predicting children’s subjective well-being.
Dr. Sabine Andresen, Professor at Goethe University Frankfurt, discussed the connections between family well-being and child well-being. Family relationships are important for developing child well-being and children’s overall satisfaction. The Children’s World study assessed children’s subjective views of their own families and relationships. Dr. Andresen’s research used the results from the Children’s World study to investigate how different family structures vary in different countries and if these differences are tied to measures of well-being. She noted that the survey fell short as family is not a single, definable concept, as family structure is varied. However all definitions of “family” involve a level of care being provided. Her analysis suggests that family structures and family relationships are important to children’s well-being. Children living with both parents are happier with their family relationships and family life in all countries. Children living with single parents are affected by socio-demographic factors, as single parents tend to have severe pressures in their life, such as financial insecurities. In addition, there are not many differences between children living with single parents or children in separated families. Children in separated families report being less satisfied with the people they live with and tend to feel less safe at home. Dr. Andresen provided more context to these findings, by presenting qualitative data she had collected with families living in Germany. In these interviews children felt that having two parents offered more opportunities and that having the ability to make choices and doing things as a family was very important to their well-being.