Child Indicators Research, 12(1): Young Children's Perceptions of Their Lives and Well-Being, pp 141-160

There is a growing amount of evidence on children’s subjective well-being in general, but research on this topic with younger children is still scarce. In the UK, Wave 4 of the Millennium Cohort Study asked questions about positive and negative affect to a nationally representative sample of over 13,000 children aged around seven years old. The study also contains other information reported by children about their friendships, family relationships, experiences of school and of being bullied; and extensive data gathered from parents across four survey waves starting when the child was nine months old. This paper analyses the extent to which variations in children’s positive and negative affect (happiness and sadness) at the age of seven years old are associated with contemporaneous factors reported by children (e.g. bullying) and parents (e.g. household income, parent-child relationships). It also analyses the extent to which socio-economic and family factors earlier in childhood can predict children’s affective subjective well-being at seven years old. A comparison is made between findings for affective subjective well-being and for emotional and behavioural difficulties. The analysis identifies important differences in factors associated with variations in positive affect, negative affect and emotional and behavioural difficulties. The paper considers the implications of these findings for future research and also in terms of the potential to improve children’s experience of childhood.