Few people would disagree with the notion of promoting child well-being. And yet there are many different ideas about what exactly this means. Some view childhood as a developmental phase in preparation for adulthood; this view focuses on future well-being, sometimes referred to as well-becoming. The Children’s Worlds project takes a different outlook. It focuses on childhood as a life stage in its own right, and on children’s own views on their lives and well-being in the present. Children’s Worlds is the first global study of childhood from a child’s perspective. It began in 2010 with a small unfunded pilot project and has developed, with the Jacobs Foundation's support, to gather the views of more than 200,000 children in over 40 countries across five continents. This report presents the first findings from the third and largest wave of the study undertaken between 2016- 2019, covering 35 countries with such diverse contexts as Namibia, Nepal and Norway. Central to the project is the concept of ‘well-being’. Children’s Worlds focus is children’s day-to-day feelings of happiness and sadness; their satisfaction with their life as a whole and different aspects of it; their feelings of safety, being cared for, autonomy, and being listened to; and their hopes and expectations for the future. The subjective well-being of adults has been extensively researched for at least half a century, from the seminal work of Wilson (1967) and Andrews and Withey (1976) in the US, to the World Happiness Reports summarising adult life satisfaction across the globe (Helliwell et al., 2020). Research on children’s subjective well-being has lagged behind. In the first decade of the new millennium this gap began to be filled by studies in individual countries (see Proctor et al., 2009 for a review). It is only in the last ten years that this field has expanded to include comparative work across many countries. Studies such as the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study (HBSC) (Currie et al., 2012) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), have included several subjective questions in recent waves. However, neither covers the full range of aspects of children’s lives and neither includes a broad selection of countries across continents and different levels of national economic wealth. The current wave of the Children’s Worlds study addresses both of these evidence gaps.
Published: August 2020