Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The role of children in measuring their own well-being

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, states that a ‘child who is capable of forming his or her own views (has) the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child’ (OHCHR).

The application of subjective indicators to measure child well-being have somewhat been inspired by this article in the CRC and their usage has been the subject of much debate. Relying on children to effectively communicate and capture their own sense of well-being has been seen as problematic and arguments against it are commonly based on two main points. Firstly, adults know better than children and as a result they don’t need to be consulted and secondly, children are not capable of articulating their feelings (The New Economics, 2009). Also as stated by the OECD, little is known about the policy amenability of child measures of subjective well-being (OECD, 2009).

The applicability of these arguments does depend on the age of the child. Whilst for very young children they may be valid, evidence shows that children slightly older than preschool age do know what is important to them and that therefore they can provide insightful information that is relevant and important for policy development. Additionally the world of children today is very different to that of the adults who care for them or who comment on their well-being and therefore it may equally be argued that their perceptions are not wholly relevant (The New Economics, 2009).

Children’s perceptions of life and how they feel do differ from those of adults who may be more conditioned or influenced by experiences over the years. In this regard, it is pertinent that measurements take this into consideration and the inclusion of positive as well as negative indicators in child subjective well-being measurements, which allow for assessment of well-being and ill-being, could be argued to be more appropriate and less directive of results.

OECD, 2009, Doing better for children, Chapter 2 ‘Comparative Child Well-being across the OECD’, http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/19/4/43570328.pdf
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm#art5
The New Economics, 2009, A guide to measuring children’s well-being, http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/guide-measuring-children%E2%80%99s-well-being

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