Indicators of personal well being as subjective indicators of children s quality of life
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Indicators of personal well-being as subjective indicators of children’s quality of life. Research Institute on Quality of Life University of Girona (Spain). Ferran Casas http://www.udg.edu/eridiqv. 2nd International Conference of the ISCI Sydney, 3-4th November 2009.

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Indicators of personal well being as subjective indicators of children s quality of life l.jpg

Indicators of personal well-being as subjective indicators of children’s quality of life.

Research Institute on Quality of Life

University of Girona (Spain)

Ferran Casas

http://www.udg.edu/eridiqv

2nd International Conference of the ISCISydney, 3-4th November 2009


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Macro-social “subjective” data from children and adolescents?

  • May (subjective) information given by children and adolescents have any relevance at macro-social level?

  • Are subjective data from children and adolescents valid and reliable?

  • Subjective indicators from children should be only “measures”, or also other forms of evidence that enable us to assess where we stand and are going with respect to our values and goals, and to evaluate specific programs and their impact (Bauer, 1966)?

  • Should we systematically collect some kinds of self-reported information from children and adolescents to better understand some social dynamics and some social changes involving them?

  • Could that data from children and adolescents be useful for political decision-making?


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Macro-social “subjective” data from children and adolescents?

  • May (subjective) information given by adultshave any relevance at macro-social level?

  • Are subjective data from adultsvalid and reliable?

  • Subjective indicators from adultsshould be only “measures”, or also other forms of evidence that enable us to assess where we stand and are going with respect to our values and goals, and to evaluate specific programs and their impact (Bauer, 1966)?

  • Should we systematically collect some kinds of self-reported information from adultsto better understand some social dynamics and some social changes involving them?

  • Could that data from adultsbe useful for political decision-making?


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These questions referred to adults…. adolescents?

  • … were the point for the birth of the “social indicators movement” in the 60s (just delete “children and adolescents” in the previous slide…) (Casas, 1989).

  • Well-being, defined as perceptions, evaluations and aspirations of people (Campbell, Converse and Rodgers, 1976) was agreed to be relevant to understand the subjective components of the quality of life.

  • The point of view of all social agents involved is very important to understand complex social realities and to assess well-being of populations in concrete social and cultural contexts.

  • Are children and adolescents important social agents in any social dynamics?

  • Should we ask them for their perceptions, evaluations and aspirations, referred to some social dynamics and social changes (like we ask adults) we should understand better?


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Quality and quality of life adolescents?

  • Quality is referred to evaluations of the context of living and of the services provided.

  • Quality of life includes both, objective measures of observable conditions of living and perceptions and evaluations of overall life and of life domains (personal well-being measured with subjective instruments).

  • Quality of children’s and adolescents’ life can’t be properly understood and evaluated WITHOUT including measures of their own perceptions and evaluations. However, scientific research has much less experience measuring children’s QOL, than adults’


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Do we “accept” children’s and adolescents’ data? adolescents?

  • Only recently in the history of social sciences we have started to collect children’s and adolescents’ self-reported data to analyse in macrosocial perspectives.

  • We have long traditions (in psychology, pedagogy, paediatrics, and so on) collecting data from children for individual understanding. However, a feeling of “social and political relevance” of such data has been often missing in most of our societies.

  • When we have asked children and adolescents for their own perceptions and evaluations very often the DATA HAS NOT BEEN AS EXPECTED. Some times we have doubted about the reliability of data, sometimes we have doubted about the reliability of informants – the only evidence being that researchers WE did not have previous experience asking them…..


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Unexpected results and challenges: how to better understand younger generations? (I)

  • When 12 to 16 y.o. adolescents in European countries think about becoming 21 y.o. – what qualities they would like best to be appreciate for by other people?


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Unexpected results and challenges: how to better understand younger generations? (II)

  • Is there any relationship between parents and children satisfaction with life?



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Unexpected results and challenges: how to better understand younger generations? (III)

  • Why satisfaction with life and with most life domains continuously decreases during adolescence in most (or all) countries?


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Unexpected results and challenges: how to better understand younger generations? (IV)

  • To be with family members, including parents, is one of the preferred activities for 12 to 16 y.o. adolescents?

  • Is watching television another of their preferred activities?


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Preferred activities according 12 to 16 years old adolescents(Catalan sample N = 4945)

  • To be with friends 8,77

  • To practice hobbies 8,08

  • To listen to music 7,97

  • To surf in the Internet 7,73

  • To use a computer 7,66

  • To play sports 7,43

  • To be with the mother 7,09

  • To watch television 7,03

    0 to10 scale. Source: ERIDIQV, April 2006


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Research on children’s point of view adolescents(some examples):

  • Their opinion on the family (CRN, 1994; Van Gils, 1995).

  • Their own rights (Torney & Brice, 1979; Melton, 1980, 1983; Melton & Limber, 1992; Ochaita, Espinosa & Grediaga, 1994).

  • Their neighbourhood or city (Casas, 1996).

  • Their satisfaction with life, and with different life domains (self, family, school, friends, environment) (Huebner, 1994; Casas et al., 2000).

  • Their satisfaction with communication with adults referred to what they do with audio-visual media (Casas, 1998; Casas & Figuer, 2000).

  • Etc.


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The “Child Indicators Movement” adolescents

  • Ben-Arieh (2008) talks about the birth of the child indicators movement, which is based on:

    • The normative concept of children’s rights

    • The new sociology of childhood

    • Ecological theories of child development

    • and related to 3 methodological issues:

    • The emerging importance of the subjective perspective

    • The child as the unit of observation

    • The expanded use of administrative data and the growing variety of data sources.


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Well-being indicators and adolescentschildren’s rights

  • Indicators of material conditions of living (“objective” indicators): very important to assess Provision, Protection and Prevention.

    • Child poverty

    • Child deaths by injury

    • Teenage births

    • Child maltreatment deaths

    • Etc..

    • (how can we evaluate the “friendliness” of a city for children?)

  • Psychosocial indicators (“subjective” indicators): very important to assess Participation and Promotion.

    • Children’s own perceptions, evaluations and aspirations (opinions; understanding of their own rights; children’s satisfaction with life domains, with their city, with services, etc…; values they aspire to; etc…)

    • Perceptions and evaluations of adults about children

    • (how can we evaluate the attitudes of adult citizens towards children?)


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Articulating “objective” and “subjective” indicators of children’s and adolescents’ well-being (I)

  • Material well-being

    • Relative income poverty (% of children)

    • Households without jobs (% of children)

    • Reported deprivation (% low family affluence; % few educational resources; %fewer than 10 books in the home)

  • Health and safety

    • Health at age 0-1 (per 1000 dying before 1; % low birth weight)

    • Preventative health services (% immunized measles, DPT, polio)

    • Safety (deaths from accidents per 100.000 aged 0-19).

  • Educational well-being

    • School achievement at age 15 (reading literacy, mathematical literacy, science literacy)

    • Beyond basics (% 15-19 remaining in education)

    • The transition to employment (% 15-19 not in education, training or employment; % of 15 expecting low-skilled work)

      Adamson, P. (2007). Child Poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries. Report Card 7. Innocenti Research Centre. UNICEF.


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Articulating “objective” and “subjective” indicators of children’s and adolescents’ well-being (II)

  • Young people’s relationships

    • Family structure (% with single-parent; % in stepfamilies)

    • Family relationships (% eating main meal with parents once a week; % with parents spending time “just talking” to them)

    • Peer relationships (% report peer “kind and helpful”)

  • Behaviours and risks

    • Health behaviours (% who eat breakfast; % eat fruit daily; % physically active; % overweight)

    • Risk behaviours (% smoking; % drunk + twice; % using cannabis; % having sex by 15; % use condoms; teenage fertility rate)

    • Experience of violence (% involved in fighting; % reporting being bullied).

  • Subjective well-being

    • Health (% rating health “fair” or “poor”)

    • School life (% “liking school a lot”)

    • Personal well-being (% above midpoint on life satisfaction; % reporting negative personal well-being)

      Adamson, P. (2007). Child Poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries. Report Card 7. Innocenti Research Centre. UNICEF.


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Subjective indicators of children’s and adolescents’ well-being

Main recent reviews of the quality of life and well-being literature related to children and adolescents.

  • Andelman, R.B.; Attkisson, C.C.; Zima, B.T. & Rosenblatt, A.B. (1999). Quality of life of children: Toward conceptual clarity. In M.E. Maruisch: The use of psychological testing for treatment planning and outcomes assessment. London. LEA.

  • Pollard, E. & Lee, P.D. (2003). Child well-being: A systematic review of the literature. Social Indicators Research, 61, 1, 59-78.

  • Huebner, E.S. (2004). Research on assessment of life satisfaction of children and adolescents. Social Indicators Research, 66, 1-2, 3-33.


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Most used scales to measure children’s “subjective” well-being: (a) specific scales

  • Perceived Life Satisfaction Scale (PLSS) (Adelman et al., 1989).

  • Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS) (Huebner, 1991).

  • Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scales (MSLSS) (Huebner, 1994).

  • Quality of Life Profile– Adolescent version (QOLP-Q) (Raphael et al., 1996).

  • Comprehensive Quality of Life Scale – Students version (Com-QOL Students) (Cummins, 1999; Gullone & Cummins, 1999).

  • Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale (BMSLSS) (Seligson et al., 2003).

  • Personal Well-Being Index, version for school-age children and adolescents (PWI-SC) (Cummins & Lau, 2005).

  • Personal Well-Being Index, version for pre.school age children (PWI-PS) (Cummins & Lau, 2005).


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Most used scales to measure children’s “subjective” well-being: (b) non specific scales

  • Some scales used for overall population have also been administered to adolescents with acceptable results in some countries:

    • Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) (Diener et al., 1998).

    • Personal Well-Being Index (PWI) (Cummins, 1998; Cummins et al., 2003).

    • Fordyce’s Happiness Scale (FHS) (Fordyce, 1988).

  • Psychometric properties of some of the specific and non specific scales can be meet in Bender (1997) and in Gilman & Huebner (2001).

  • Correlations among all these scales are moderate or high in most cases.


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Some topics for discussion (I) well-being:

  • Qualitative approaches are also very useful to better understand how children and adolescents understand their own well-being (Camfield, 2008; Crivello et al., 2009; Holder & Coleman, 2009).

  • The influence of different social and cultural contexts on children’s and adolescents’ well-being is not yet well understood. It is often doubtful that influences are functioning in the same way then among adults.

  • Like among adults, interpersonal relationships are very important contributors to well-being among children and adolescents. However, children’s cultures are much more influenced than adults’ by the new relationships created using the new audiovisual media (information and communication technologies – ICTs).


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Some topics for discussion (II) well-being:

  • Our shared social representations of childhood rise biases in the ways we perceive and conceptualise what is good and what is bad for children, that is to say, what are children's social problems (as opposite to "private") and what is "good life" for childhood (for all our children's population) (Casas, 1998).

  • Three related social representations must be taken into account:

    • Social representations of childhood.

    • Social representations of which are children’s social needs and social problems.

    • Social representations on the acceptable ways to solve children’s social problems and social needs, and to promote their well-being and quality of life.


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Some topics for discussion (III) well-being:

  • Even scientists usually conceptualise childhood through the most usual social representations of childhood in our social-cultural context (Chombart de Lauwe, 1971; 1984; 1989; Casas, 1995; 1997).

  • Traditionally there has been a strong reluctance of social scientists to accept children's self-reported information as reliable (in agreement with the adult's social representation of children as not-yets - Verhellen, 1992; Casas, 1996). The consequences have been dramatic in some arenas, as for example judicial processes (Casas, 1997).

  • If we overview the research labelled children's quality of life studies, we find very few publications in which children have been asked anything.


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Some topics for discussion (III) well-being:

  • The most usual research in that field is about the attribution of needs, or the perceptions of quality, that adults (experts or parents) do about children.

  • That is a misuse of the concept "quality of life", because it betrays the basic definition of the concept: people own perceptions, evaluations, and aspirations. So, in practice, what is referred as research on children's quality of life, some times is not truly on the quality of their lives but on other's perceptions or opinions about their lives.

  • Disagreements between children's perspectives about their own lives and adult's perspectives about children's lives are an important dimension of social life.

    • Adolescents and youngsters in general are well-known as much more "risk-takers" than adults; having new amusing experiences, knowing their limits, is very important for them.

    • For adults "security" is much more important.

    • For youngsters, security measures imposed by adult may be considered simply limitations to their freedoms and "must not" be taken into account; and so on.


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Some topics for discussion (IV) well-being:

  • We must not forget that the psychosocial context in which such disagreement happens is based in both, adults and youngsters, considering each others as different social groups or categories.

  • Their behaviours happen in what social psychologists call processes of inter-group categorial differentiation (Casas, 1995). It is a big challenge to try to deeply understand why adults we are so "interested" in keeping children and teenagers as a completely differentiated social category, instead of trying to build up social consensus with the new generations. That is also one of the basic points to understand why adults we are often so reluctant when we speak about the need of increasing children's social participation.


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Some topics for discussion (V) well-being:

  • It is adult's orientation and competence that raises the difference of children's competence(Garbarino, Stott et al., 1989).

  • It will be adults’ orientation and political priorities that will raise the difference of a better understanding with the younger generations. Taking their perspectives as a serious component of social life involves systematically collecting data about their social conditions of living, including self-reported data about their perceptions, evaluations and aspirations (on their lives, on their society, on the services they get from their city and their society).


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