Child Well-Being, Child Development and Family LivesThe James Seth Memorial Lecture 12 May 2009 Jane Aldgate OBE Professor of Social Care The Open University
What is well-being? Many different approaches and definitions ‘Well being is no less than what a group or groups of people collectively agree makes a good life’ (Ereat and Whiting 2008)
Different approaches to measuring well-being Includes: • Welfare indicators • Child’s welfare and relationships • Wellness/strengths developmental approach • Well-becoming and well-being • Practitioners using well-being indicators to assess and plan for children – Getting it right for every child • Children’s definitions of well-being
Welfare indicators York/Oxford definition 2009(Bradshaw et al.) 7 domains of well-being: • Income • Health • Education • Housing • Environment • Crime • Children in need
Children’s welfare and relationships: UNICEF’S definition From UNICEF (2007) Child poverty in perspective:An overview of child well-being in rich countries, Florence, UNICEF The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children - their health and safety, their material security,their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born
The wellness/strengths developmental approach • Ecological concept allows for many influences, such as family, school, peers, neighbourhood (Prillentensky and Nelson 2002) • Approach gets away from success/ failure model to progressing (Lorion 2000)
A more optimistic view of the potential for positive change in childhood • Stress in early years need not affect children permanently • With the right circumstances children can develop resilience • Children who miss out on particular experiences can make up ground • Healthy development can occur under a far wider range of circumstances than was thought possible in the past • Schaffer, R (1998), Making Decisions About Children, Oxford,Blackwell
Well-becoming (Ben Arieh 2001) • Investment on children’s well-being now will influence how they are as adults
Well-becoming: the Scottish Government’s Outcomes for Scotland’s Children • Confident individuals • Effective contributors • Successful learners • Responsible citizens We want all children to become
Practitioners’ use of well-being The Getting it right for every child practice model Scottish Government (2008) Guide to Getting it right for every child www.scotland.gov.uk/gettingitright
Common coordinated framework for planning and action across all agencies Child at the centre All children, young people and families get the help they need when they need it What is Getting it right for every child?
Influences on well-being – a developmental-ecological approach There are many influences on children’s well-being, including: • parents • wider family • school • play • space • community • children themselves
Well-being and people in the child’s world • Too simplistic to say parents are primarily responsible for children’s well-being • Children can be influenced by their relationships with many others in their environment, including other family, friends, other adults outwith the family • Good attachments significant in building trust and confident individuals
Attachment and children’s well-being Attachment applies to a specific aspect of a child and parent or carer relationship and how a child represents this internally Important because it shapes the way children relate to others: their social and emotional well-being
Attachment and caregiving Helpful to look at attachment from two perspectives: • The child’s attachment behaviour • The caregiver’s response
When does attachment occur? • From around 6 months old • In situations where children are stressed and fearful and seek the proximity of another who is seen as stronger and wiser • When fear is activated, attachment behaviour occurs • When attachment behaviour is activated in a young child, curiosity and exploration are suppressed • Loss and change will affect attachment but not necessarily permanently
The caregiver relationship • Children’s patterns of attachment will be influenced by the behaviour of their caregivers • The caregiver relationship refers only to those aspects of the caregiver’s behaviour that promote attachment behaviour in the child.
Sensitivity of caregivers • Early sensitivity very important – influences children’s internal working model • But little connection between physical contact and later attachment in premature babies • Sensitive caregivers can respond to individual children
Attachment and multiple carers Three schools of thought • 1. Hierarchy of attachment figures • 2. Children integrate all their attachments into an internal representation • 3. Attachment relationships are independent in their quality and influence
Multiple attachments New thinking emphasises children’s network of attachments: • 1.Does the person provide physical and emotional care? • 2. Is this person a consistent presence in the child’s social network? • 3. Is this person emotionally invested in the child? See Aldgate and Jones in Aldgate, J.Jones, D.P.H, Rose, W. and Jeffery, C.(eds) 2006, The Developing World of the Child, London, JKP
Well-being can change • Attachment patterns are established early in life but we now know that they can be modified by sensitive caregiving • Attachments and caregiving can be modified throughout the life cycle. • Children’s emotional well-being is not fixed
Children influencing their own well-being • Children as social actors - competent commentators on their well-being (Moss 2002) • Children have the right to comment on decisions affecting their well-being (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Children (Scotland) Act 1995) • Well-being should include definitions of what is important to children (Tisdall and Davies 2004; Hill et al. 2004) • Well-being is promoted by children being in control of their activities (Ben-Arieh 2002)
Findings from Time Well Spent* • Qualitative study of 24 ‘looked after’ children in Scotland (7-18 years old) • Children’s time diaries over 48 hours • Case studies of 6 individuals • Children’s evaluation of their participation built in * Aldgate, J. and McIntosh, M. 2006, Time Well Spent: a study of well-being and children’s daily activities, Edinburgh, Astron.
Children’s daily activities influence well-being • Sleep • Productive activities • Contributing to the community • Spiritual activities • Travel time • Personal care: eating, getting ready • Social interaction with carers/friends • Leisure/recreation From Ben-Arieh, A. (2002) in Vechiato et al, Evaluation in Child and Family Services, New York, Aldine de Gruyter
Relationships with adults important Children spent at least 3 hours a day with important adults. They liked: Talking to adults Eating with adults Getting advice from adults Being affectionate with adults (hugs important) But little time spent reading with children
Relationships with other children important • Breaks and lunchtimes important • Friends outside school vary- limited by distance • Eating together part of learning social behaviour • Children able to define use of space when with peers • Children value their friendships
Children need time alone • Being able to choose to be alone important • Listening to music highly significant • Reading less popular • Watching TV way of de-stressing for some
Can children enjoy being active? • 23 of 24 children in the study chose to do some sport • Time varied between 1-5 hours a day • Some needed encouragement - role of adults significant • Several children from adverse circumstances relished the opportunity for achievement and new experiences • Children test themselves in different ways: mountain-climbing, dancing, arts and crafts, sport
Giving children responsibility contributes to well-being A 10 year old school monitor: I stop dogs and cats coming into the playground or people who aren’t welcome to the school. I protect all the wee yins
The role of adults allowing children to take risks • Children in the study enjoyed testing themselves in different ways • Balance between keeping children safe and allowing them freedom away from adults • Controlled adventure can enhance self-esteem • How far can we return to the days of ‘The Famous Five’?
Children as competent commentators on their well-beingFrom Aldgate and McIntosh Time Well Spent • I’ve learnt how important the time I spend with people is • I was quite astonished at all the things I do all day. • It made me think that I don’t do much with my time. I don’t get out enough, I sit around and watch TV and should get out more • Yes, I have learnt I am a boring person and I do the same routine over again. But then I am not boring because I keep myself busy • I do a lot of interesting things