, Volume 89, Issue 2, pp 283-304
Date: 03 Nov 2007

Child Well-being in Flanders: A Multidimensional Account

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Abstract

In this article we characterise the well-being of young children in the Belgian region of Flanders. We focus on three commonly used indicators: educational attainment, the existence of special needs and the occurrence of problematic behaviour. The former derives from a relatively impartial source, the schooling system, while the latter two originate from parental assessment. Somewhat surprisingly, the different measures are only weakly associated with each other. Moreover, negative outcomes tend to correlate with different characteristics of the child and the household, depending on the well-being indicator used. Only a low level of education of the mother and the fact the child is living in a single parent family is consistently associated with negative outcomes. This is not true, however, for a whole range of other characteristics, like the work schedule of the parents, the sex of the child, the child’s rank in the line of siblings or the number of children in the household. Consequently, policy makers should be wary of quick conclusions when presented with results from single indicator research. Educational lagging, for example, may seem a very objective measure of problems, yet it does not necessarily coincide with problematic behaviour nor a parental perception of special needs. Hence, political action is not self-evident and may require additional justification. For future research, a more thorough investigation about the links between the various indicators of child well-being seems indicated.