Social Indicators Research

, Volume 126, Issue 2, pp 555–569 | Cite as

The Characteristics of Children’s Subjective Well-Being

  • Tamar Dinisman
  • Asher Ben-AriehEmail author


Despite the increased interest in recent decades in the study of children’s subjective well-being (SWB), much too little is known about the factors that contribute to their SWB, especially with regards to socio-demographic characteristics. In addition, only handful of studies has made a comparison between countries and was based on large samples. The present study is a first of its kind. Utilizing the International Study of Children’s Well-Being first wave data set with questionnaires from over 34,500 children from 14 different countries to explore the characteristics of children’s SWB and the relations between an array of socio-demographic variables and children’s SWB. SWB was measured using three scales—overall life satisfaction, overall satisfaction in specific domains and overall SWB that was measured using agreement items. The socio-demographic variables were composed of demographic characteristics (e.g. gender and age), self-reported socio-economic items and the children’s country of residence. Findings show that children’s SWB in all countries is relatively high, although some variation can be found between the three SWB scales. Differences were found between the three measurements of SWB in regard to the explained variance, nevertheless the socio-demographic characteristics explain relatively low amount of the variance in SWB (10.9–20.2 %). The demographic variables have the lowest contribution, followed by the socio-economic items, while countries have the highest contribution. Thus one of our main conclusions is that the answer for understanding children’s SWB does not lay in the socio-demographic characteristics. The implications of these findings for further research of children’s SWB are discussed.


Children’s SWB Socio-demographic characteristics International comparison The International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCWeB) 


  1. Abdul-Rida, C., & Nauck, B. (2014). Migration and child well-being. In A. Ben-Arieh, F. Casas, I. Frones, & J. E. Korbin (Eds.), Handbook of child well-being (pp. 3101–3142). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Axford, N., Jodrell, D., & Hobbs, T. (2014). Objective or subjective well-being. In A. Ben-Arieh, F. Casas, I. Frones, & J. E. Korbin (Eds.), Handbook of child well-being (pp. 2699–2738). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ben-Arieh, A., Casas, F., Frones, I., & Korbin, J. E. (2014). Multifaceted concept of child well-being. In A. Ben-Arieh, F. Casas, I. Frones, & J. E. Korbin (Eds.), Handbook of child well-being (pp. 1–27). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ben-Arieh, A., & Shimoni, E. (2014). Subjective well-being and perceptions of safety among Jewish and Arab children in Israel. Children and Youth Services Review, 44, 100–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bradshaw, J. (2002). Child poverty and child outcomes. Children and Society, 16(2), 131–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradshaw, J. (2014). Subjective well-being and social policy: Can nations make their children happier? Child Indicators Research. doi: 10.1007/s12187-014-9283-1.Google Scholar
  7. Bradshaw, J., Keung, A., Rees, G., & Goswami, H. (2011). Children’s subjective well-being: International comparative perspectives. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 548–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., & Rodgers, W. L. (1976). The quality of American life: Perceptions, evaluations, and satisfactions. New-York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  9. Casas, F. (2011). Subjective social indicators and child and adolescent well-being. Child Indicators Research, 4(4), 555–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Casas, F., Bello, A., González, M., & Aligue, M. (2013). Children’s subjective well-being measured using a composite index: What impacts Spanish first-year secondary education students’ subjective well-being? Child Indicators Research, 6(3), 433–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Casas, F., & Rees, G. (2015). Measures of children’s subjective well-being: Analysis of the potential for cross-national comparisons. Child Indicators Research. doi: 10.1007/s12187-014-9293-z.Google Scholar
  12. Cummins, R. A. (2014). Understanding the well-being of children and adolescents through homeostatic theory. In A. Ben-Arieh, F. Casas, I. Frones, & J. E. Korbin (Eds.), Handbook of child well-being (pp. 635–661). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cummins, R. A., & Lau, A. L. D. (2005). Personal well-being index—School children (PWI-SC) (3rd ed.). Melbourne: School of psychology, Deakin University.Google Scholar
  14. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 542–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dinisman, T., & Rees G. (2014). The International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCWeB): Findings from the first wave of data collection. Retrieved from
  17. Gilman, R., & Huebner, S. (2003). A review of life satisfaction research with children and adolescents. School Psychology Quarterly, 18(2), 192–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grigoras, B. A. (2013). The Subjective well-being of children. Doctoral dissertation, Faculty of Sociology and Social Work: Babeş Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca.Google Scholar
  19. Gross-Manos, D. (2014). Material deprivation and social exclusion of children: Lessons from measurement attempts among children in Israel. Journal of Social Policy. doi: 10.1017/S0047279414000646. Available on CJO 2014.Google Scholar
  20. Huebner, E. S., Casas, S. P., Hills, K. J., Lewis, A. D., & Saha, R. (2011). Stability and predictive validity of the brief multidimensional students’ life satisfaction scale. Child Indicators Research, 4(1), 161–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huebner, E. S., Hills, K. J., Jiang, X., Long, R. F., Kelly, R., & Lyons, M. D. (2014). Schooling and children’s subjective well-being. In A. Ben-Arieh, F. Casas, I. Frones, & J. E. Korbin (Eds.), Handbook of child well-being (pp. 797–819). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huebner, E. S., Seligson, J. L., Valois, R. F., & Suldo, S. M. (2006). A review of the brief multidimensional students’ life satisfaction scale. Social Indicators Research, 79(3), 477–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Klocke, A., Clair, A., & Bradshaw, J. (2014). International variation in child subjective well-being. Child Indicators Research, 7, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Knies, G. (2011). Life satisfaction and material well-being of young people in the UK. In S. L. McFall & C. Garrington (Eds.), Early findings from the first wave of the UK’s household longitudinal study. Institute for Social and Economic Research: Colchester.Google Scholar
  25. Lee, B. J., & Yoo, M. S. (2014). Family, school, and community correlates of children’s subjective well-being: An international comparative study. Child Indicators Research. doi: 10.1007/s12187-014-9285-z.Google Scholar
  26. Main, G. (2014). Child poverty and children’s subjective well-Being. Child Indicators Research, 7, 451–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Main, G., & Bradshaw, J. (2012). A child material deprivation index. Child Indicators Research, 5(3), 503–521.Google Scholar
  28. Myers, D. G., & Diener, E. (1995). Who is happy? Psychological Science, 6, 10–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Park, N. (2004). The role of subjective well-being in positive youth development. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591(1), 25–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pople, L., Raws, P., Mueller, D., Mahony, S., Rees, G., Bradshaw, J., et al. (2014). The good childhood report 2014. London: The Children Society.Google Scholar
  31. Proctor, C. L., Linley, P. A., & Maltby, J. (2009). Youth life satisfaction: A review of the literature. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(5), 583–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rees, G., Bradshaw, J., Goswami, H., & Keung, A. (2010). Understanding children’s well-being: A national survey of young people’s well-being. London: The Children’s Society.Google Scholar
  33. Rees, G., & Dinisman, T. (2014). Comparing children’s experiences and evaluations of their lives in 11 different countries. Child Indicators Research. doi: 10.1007/s12187-014-9291-1.Google Scholar
  34. Rees, G., Goswami, H., Pople, L., Bradshaw, J., Keung, A., & Main, G. (2012). The good childhood report 2012: A review of our children’s well-being. London: The Children Society.Google Scholar
  35. Ridge, T. (2002). Child poverty and social exclusion. Bristol: Policy Press.Google Scholar
  36. Seligson, J. L., Huebner, E. S., & Valois, R. F. (2003). Preliminary validation of the brief multidimensional students’ life satisfaction scale (BMSLSS). Social Indicators Research, 61(2), 121–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. United Nations General Assembly. (1989). Convention on the rights of the child. New York: Author. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCWeB)LondonUK
  2. 2.The Paul Baerwald School of Social Work and Social WelfareThe Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Haruv Institute, JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

Personalised recommendations