Social Indicators Research

, Volume 140, Issue 2, pp 811–836 | Cite as

A Ecological Model of Well-Being in Child Welfare Referred Children

  • Lara Ayala-Nunes
  • Lucía Jiménez
  • Saul Jesus
  • Cristina Nunes
  • Victoria Hidalgo


Despite its social, political and economic relevance, child well-being remains a challenging construct to define and measure accurately. This holds true especially for children growing up in at-risk families, where their development is hindered by many adverse circumstances. Typically, the well-being of child welfare (CW) referred children has been conceptualized as the absence of negative outcomes, and the study of its determinants has been limited to children’s micro-systems. In this study, we aimed to obtain a suitable indicator of child well-being and to test a model of the determinants of CW referred children’s well-being including parental, family and wider contextual variables. The sample included 249 parents and 46 case managers from Portuguese and Spanish CW services. A three-domain solution from selected items of the Child Well-Being Scales (Physical, Academic and Socioemotional) was tested and confirmed through Confirmatory Factor Analysis. The results of structural equation modeling for each domain revealed that risk factors nested in the wider context and those related to material disadvantage were the most powerful predictors of physical well-being, while parenting and family functioning variables predicted better both academic and socio-emotional well-being. Our findings suggest that different risk and protective factors matter for different outcomes and that most of these factors are associated with each other. Therefore, interventions with at-risk children must take this specificity into account when targeting each domain of well-being, and efforts could be allocated to a few modifiable dimensions, which would in turn positively affect other parental and family factors.


Child well-being Well-being indicadors At-risk families Poverty Child welfare services 



This study was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT; Grant SFRH/BD/86172/2012) with co-financing of the European Social Fund (POPH/FSE), the Portuguese Ministry of Education and Science (MEC) through national funds. The study was also partially supported by project UID/SOC/04020/2013.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Educational PsychologyUniversity of SevilleSevilleSpain
  2. 2.Research Centre for Spatial and Organizational DynamicsUniversity of AlgarveFaroPortugal

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