Child Indicators Research

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 555–575 | Cite as

Subjective Social Indicators and Child and Adolescent Well-being

  • Ferran Casas


This paper reflects on the opportunity to take steps in the direction of proposing international systems of subjective social indicators of children’s and adolescents’ well-being. In order to contextualize such a reflection, a brief summary of the historical and epistemological foundations of the concept of social indicators, and of some of the controversies associated with the research results during the first decades of its existence, is made. Such foundations, research results and consequent debates have mostly been developed considering only adult populations, but they are reviewed here to explore research goals in relation to children’s and adolescents’ well-being and to link these goals to political action and decision making and the evaluation of its impact. The lack of internationaly comparable subjective data on children’s and adolescents’ well-being at the macro level may be related, among other things, to the lack of political importance given to the younger population’s point of view and to the lack of consistent or convincing research at a micro-level indicating what data-collection instruments are appropriate for making cross-national or cross-cultural comparisons. However, at present, research on children’s and adolescents’ own points of view about their living conditions—although still in its early stages and very heterogeneous—is already showing rapid advances and even provocative and unexpected results, of which a few examples are given. Tested instruments are already available, but systematic data collection is still scarce, and comparable data to be used for international comparisons is infrequent. Systematic data collection of children’s and adolescents’ perceptions, evaluations and aspirations that can be used as subjective social indicators requires political will, associated with the conviction that such data can be useful for decision-making and for evaluating social change. An increasing international interest in children’s rights to social participation seems to be an opportunity to promote links with research on childrens’ and adolescents’ well-being, both objective and subjective. Having an overall panorama of all these elements may be helpful to guide debates on what research is still needed and on what are the major challenges to be faced when offering research data to policy makers and to the public opinion.


Social indicators Well-being Children Adolescents Subjective Quality of life 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Psychology, Instituto de Investigaciones sobre Calidad de VidaUniversity of GironaGironaSpain

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