Renewed vigour in wellbeing measurement combined with a shift towards a ‘new sociology of childhood’ has resulted in growing emphasis on incorporating the voices and perspectives of young people in discussions of what matters to them and how this can feed into broader indicator development. This has led to a more sustained effort to ask young people directly about what contributes to their wellbeing. This raises important questions about how young people should be engaged in discussions about what wellbeing means to them. This paper provides an account of an innovative approach to eliciting young people’s views on wellbeing in Wales, United Kingdom, using the vehicle of ‘contemporary science debates’ (CSD). CSD is designed to engage young people in innovative and participative discussions on social and ethical issues associated with contemporary science. Here, it is used to provide young people with the opportunity to debate the relevance of wellbeing to their every-day lives and give them an opportunity to make their opinions heard. The paper explores the value of using this approach as a methodology for gathering information on what young people understand about wellbeing and provides an initial analysis of which aspects of wellbeing were identified as important for them. It situates this within the broader context of giving voice to young people in the development of subjective wellbeing measures.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology emphasising and promoting mental health rather than focusing on mental illness.
There has been increasing coverage by the media of the use of ‘wellbeing’ within policy. However, it has often misleadingly been used interchangeably with happiness. See, for example: The Guardian Happiness index to gauge Britain's national mood http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/nov/14/happiness-index-britain-national-mood (accessed 14/09/11), and the DirectGov website featuring the ONS Debate on measuring wellbeing - Happiness in the UK, and how to measure it http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_192744 (accessed 02/01/12)
The national debate ran from 25th November, 2010 till 15th April, 2011. More information on the outcome of the debate can be found on http://www.ons.gov.uk/well-being/wellbeing/understanding-wellbeing/index.html
http://www.techniquest.org/education/english/rthProgrammes.php (accessed 12/09/11). Through RTH Techniquest is developing and delivering programmes in the convergence areas across Wales for 11–19 year olds who face or who are at risk of disadvantage or under-achievement, to improve their career opportunities.
Convergence areas refer to designated areas of highest levels of support from the European Union Structural Funds (2007–2013). The West Wales and the Valleys regions have been awarded the highest level of support known as Convergence, from the European Union for the Structural Funds programming round 2007–2013. Convergence covers 15 local authority areas in the West Wales and the Valleys region. Over £690 million from the European Social Fund will be used to tackle economic inactivity, increase skills and employment. http://wefo.wales.gov.uk/programmes/convergence/?lang=en (accessed 27/07/12)
http://www.techniquest.org/20120328175/education/reach-the-heights.html (accessed 12/04/12)
The new economics foundation is an independent think-and-do tank that inspires and demonstrates real economic well-being in the UK http://www.neweconomics.org/ (accessed 27/07/12)
http://www.neweconomics.org/projects/democs (accessed 14/09/11)
These dramatised accounts were true stories adapted and anonymised from newspaper and online articles. The names of the characters are pseudonyms, and photos were added to make the cards more interesting visually.
The Welsh Baccalaureate is a qualification for 14–19 year olds that combines personal development skills with traditional qualifications such as A-levels and NVQs. See: http://www.wjec.co.uk/?level=112 (accessed 09/01/12)
In the UK, the final year of compulsory schooling is year 11, so young people will have chosen to progress into Year 12. Year 12 is the year in which students turn 17 years old, so Year 12 has a mixture of students aged 16 and 17; Year 13 has 17 and 18 year olds, year 14 has 18 and 19 year olds.
WBQ1 is an abbreviation for Welsh Baccalaureate Year One, and contains a mixture of ages between 16 and 19 years old.
For more detail on the category analysis of the content of the categories, see Newton et al. (2011).
In the UK, the final year of compulsory schooling is year 11, so young people will have chosen to progress into Year 12. Year 12 is the year in which students turn 17 years old, so Year 12 has a mixture of students aged 16 and 17.
However, one of the trials was made up of a predominantly male group who were members of a football academy.
WBQ1 is an abbreviation for Welsh Baccalaureate Year One.
If fastfood were merged under food, it would have increased to rank three, replacing sports, but would have not affected the order of the frequency of the other items.
Detailed information on the content of all the cards used in the trials can be found in Appendices 1.1 and 1.2 of Newton et al. (2011)
The UNICEF report prompted the Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Monitor for Wales to measure progress along the UNCRC. In response to criticism that children and young people’s voices were missing in the 2008 Children and Young People Wellbeing Monitor (Welsh Government 2008), it commissioned new qualitative research to gather their views, subsequently incorporated in the 2011 Welsh Government publication.
At the international level, it is also worth highlighting the International Survey of Children’s wellbeing is piloting a range of subjective wellbeing measures as part of its wider remit to “ collect solid and representative data on children’s lives and daily activities, their time use, and in particular on their own perception of their well-being. The survey should also reveal how well children have a say in matters that concern them and how effectively they can influence and determine the course of their own lives”. http://www.childrensworlds.org/
London riots: Looting and violence continues http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-14439970 (accessed 14/09/11)
Anderson, J., & Jones, K. (2009). The difference that place makes to methodology: uncovering the ‘lived space’ of young people’s spatial practices. Children's Geographies, 7(3), 291–303.
Ben-Arieh, A. (2005). Where are the children? Children’s role in measuring and monitoring their wellbeing. Social Indicators, 74(3), 573–596.
Ben-Arieh, A. (2008). The child indicators movement: Past, present, and future. Child Indicators Research, 1, 3–16. doi:10.1007/s12187-007-9003-1.
Ben-Arieh, A. (2010). From child welfare to children wellbeing: The child indicators perspective. In S. Kamerman, S. Phipps, & A. Ben-Arieh (Eds.), From child welfare to child wellbeing: An international perspective on knowledge in the service of policy making (pp. 9–22). Netherlands: Springer.
Ben-Arieh, A., & George, R. (2006). Indicators of children’s wellbeing: Understanding their role, usage, and policy influence. Netherlands: Springer.
Ben-Arieh, A., & Goerge, R. (2001). Beyond the numbers: how do we monitor the state of our children. Children and Youth Services Review, 23(8), 603–631.
Ben-Arieh, A., Kaufman, H., Andrews, B., Goerge, R., Lee, B., & Aber, J. (2001). Measuring and monitoring children’s wellbeing. The Netherlands: Kluwer.
Blacknall, D., Sydney, L., & Compton, S. (2011). Project Assessment Review (PAR): Measuring national well-being. London: Cabinet Office, Office for National Statistics.
Bradshaw, J., & Richardson, D. (2009). An index of child wellbeing in Europe. Child Indicators Research, 2, 319–351.
Bradshaw, J., Keung, A., Rees, G., & Goswami, H. (2011). Children’s subjective wellbeing: international comparative perspectives. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 548–556.
Clark, A., & Moss, P. (2001). Listening to young people: The mosaic approach. London: National Children’s Bureau & Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Defra (2005). Securing the future: UK Government Sustainable Development Strategy
Diener, E., & Seligman, M. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 80–83.
Dockett, S., & Perry, B. (2011). Researching with young people: seeking assent. Child Indicators Research, 4(2), 231–247.
Duensing, S., Smith, K., & Windale, M. (2006). Just like a bed of roses: Democs and discussion based learning in the classroom. London: nef.
Evans, J. (2011). Findings from the National Wellbeing Debate. Office of the National Statistics
Fatorre, T., Mason, J., & Sidoti, C. (2005). Working seriously towards new partnerships: An introduction. In J. Mason & T. Fatorre (Eds.), Children taken seriously: In theory, policy and practice (pp. 15–30). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Fatorre, T., Mason, J., & Watson, E. (2009). When children are asked about their wellbeing: towards a framework for guiding policy. Child Indicators Research, 2, 57–77.
Fattore, T., Mason, J., & Watson, E. (2007). Children's conceptualisations of their wellbeing. Social Indicators Research, 80, 5–29.
Fegter, S., Machold, C., & Richter, M. (2010). Children and the good life: Theoretical challenges. In S. Andresen, I. Diehm, U. Sander, & H. Ziegler (Eds.), Children and the good life: New challenges for research on children, 7-12. London: Springer.
Frones, I. (2007). Theorizing indicators. Social Indicators Research, 83(1), 5–23.
Frones, I., & Ben-Arieh, A. (2007). Wellbeing: concepts, indices and usage. Social Indicators Research, 80, 1–4.
Gabhainn, N., & Sixsmith, J. (2005). Children’s understandings of wellbeing (Centre for Health Promotion Studies, Dept of Health Promotion, National University of Ireland)
Gough, I., McGregor, A., & Camfield, L. (2006). Wellbeing in Developing Countries: Conceptual Foundations of the WeD Programme, Wed Working Paper 19. University of Bath
Hanafin, S., & Brooks, A. (2005). ‘The Delphi technique: A methodology to support the Development of a National set of Child wellbeing indicators”, The National Children’s Office
Hanafin, S., Brooks, A., Carroll, E., Fitzgerald, E., Gabhainn, S., & Sixsmith, J. (2007). Achieving consensus in developing a national set of child wellbeing indicators. Social Indicators Research, 80, 79–104.
Hicks, S., Newton, J., Haynes, J., & Evans, J. (2011). Measuring children and young people’s wellbeing. Office of National Statistics.
Hood, S. (2007). Report on children’s wellbeing: the state of London’s children reports. Social Indicators Research, 80, 249–264.
Kellett, M. (2011). Empowering children and young people as researchers: overcoming barriers and building capacity. Child Indicators Research, 4(2), 205–219.
Main, G., & Pople, L. (2011). Missing out: A child centred analysis of material deprivation and subjective well-being; The Children's Society Report
Mason, J., & Danby, S. (2011). Children as experts in their lives: child inclusive research. Child Indicators Research, 4(2), 185–189.
Matheson, J. (2011). Measuring what matters: National statistician’s reflections on the National Debate on measuring National Wellbeing. Office of National Statistics.
McAllister, F. (2005). Wellbeing concepts and challenges: Discussion Paper. SDRN Discussion paper
Moore, T., Saunders, V., & McArthur, M. (2011). Championing choice-lessons learned from children and young people about research and their involvement. Child Indicators Research, 4(2), 249–282.
Newton, J. (2007). Wellbeing and the Natural Environment: A brief overview of the evidence. Department of Food and Rural Affairs. Available online at: http://archive.defra.gov.uk/sustainable/government/documents/Wellbeing_and_the_Natural_Environment_Report.doc
Newton, J., Ponting, C., & Breen, D. (2011). Young people & wellbeing: Contemporary Science Debates in Wales: A report for the Office of National Statistics.
Parry, O., Warren, E., Madoc Jones, I., Baker, S-A., Hughes, C., Pithouse, A., & Crowley, A. (2011). Voices of children and young people in Wales study: A qualitative study of wellbeing among children and young people under 25 years old. Welsh Assembly Government
Pople, L., & Solomon, E. (2011). How happy are our children: Measuring children’s wellbeing and exploring economic factors. The Children’s Society
Rees, G., Bradshaw, J., Goswami, H., & Keung, A. (2010a). Understanding children’s wellbeing: A national survey of young people’s wellbeing. The Children’s Society
Rees, G., Goswami, H., & Bradshaw, J. (2010b). Developing an index of children’s subjective wellbeing in England. The Children’s Society.
Ryan, R., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: a review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141–166.
Simonson, E. (2005) The Dana Centre Audience Research 2004–2005, A report for the Dana Centre, London.
Stiglitz, J., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J. (2009). Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress
Thoilliez, B. (2011). How to grow up happy: an exploratory study on the meaning of happiness from children’s voices. Child Indicators Research, 4, 323–351.
Thomas, J. (2009). Working paper: Current measures and the challenge of measuring children's wellbeing. Office of National Statistics
UN (1989). UN General Assembly, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 20 November 1989, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1577, p. 3, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae6b38f0.html [accessed 12 September 2011].
UNICEF (2007). An overview of child wellbeing in rich countries: A comprehensive assessment of the lives and wellbeing of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations.
Welsh Government (2008). 2008 Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Monitor for Wales
Welsh Government (2011). 2011 Children and Young People’s Wellbeing Monitor for Wales
White, S. (2009). “Bringing wellbeing into development practice”, WeD Working Paper 50 (University of Bath)
Yardley, A. (2011). Children as experts in their own lives: reflections on the principles of creative collaboration. Child Indicators Research, 4(2), 191–204.
The authors would like to thank all the young people who participated in this study and acknowledge the support of ONS (particularly Stephen Hicks, Paul Allin, Theo Joloza, Jen Thomas and Lucy Tinkler), Techniquest (particularly the support of Dave Breen and Dr Anita Shaw) and the Reach the Heights project (part-funded by the European Social Fund and managed by the Welsh Government) that made this research possible.
About this article
Cite this article
Newton, J., Ponting, C. Eliciting Young People’s Views on Wellbeing Through Contemporary Science Debates in Wales. Child Ind Res 6, 71–95 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-012-9159-1