This article provides a review of indicators of child well-being in the six Gulf countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), focusing on well-being in six domains: physical health, behavioral adjustment, psychological well-being, social relationships, safety, and cognitive well-being. The purpose of the review is to provide an overview of how children in the Gulf countries are faring in these six domains in an effort to provide a framework for child well-being in the Gulf countries. Data from the Gulf countries generally are available on the following domains of well-being: Physical health (including infant and under-5 mortality, growth and nutrition, and access to quality health care), some aspects of behavioral adjustment (in particular, smoking, alcohol, and drug use as well as adolescent pregnancy and HIV/AIDs), safety (in terms of laws, although data on the prevalence of abuse and neglect are limited), and cognitive development (including enrollment and performance in school and skills for a knowledge economy, with more limited data available on quality early child care and school readiness). The following domains of well-being have more limited available data in the Gulf countries: Behavioral adjustment (including social competence, prosocial behavior, and externalizing behavior problems), psychological well-being (including subjective well-being of children, mental health, and participation), and social relationships (including positive relationships with parents and other caregivers, peer relationships, and relationships with non-family adults).
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.
Al Juaid, D. A. M., Binns, C. W., & Giglia, R. C. (2014). Breastfeeding in Saudi Arabia: A review. International Breastfeeding Journal, 9(1), 1. https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4358-9-1.
AlBuhairan, F., Tamim, H., Al Dubayee, M., AlDhukair, S., Al Shehri, S., Tamimi, W., et al. (2015). Time for an adolescent health surveillance system in Saudi Arabia: Findings from “Jeeluna.” Journal of Adolescent Health, 57, 263–269.
AlBuhairan, F. S., Al Eissa, M., Alkufeidy, N., & Almuneef, M. (2016). Bullying in early adolescence: An exploratory study in Saudi Arabia. International Journal of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 3, 64–70.
Al-Hendawi, M., & Keller, C. (2014). Beyond the walls of the school: Risk factors and children and youth in the Gulf. Near and Middle Eastern Journal of Research in Education, (2014), 1. https://doi.org/10.5339/nmejre.2014.1.
AlMarri, T. S. K., & Oei, T. P. S. (2009). Alcohol and substance use in the Arabian gulf region: A review. International Journal of Psychology, 44, 222–233.
Al-Mazrou, Y. Y., Alhamdan, N. A., Alkotobi, A., Nour, O. M., & Farag, M. A. (2008). Factors affecting child mortality in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Medical Journal, 29, 102–106.
AlMunajjed, M., & Sabbagh, K. (2011). Youth in GCC countries: Meeting the challenge. Available http://www.youthpolicy.org/library/wp-content/uploads/library/2011_Youth_GCC_Countries_Meeting_Challenge_Eng.pdf. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Al-Thani, T., & Semmar, Y. (2017). An exploratory study of teachers' perceptions of prosocial behaviors in preschool children. International Journal of Educational Development, 53, 145–150.
Alyahri, A., & Goodman, R. (2008). The prevalence of DSM-IV psychiatric disorders among 7-10 year old Yemeni schoolchildren. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43, 224–230.
Amadeo, K. (2017). Gulf Cooperation Council countries: Six rich countries that own the world’s oil. In The balance Available https://www.thebalance.com/gulf-cooperation-council-3306357. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Ben Brik, A., Lansford, J. E., & Al Fara, H. (2018). Policies and programs to promote child well-being in the Gulf countries. Early Child Development and Care. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2018.1552949.
Ben-Arieh, A. (2006). Measuring and monitoring the well-being of young children around the world. Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2007, Strong foundations: Early childhood care and education. Available http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001474/147444e.pdf. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Berry, J. W., Phinney, J. S., Sam, D. L., & Vedder, P. (2006). Immigrant youth: Acculturation, identity, and adaptation. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 55, 303–332.
Bokhorst, C. L., Sumter, S. R., & Westenberg, P. M. (2010). Social support from parents, friends, classmates, and teachers in children and adolescents aged 9 to 18 years: Who is perceived as most supportive? Social Development, 19, 417–426.
Chepkemoi, J. (2017). The richest and poorest economies in the Middle East. Available https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-richest-and-poorest-economies-in-the-middle-east.html. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Cooper, W. (2015). How will the GCC close the skills gap? Ernst and Young Global Limited. Available http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY-gcc-education-report-how-will-the-gcc-close-the-skills-gap/$FILE/GCC%20Education%20report%20FINAL%20AU3093.pdf. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Craig, W. M., & Harel, Y. (2004). Bullying, physical fighting, and victimization. In C. Currie et al. (Eds.), Young people's health in context. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study: International report from the 2001/2002 survey (pp. 133–144). Copenhagen, Denmark: World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.
Dashti, M., Scott, J. A., Edwards, C. A., & Al-Sughayer, M. (2010). Determinants of breastfeeding initiation among mothers in Kuwait. International Breastfeeding Journal, 5, 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-4358-5-7.
Diener, M. L., & Lucas, R. E. (2004). Adults' desires for children's emotions across 48 countries: Associations with individual and national characteristics. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 35, 525–547.
Duncan, G., Dowsett, C. J., Claessens, A., Magnuson, K., Huston, A. C., Klebanov, P., et al. (2007). School readiness and later achievement. Developmental Psychology, 43, 1428–1446.
Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T. L., & Knafo-Noam, A. (2015). Prosocial development. In M. E. Lamb & C. Garcia Coll, R. M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 3, Social, emotional, and personality development, 7th ed, (pp. 610–656). New York, NY: Wiley.
Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. L. (2015). Prevalence of childhood exposure to violence, crime, and abuse: Results from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. JAMA Pediatrics, 169, 746–754.
Gatrad, A. R., & Sheikh, A. (2001). Muslim birth customs. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Fetal and Neonatal Edition, 84, F6–F8.
Gershoff, E. T., & Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2016). Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses. Journal of Family Psychology, 30, 453–469.
Gilbert, R., Widom, C. S., Browne, K., Fergusson, D., Webb, E., & Janson, S. (2009). Burden and consequences of child maltreatment in high-income countries. Lancet, 373, 68–81.
Gini, G., & Pozzoli, T. (2009). Association between bullying and psychosomatic problems: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 123, 1059–1065.
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2018a). Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. Available http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2018b). Country report for Oman. Available http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/progress/country-reports/oman.html
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2018c). Country report for Bahrain. Available http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/progress/country-reports/bahrain.html. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2018d). Country report for Kuwait. Available http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/progress/country-reports/kuwait.html. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2018e). Country report for Qatar. Available http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/progress/country-reports/qatar.html. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2018f). Country report for United Arab Emirates. Available http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/progress/country-reports/united-arab-emirates.html. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children. (2018g). Country report for Saudi Arabia. Available http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/progress/country-reports/saudi-arabia.html. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Greenberg, M. T., Weissberg, R. P., O'Brien, M. U., Zins, J. E., Fredericks, L., Resnik, H., & Elias, M. J. (2003). Enhancing school-based prevention and youth development through coordinated social, emotional, and academic learning. American Psychologist, 58, 466–474.
Gulf Labor Markets and Migration. (2018). GCC: Total population and percentage of nationals and non-nationals in GCC countries. Available http://www.gulfmigration.Eu/total-population-and-percentage-of-nationals-and-non-nationals-in-gcc-countries-latest-national-statistics-2010-2015/. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Hadeed, J., & Sylva, K. (1999). Center care and education in Bahrain: Does it benefit children's development? Early Child Development and Care, 157, 67–87.
Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2017). World happiness report 2017. New York, NY: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Holt, M. K., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Polanin, J. R., Holland, K. M., DeGue, S., Matjasko, J. L., et al. (2015). Bullying and suicidal ideation and behaviors: A meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 135, 1–16.
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. (2018). Qatar. Available http://www.healthdata.org/qatar. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
International Labor Organization. (2011). Youth unemployment in the Arab world is a major cause for rebellion. Available http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/features/WCMS_154078/lang%2D%2Den/index.htm. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Iqbal, F. (2014). The decline of child mortality rates: A Middle East North Africa success story. The World Bank. Available http://blogs.worldbank.org/arabvoices/decline-child-mortality-rates-middle-east-north-africa-success-story. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Ismail, F. M., Almoghaisab, A. A., & Kamal, A. A. (1990). Nannies and foreign maids and their influence on Qatari children’s upbringing. Doha, Qatar: Qatar University [in Arabic].
Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (1999). Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York, NY: Russell Sage.
Khalifa, B., & Nasser, R. (2015). The closeness of the child to the domestic servant and its mediation by negative parenting behaviors in an Arab Gulf country. Proceedings of the Australasian Conference on Business and Social Sciences 2015, Sydney, pp. 258–269.
Krause, W. (2015). Degrees of difficulty: Women and higher education in the Persian Gulf. World politics review. Available https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/16121/degrees-of-difficulty-women-and-higher-education-in-the-persian-gulf. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Lansford, J. E. (2018). Child well-being in the Gulf countries. Doha, Qatar: Doha International Family Institute.
Lansford, J. E., & Bornstein, M. H. (2007). Review of parenting programs in developing countries. New York, NY: UNICEF.
Lansford, J. E., Chang, L., Dodge, K. A., Malone, P. S., Oburu, P., Palmérus, K., et al. (2005). Physical discipline and children’s adjustment: Cultural normativeness as a moderator. Child Development, 76, 1234–1246.
Lerner, R. M., Almerigi, J. B., Theokas, C., & Lerner, J. V. (2005). Positive youth development: A view of the issues. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 25, 10–16.
Lippman, L. H., Moore, K. A., & McIntosh, H. (2009). Positive indicators of child well-being: A conceptual framework, measures and methodological issues. Innocenti Working Paper No. 2009–21. Florence, Italy: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.
Martorano, B., Natali, L., De Neubourg, C., & Bradshaw, J. (2013). Children’s subjective well-being in rich countries. Innocenti Working Papers no. 2013–03. Florence, Italy: UNICEF Office of Research.
Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics. (2015). Qatar’s fourth national human development report: Realising Qatar National Vision 2030: The right to development. Doha, Qatar. Author.
Ng, M., Fleming, T., Robinson, M., Thomson, B., Graetz, N., Margono, C., et al. (2014). Global, regional and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults 1980-2013: A systematic analysis. Lancet, 384, 766–781.
Nguyen, A.-M. T., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2013). Biculturalism and adjustment: A meta-analysis. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 44, 122–159.
Ogbeide, D. O., Siddiqui, S., Al Khalifa, I. M., & Karim, A. (2004). Breastfeeding in a Saudi Arabian community. Profile of parents and influencing factors. Saudi Medical Journal, 25, 580–584.
Olsson, C. A., McGee, R., Nada-Raja, S., & Williams, S. M. (2013). A 32-year longitudinal study of child and adolescent pathways to well-being in adulthood. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1069–1083.
Omar, M. A. K. (2004). Socialization. Oman: Sunrise House [in Arabic].
Qatar Olympic Committee. (2009). Indicators of the prevalence of overweight and obesity among schools in Qatar. Doha.
Ramey, C. T., & Ramey, S. L. (2004). Early learning and school readiness: Can early intervention make a difference? Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 50, 471–491.
Rhoades, K. A. (2008). Children’s responses to interparental conflict: A meta-analysis of their associations with child adjustment. Child Development, 79, 1942–1956.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2013). Why does education matter so much to health? Available http://www.rwjf.org/content/dam/farm/reports/issue_briefs/2012/rwjf403347. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Rohner, R. P., & Lansford, J. E. (2017). Deep structure of the human affectional system: Introduction to interpersonal acceptance-rejection theory. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 9, 426–440.
Santos, A. P. (2017). Low income expat women pay the price for unmarried sex in Qatar. Available https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/low-income-expat-women-pay-price-unmarried-sex-qatar. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Scales, P. C., & Roehlkepartain, E. C. (2018). The contribution of nonfamily adults to adolescent well-being: A global research and policy perspective. In J. E. Lansford & P. Banati (Eds.), Handbook of adolescent development research and its impact on global policy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Schoenmaker, C., Juffer, F., van IJzendoorn, M. H., Linting, M., van der Voort, A., & Bakermans-Kranenburg, M. J. (2015). From maternal sensitivity in infancy to adult attachment representations: A longitudinal adoption study with secure base scripts. Attachment and Human Development, 17, 241–256.
Scott, V. (2013). Report: One in five children in Qatar subject to abuse. Available https://dohanews.co/report-one-in-five-children-in-qatar-subject-to-abuse/. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
Sinani, M. A. (2008). Breastfeeding in Oman-the way forward. Oman Medical Journal, 23, 236–240.
UNICEF. (2011). The state of the world’s children. New York, NY: UNICEF.
United Nations Human Development Programme. (2015). Human development report 2015. Available http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/2015_human_development_report.pdf. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
van Hoorn, J., van Dijk, E., Meuwese, R., Rieffe, C., & Crone, E. A. (2016). Peer influence on prosocial behavior in adolescence. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 26, 90–100.
Victora, C. G., Bahl, R., Barros, A. J. D., Franca, G. V. A., Horton, S., Krasevec, J., et al. (2016). Breastfeeding in the 21st century: Epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. The Lancet, 387, 475–490.
World Bank. (2017a). New country classifications by income level: 2017–2018. Available https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/new-country-classifications-income-level-2017-2018. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
World Bank. (2017b). Unemployment, youth total (% of total labor force ages 15–24). Available https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.UEM.1524.ZS. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
World Health Organization. (2013). WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic. Available www.who.int/tobacco/global_report/2013/appendix_xi_table_11_3.pdf?ua=1. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
World Health Organization. (2015). Preventing youth violence: An overview of the evidence. Geneva: World Health Organization.
World Health Organization. (2018). Breastfeeding. Available http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of Ms. Noor Al Malki Al Jehani, Executive Director of Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and without whose support this research would not have been possible.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Lansford, J.E., Ben Brik, A. & Al Fara, H. A Framework for Child Well-Being in the Gulf Countries. Child Ind Res 12, 1971–1987 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-019-9620-5