Understanding and Measuring Child Well-Being in the Region of Attica, Greece: Round One

Abstract

This paper aims to establish new, multi-dimensional indicators of child well-being suitable to urban regions such as Attica, Greece, and adjusted to the new form of child poverty that has become apparent during its recent financial crisis. The paper mainly argues that child well-being is a multi-dimensional phenomenon and that the financial crisis produced a specific need for new scientific tools adapted to the particular features that emerged under this circumstance. Within this context, definitions of child well-being and child poverty were developed. With these definitions as foundation, a tool comprising many indicators was formulated to record child well-being; this was applied in Attica through questionnaires addressing 27 public schools and three support centers of the organization, The Smile of the Child, covering two periods: the school years between 2010 and 2018 collectively and the school year 2018–2019 individually. The total number of children in the sample was 878, belonging to three distinct school categories. The results were mapped out in seven clusters. The theoretical and methodological framework of the study was confirmed through a Principal Component Analysis (PCA). The results reveal that child well-being improved in the period 2018–2019 while there were evident concerns regarding unemployment and whether the education individuals receive is relevant to what kind of people they ought to be. Finally, an action plan focusing on these dimensions and some of the clusters along with an auxiliary tool for decision-making founded on fuzzy logic have been suggested.

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Funding

This paper was drawn up within the context of the research project “C.W. – SMILE.” This project received funding from the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (HFRI) and the General Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT) under grant agreement No. 1926.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Questionnaires

The questionnaires begin with a definition of general well-being (additional information is given on its components, i.e., economic and non-economic well-being), in order for the students to understand what they are asked to respond to. Furthermore, instructions are provided on how to answer in order to avoid mistakes (e.g., put a tick mark [✓] in the box of the answer you believe applies to you), along with information on anonymity and confidentiality. In other words, the students were informed that the questionnaire is designed to safeguard their personal data, which will be rendered anonymous and inaccessible to third parties, pursuant to the national and European regulatory framework in force (95/46/ΕC General Regulation on Personal Data Protection, Article 89). Last but not least, it was made clear that filling in the questionnaire was not compulsory but voluntary and that the students could withdraw from the procedure at any given moment they decided to – prior to, during, or even after answering. The questions were divided into two parts, one related to the school years 2010–2018 and one to the current school year, 2018–2019.

Table 5 Questions about the current school year, 2018–2019, in the elementary school questionnaire
Table 6 Questions about the school years 2010–2018 in the elementary school questionnaire
Table 7 Questions about the school years 2010–2018 in the junior high/high school questionnaire
Table 8 Questions about the current school year, 2018–2019, in the junior high/high school questionnaire
Table 9 Simple Indicators and their corresponding questions in the questionnaires

Rating of Questions

Each answer in the questionnaires (Tables 5 to 8) was rated as 0 or 1 and, more rarely, using a unified scale of 0 to 1, where 1 corresponds to pleasure, i.e., well-being, and 0 to pain, i.e., deprivation. Further, each question also included the options “I can’t remember,” “I don’t know,” and “I don’t want to answer”; these options were considered off-scale items and were not exclusive. More specifically, somebody may not want to answer because they don’t know or can’t remember, or someone who can’t remember might not know the answer or might know the answer but not remember. Also, if someone does not remember, they might not want to answer. Therefore, in the statistical analysis, these questions were considered as missing data.

In addition, the scaling of the questions on the heating method (Tables 5 to 8) was carried out with a range of 0 to 1, according to the Eurostat (2017) statistic, that most people living in urban areas use radiators (central heating). Specifically, most of the energy consumed is produced by gas (36%), electricity (31.9%), renewable sources/waste products (17.5%), oil/petroleum products (11.2%), and solid fuels (3.3%). Since the majority uses and, therefore, prefers gas (most of the radiators are fueled by gas), radiators are considered the best method in the questions on heating and were rated 1. Electricity comes second and since the questionnaires included two methods powered by electricity, namely air conditioning and the electric heater, the first was rated with 0.86 and the latter with 0.72 (air conditioning is considered a safer heating method than the electric heater and even more efficient in some cases; it is also more costly, rendering it an indication of financial status). Heating by use of renewable sources/waste products was rated with 0.57. Subsequently, the remaining methods (fireplace, petrol-burning stove, and wood-burning stove) were rated considering the degree of safety, in accordance with Eurostat, but also by keeping in mind that fireplaces are found in more luxurious households. On these grounds, the fireplace was rated 0.43, the petrol-burning stove 0.29, and the wood-burning stove 0.14. The answers “no heating” and “brazier” were rated with 0. This question investigates whether unsafe and inexpensive heating methods that can put children’s lives at risk were used. The value of 1 was awarded to the best method and 0 to the worst, i.e., “no heating” and “brazier,” since both bring about the same consequences to a child’s health. The probable answers to choose from had equal numerical distances between them (0.14285714); this value was obtained by considering the various choices offered in the questionnaires (radiators, air conditioning, electric heater, other heating method, fireplace, petrol-burning stove, wood-burning stove, and no heating/brazier). Moreover, although this question gave the children the option to choose more than one answer, the best method’s value, i.e., the highest value, was taken into account to rate two or more heating methods. For instance, when a household uses radiators (the most expensive method) in combination with a petrol-burning stove, the family comes across as being in a better financial state than one that uses only a petrol-burning stove, underlining that they cannot afford heating only by radiators. However, when the brazier is among their choices, the value of the worst method was assumed, i.e., 0 (since the brazier is rated with 0) because when a family is forced to use a brazier, which is considered a last resort, their reasons are assumed to be grave, such as their having serious financial problems, despite the fact that they possibly try to warm their house with other additional methods.

In question 19 of the junior high/high school current year questionnaire and 1 of the elementary school current year questionnaire, the children could choose between “Yes,” rated 1, “Yes, but I do not,” rated 0.5, and “No,” rated 0 (Tables 5 and 8). In Question 1 from the junior high/high school 2010–2018 questionnaire, the choices were rated with equal distances between them. More specifically, “Extremely” was rated 1, “A lot” was 0.8, “Moderately” was 0.6, “A little” was 0.4, “Almost never” was 0.2, and “Never” was 0. Question 20 had four categories of answers which were also rated with equal distances. In other words, “Three and more” (considered the best) was rated 1, “Twice a week” was 0.66, “Once a week” was 0.33, and “Νever” was 0. The students could choose between “Yes” and “No” in questions 21–23, 28–30, 32–34, and 36–38 of the junior high/high school current year questionnaire (Table 8); in questions 2–3, 8–10, 12–14 and 16–18 of the junior high/high school 2010–2018 questionnaire (Table 7); in questions 3–10, 12–14, and 16–18 of the elementary school current year questionnaire (Table 5) and 19, 21, and 22 of the elementary school 2010–2018 questionnaire (Table 6). Questions 24–27 of the junior high/high school current year questionnaire and 4–7 of the junior high/high school 2010–2018 questionnaire were measured on a Likert scale from 1 to 10 for those who answered positively (Tables 7 and 8). The answer of 1 was rated 0.1, 2 was rated 0.2, 3 was rated 0.3, 4 was rated 0.4, 5 was rated 0.5, 6 was rated 0.6, 7 was rated 0.7, 8 was rated 0.8, 9 was rated 0.9, and 10 was rated 1. Elementary school children (Table 5) answered the relevant questions, 6–8, in their questionnaire with “Yes” or “No” since it would have been difficult for them to perceive a scale of 1 to 10. In questions 35 of the junior high/high school current year questionnaire, 15 of the junior high/high school 2010–2018 questionnaire, and 15 of the elementary school current year questionnaire, the students were presented with the options related to whether one or both of their guardians were employed (Tables 5, 7, and 8). For unemployment, the answer was rated 0. If they answered that one guardian was employed, it was rated 0.5. If the response was that both guardians were employed, it was rated 1.

Appendix 2

Table 10 Cluster means in the variables used for clustering
Fig. 6
figure6

The municipality clusters

Table 11 The socio-economic profile of children’s answers for the period 2018–2019 (n = 878)
Table 12 The socio-economic profile of children’s answers for the period 2010–2018 (n = 878)a
Table 13 Percentage of all children and of elementary, junior high and high school children above or below the threshold of being at risk of lacking general, economic, and non-economic well-being (2010–2018)
Table 14 Deviations between the two periods
Table 15 The 24 fuzzy inference rules

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Leriou, E., Kazani, A., Kollias, A. et al. Understanding and Measuring Child Well-Being in the Region of Attica, Greece: Round One. Child Ind Res 14, 1–51 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-020-09770-4

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Keywords

  • Child well-being
  • Welfare economics
  • Sustainable development
  • Indicators
  • Public policy
  • Fuzzy logic
  • Action plan
  • Decision making
  • Plato’s Philebus
  • Aristotle
  • Attica