Indices of Child Well-Being and Developmental Contexts

  • Kristin Anderson MooreEmail author
  • David Murphey
  • Tawana Bandy
  • Elizabeth Lawner


As the number of available indicators of child well-being has increased, there has also been increased interest in composite or summary measures that distill many indicators into a more readily understood “score” or index. Indices (as distinct from scales) can be readily created, using a number of alternative methodologies. However, there is little consensus on the pros and cons of different approaches, even though seemingly minor methodological decisions (e.g., weighting, intermediate calculation of domain indices) can have substantial implications. One key distinction is between indices that focus solely on the well-being of the child and those that also incorporate measures of the contexts in which children develop. Indices that combine child well-being and contexts generally reflect a “rights of the child” perspective, while indices that focus exclusively on measures of child well-being itself typically reflect a child development perspective. Another notable contrast is between those indices that rely on macro (aggregate) data, and those that are constructed with micro (child-level) data. After reviewing a number of these conceptual issues, and summarizing several representative examples of work, the authors describe their construction of indices of both positive and negative well-being, using micro data from the 2007 US National Survey of Children’s Health. In addition, they present both positive and negative indices of the contexts of children’s development. Both the child well-being and the contextual indices are composed of multiple domains that reflect a social-ecological perspective. While the results demonstrate considerable variability within each domain, in general, most US children are faring quite well. However, girls, white children, and children in more affluent families generally enjoy higher levels of well-being than their counterparts. Turning to developmental contexts for well-being, differences by income and race/ethnicity are apparent, although gender difference in the quality of developmental contexts is not found. Also, the results suggest that low-income communities and families are not without significant strengths. As yet, no one approach to index construction is accepted, and a single approach may not be appropriate. It is likely that countries (and other jurisdictions) will continue to take somewhat different paths in developing well-being indices, decisions that are driven in part by available data, as well as by theoretical and political priorities.


Vulnerability Index Developmental Context Latino Child Contextual Domain Affluent Family 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristin Anderson Moore
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Murphey
    • 1
  • Tawana Bandy
    • 1
  • Elizabeth Lawner
    • 1
  1. 1.Child TrendsBethesdaUSA

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