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Children’s Social and Emotional Relationships and Well-Being: From the Perspective of the Child

  • Colette McAuley
  • Wendy Rose

Abstract

This chapter opens with a review of current conceptualizations of child well-being and a good childhood. It moves on to consider the origins and driving forces influencing the development of the field of child indicators. The incorporation of children’s subjective perspectives in measuring and monitoring their well-being is highlighted along with the concomitant challenges posed by this welcome development.

Recent evidence from a quantitative survey which consulted children found three key determinants of child well-being. Their relationships with family and positive relationships with friends were positive influences while peer bullying negatively affected their well-being. Bearing these findings in mind, a body of qualitative research findings where children were central informants was selected for an in-depth examination of how these three key areas impacted upon their well-being. The studies included children in the general population, children living in different family types, children with special needs, children living in families experiencing difficulties, as well as children living in out-of-home care.

Throughout the qualitative studies, there was clear evidence of the importance of relationships with family and friends. Children’s close relationships with both were characterized by a sense of trust. Shared activities were the vehicles for developing trust and learning about negotiation with others. Where children lived in different family types, the quality of their relationships rather than the structure was the critical factor. Acceptance and having close relationships with family and friends were equally important to children with special needs. Children living in families experiencing difficulties often had to balance feelings of loyalty to their parents with feeling unsafe and insecure at times. Developing and maintaining friendships was particularly challenging for these children. We gained a glimpse of the dilemmas these children face which should inform the development of support strategies. Finally, children in out-of-home care highlighted the importance of being able to develop trust in their social workers and carers and the impact of multiple moves of home and school on these developing relationships. Bullying and the fear of bullying was highlighted by the children in all of these circumstances as a constant preoccupation in their daily lives. One of the key messages from these studies was just how prevalent this issue is and how much of children’s energies are focused on preventing or combating it. Apart from seeking the support of parents, the development of strong friendships was viewed as the most successful strategy. On a more general note, children’s agency in their relationships and in keeping safe was clearly evident. It is argued that studies which place children’s perspectives at the center have an important part to play in informing policy development.

Keywords

Foster Carer Parental Mental Health Nonresident Father Good Childhood Birth Parent 
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

  1. 1.School of Social and International StudiesUniversity of BradfordBradfordEngland, UK
  2. 2.School of Social SciencesCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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