Children identify what matters to them

The lack of material items and experiences selected by children themselves as needed for ‘a normal kind of life’ provide a better predictor of children’s well-being than conventional measures, finds research conducted for The Children’s Society, Missing Out: A Child-centred Analysis of Material Deprivation and Subjective Well-being. The researchers put together a ten item index based on focus group discussions with, in total, 36 boys and girls aged between 8 to 15 from Leeds, Warrington and London about what they felt they needed.

Items required to fit in with their friends figured strongly on the index. ‘Well you probably wouldn’t have any friends if you didn’t have [cable or satellite] TV’, comments one 10-to-11 year-old, while another 14-to-15 year-old comments, ‘Now it’s like your friends are not just for their personality but also kind of how they look…’ But so did time together as a family and doing things as a family. The final index covered:

  1. Some pocket money each week to spend on yourself
  2. Some money that you can save each month, either in a bank or at home
  3. A pair of designer or brand name trainers (like Nike or Vans)
  4. An iPod or other personal music player
  5. Cable or satellite TV at home
  6. A garden at home, or somewhere nearby like a park, where you can safely spend time with your friends
  7. A family car for transport when you need it
  8. The right kind of clothes to fit in with other people your age
  9. At least one family holiday away from home each year
  10. Family trips or days out at least once a month

These items were then included in a nationally representative survey of 5,500 young people aged 8 to 15 across England to find out who didn’t have these items but wanted them and how this lack related to their overall well-being. The research found that children who lacked two or more items or experiences were significantly more likely to be unhappy than those who lacked none, and children lacking five or more were over five times more likely to have low levels of well-being.

Overall, children’s subjective experiences of material deprivation were found to be three times more powerful at predicting their life satisfaction than more conventional measures of their material circumstances, such as household income.

Read the Children’s Society full report: Missing Out: A Child-centred Analysis of Material Deprivation and Subjective Well-being.