Research on child well-being is an expanding international and interdisciplinary field of research. The growing interest in child well-being reflects developments in children’s rights discourses, in (inter)national welfare policy and in the sociology of childhood that has emerged over the last two decades. One of the shared characteristics of these developments are the positioning of children as social actors and an understanding of generational orders as a relevant context for children’s needs, rights and ideas about the good life.
Nevertheless, the dominant approach in gathering data on children’s well-being relies on scientific theories and of adult experts developing the categories and measures to which children are asked to respond. Few studies ask children themselves about their understanding of well-being, even though subjective well-being is increasingly considered to be a relevant category.
In the child well-being research field several fundamental issues therefore invite continued discussion:
- How can we understand and define child well-being? As a normative construct, as a subjective assessment, or as an open concept to be understood through empirical research?
- How can we integrate children’s perspectives into research on child well-being and what does that mean in terms of ethical, theoretical and methodological approaches?
- How can we understand children’s well-being in the context of the existing globalized conditions of growing up – for example whether there are shared or different meanings and experiences of well-being across multi-national contexts?
Within the context of these challenges a multi-national study is being undertaken that examines how children conceptualise and experience well-being from a comparative and worldwide perspective. The study aims to interrogate from children’s perspectives the meanings of well-being and how children experience dimensions of well-being. The study aims to explore the importance of local and national as well as other social and cultural contexts on these meanings and experiences, via a comparative national analysis.
- (a) How do children define and experience well-being? What dimensions of well-being are significant to children?
- (b) What key concepts are most important from children’s perspectives (including identifying new domains of well-being)?
- (c) How do these meanings and experiences relate to national, local and other social and cultural contexts?
However the main objective of the study is to determine the relative significance of different contexts for understandings and experiences of well-being from a comparative qualitative perspective. Therefore the study also seeks to respond to the following research questions:
- What are the shared and different topics across the national groups?
- In which ways are the concepts that underlie these topics different or shared across national contexts? For example, do we find that the same topics, such as love or safety, have different meanings? Or do different topics reflect shared meanings?
- What national and local but also other social and cultural contexts are relevant for children’s understandings and experiences of well-being?