Half a million children across the UK are unhappy with their lives, according to research published today by The Children’s Society.
The Good Childhood Report 2012 – based on interviews with more than 30,000 eight to 16-year-olds – identified key factors which affect children’s wellbeing and set out six priorities the charity believes are needed for a happy childhood.
Choice and family have the greatest impact on a child’s happiness, and children are less concerned with their family structure than the relationships in it, the study found.
Strong and loving family relationships are ten times more likely to increase a child’s wellbeing than the family structure, the report found, while children who experience a change in the family members they live with are twice as likely to experience low wellbeing than their peers.
Feelings of unhappiness and low wellbeing also increase dramatically with age, researchers found, doubling from the age of 10 (7%) to the age of 15 (14%).
The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, who launched the report today, said it should act as a “wake-up call”. “Policy makers and public alike will find clear information in this report about what causes our children to be unhappy with their lives,” he said.
Elaine Hindal, director of The Children’s Society’s Campaign for Childhood, said: “We are calling for a radical new approach to childhood, placing their wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. Our research has exposed that how children feel really matters.
“We want our country to be the best place for our children to grow up. Yet unless we act now we risk becoming one of the worst and creating a lost future generation.”
The following six priorities are essential for a happy childhood, the charity found:
• the right conditions to learn and develop;
• a positive view of themselves and a respect for their identity;
• enough of the items and experiences that matter to them;
• positive relationships with their family and friends;
• a safe and suitable home environment
• local area and the opportunities to take part in positive activities that help them thrive.
Hindal added: “We urge government and other decision-makers to use the six priorities we have pinpointed. This is a real opportunity to make a huge difference to [children’s] lives.”