The Good Childhood Report, from The Children’s Society, shows the latest trends in children’s wellbeing. The report covers different aspects of children’s lives and how they feel about family, friends, school and life in general. Children who take part in Understanding Society provide vital information for the report, which tracks the experiences of 10-15 year olds over time.
This year’s report shows that around 1 in 16 children (6%) aged 10 to 15 are unhappy with their lives, and almost 1 in 8 (12%) are unhappy with school. The 2022 Good Childhood Report uses Understanding Society data from the years 2019-2020, which covers the start of the Covid pandemic, disruption to schooling and a period of economic uncertainty for families. Over 2,100 children completed an Understanding Society survey is this time period. The Children’s Society also uses data from their own research programme on children’s wellbeing – together these data sources provide robust and timely information about the experiences of children in the UK.
Children’s happiness scores for life as a whole, friends, appearance, and school were significantly lower in 2019-20 than when the survey began in 2009-10. There was no significant difference in average scores for happiness with family or school work compared with 2009-10.
Children were more unhappy with their appearance than with the other areas of life they were asked about. Boys were significantly happier with their appearance than girls, with almost 18% of 10-15 year old girls unhappy with their looks, compared to 10% of boys. This is a jump for girls, from 15% being unhappy with their appearance ten years ago.
Trend data from Understanding Society shows that older cohorts of children appear to be getting more unhappy with schoolwork at a quicker rate than younger cohorts of children. In 2019-20 happiness with school and schoolwork declined significantly with age, and was lower among children in lower income households. Analysis of children’s response to other questions on school included in their Understanding Society survey don’t give very clear indications of why children’s happiness with school (and more recently with school work) seems to be falling.
It was not all bad news. The report found that happiness with family remained consistently high for most children and that happiness with friends had increased since the last two reports (though it still wasn’t as high as in 2009-10).
This analysis shows the affect the Covid pandemic had on children in the UK. The Children’s Society found that 1 in 9 children (11% aged 10 to 17) felt they did not cope overall with changes due to Coronavirus. Months of lost learning, facing in-person exams for the first time and mounting pressure could all have had a detrimental effect on children’s wellbeing.
The report authors commented on why Understanding Society was a good dataset for this research. “The first set of data from Understanding Society to include responses from children collected during the pandemic shows some interesting patterns in children’s happiness with different aspects of life. While it is not possible to differentiate the role that the Coronavirus pandemic has had, it will be interesting to see if the slight upturns seen in some of the measures in the most recent wave continue into the next year. It is likely that it will be some time before any long-term effects of the pandemic are known and it is therefore important that the impact on children continues to be monitored and support remains available for those most affected.”