Child well-being definitions

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What is child well-being?

According to Bradshaw et al., two main approaches to measuring child well-being can be taken: a rights-based approach or an empirical approach, including research on subjective measures of well-being. [1]  Bradshaw et al. take a rights based approach, with the following understanding of child well-being:

"Child well-being and deprivation represent different sides of the same coin. From a child rights perspective well-being can be defined as the realisation of children’s rights and the fulfilment of the opportunity for every child to be all she or he can be. The degree to which this is achieved can be measured in terms of positive child outcomes, whereas negative outcomes and deprivation point to the denial of children’s rights."[2]

According to the Child and Youth Well-Being Index:

"the overall well-being of children and young people... is defined in terms of averages of social conditions encountered by children and young people." [3]

According to Ben-Arieh (2007), "numerous efforts have been made to define the concept of child well-being in the context of child indicators. Much of these efforts are rooted in Western culture in  developed countries". Child well-being is often associated with developmental transitions between different stages in life. "Often, especially among young children, the standards for development are based on a preferred adolescent or adult outcome, implying the need to prepare children for their transition into later stages in life or to monitor the developmental process.[4]

Child well-being is not fundamentally different from human well-being. However, children are much more dependent on a nurturing and stimulating environment and childhood poverty and other deprivations in child well-being can affect the rest of the individual's life. This is because childhood is a one-shot window of opportunity for development and learning.


Age and well-being: Child or Youth

There is no single definition of what is a child or youth. However, the definition is of great importance when one decides what data is essential to capture, or how indicators'  weight might differ between children and young people. For instance, younger children are highly dependent on a nurturing loving family background whereas older children are more influenced by their peers, meaning competition and poverty become more influential factors.[5] Early childhood is considered essential for survival of the first years of life and thrive the rest of the live.

See also

Child Material Well-being
Child Subjective Well-being
Child well-being and economic development
Child Well-being and Gender Inequality
Child well-being measurement
Child well-being blogs
Child well-being conferences
Child well-being and progress
Child and Equity
Child Behaviour and Risks
Child Civic and Political Participation
Child Labour
Child Marriage
Child Educational Well-being
Child Family and Peer Relationships
Child Health and Safety
Child Nutrition


  3. The Child Well-being Index.(2008)
  4. Ben-Arieh, A. (2006). "Measuring and monitoring the well-being of young children around the world". Background paper prepares for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2007, UNESCO. Available at:
  5. Thomas, Jennifer (2009), “Working Paper: Current Measures and the Challenges of Measuring Children’s Wellbeing”, Household, Labour Market and Social Wellbeing, Office for National Statistics, Newport.p.9