UK children still among unhappiest in the world

Most young people are very satisfied with their lives, but UK children still have some of the highest levels of unhappiness in the world with much of this being linked to whether their mother is unhappy, according to a new study.

Most young people are very satisfied with their lives, but UK children still have some of the highest levels of unhappiness in the world with much of this being linked to whether their mother is unhappy, according to a new study.

The Understanding Society study, the world’s largest household panel study managed by the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex, asked more than 2,000 young people aged between 10 to 15 years how satisfied they are with their lives.  The findings show little difference between the richest and poorest children.
 
Dr Gundi Knies, one of the researchers, said:Despite the seemingly high levels of happiness amongst young people in the UK, our children’s well-being has remained about the same since the Unicef report in 2007, which rated Britain’s children as some of the most unhappy in the developed world.  Understanding Society research suggests that a focus on just improving income and material deprivation does not necessarily represent real improvements in quality of life as they are perceived by children themselves.
The results also show that young people are less materialistic than adults in their assessment of happiness.  A much greater influence on a child’s happiness is whether they live with both parents and the happiness of their parents’ relationship, and in particular their mother.  In families where the child’s mother is unhappy in her relationship, only 55 per cent of young people say they are ‘completely happy’ with their family situation – compared with 73 per cent young people whose mothers are ‘perfectly happy’ in their relationships.
Understanding Society also asked parents and children living at home questions about family relationships, including partners, and their level of happiness with these relationships.
The answers from 11,825 adults and 1,268 young people (aged 10-15) were analysed and compared. Together these findings reveal the influences of different family relationships on a child’s happiness:

– 60 per cent of the children said they were ‘completely satisfied’ with their family situation
– children in lone-parent families were less likely to report themselves completely happy with their situation
– having older siblings is not related to children’s happiness with their family, but having younger siblings in the household is associated with lower levels of satisfaction and this effect is greater the more younger siblings present in the household
– children who quarrel more than once a week with their parents, and don’t discuss important matters with them have only a 28 per cent chance of rating themselves completely happy with their families
– children who eat an evening meal with their family at least three times a week are  more likely to report being completely happy with their family situation than children who never eat with their family
– hours spent watching TV are completely unrelated to a young person’s happiness with their family situation.

The first findings book is published online here.  Individual chapters are also available to download.





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