• June 2017
  • Vol. 18, No. 4

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Measuring Children's Well-Being

Children thrive in supportive environments that prepare them to deal with life's challenges. According to a new research brief from Child Trends and the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI), programs and services that help children flourish demand a credible means of defining, measuring, and monitoring what that means. The brief was designed to spur the development of a concrete and reliable set of measures for assessing whether young children are thriving.

The authors defined "flourishing" as children's success across all five distinct developmental domains: physical health and functioning, mental and emotional well-being, social behavior, cognitive and academic development, and relationships. Since well-being is holistic in nature, it is not enough for a child to thrive in one of the five domains while struggling in others.

The authors recommend the development of measures for the following to determine whether young children are flourishing:

  • Self-regulation: A child's ability to control emotions/impulses and exert self-control
  • Attachment: A child's positive relationship with a parent or a caregiver
  • Engagement or approaches to learning: Cognitive, emotional, and behavioral engagement and interest and curiosity
  • Communication: A child's ability to express needs and wants verbally and non-verbally and listen and respond to others

The authors also recommend the following measures of risk and protective factors:

  • Positive parenting skills: Authoritative parenting
  • Conflict-resolution skills within families: Nonviolent strategies for resolving differences
  • Social support for parents: The ability of parents to form relationships with other adults
  • Community cohesion: Environment that helps parents meet basic needs and that encourages social bonds

The research brief offers a conceptual model for defining and achieving well-being that considers the following:

  • The multiple contexts that affect how children learn and grow (e.g., neighborhoods, early childcare and education settings)
  • Promotive and protective factors (individual, family, and community)
  • Risk factors (biological, psychological, family, community, and cultural)
  • Supports and services (e.g., Head Start; home visiting; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children)

The research brief, Flourishing From the Start: What Is It and How Can It Be Measured?, was supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and by the Health Resources and Services Administration through contracts with Child Trends and CAHMI at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The research brief is available at https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2017-16FlourishingFromTheStart-1.pdf (1,050 KB).
 

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