Developing a subjective well-being measure for early years

This quantitative study aims to offer younger children a voice when considering their own emotional well-being. It is suggested that emotional well-being is a key indicator of academic success for children and young people within formal education (Gutman et al 2012). Despite research demonstrating this, the focus within today’s educational policy is on academic outputs (National Union of Teachers 2015). A significant lack of attention is given to subjective well-being of young children across previous literature with a focus upon children of an older age range within Key Stage 2 and 3. Research with younger participants has been largely overlooked. The current research project consisted of four small-scale studies with children who were six to seven years old within a primary school. Two measures of well-being were constructed based on a qualitative activity and card-sorting; one measure for experiences children have around well-being and another for opportunities they have available to them to enable positive well-being. These measures were then piloted with a cohort of Key Stage 1 children. While the psychometric properties of the experiences scale indicated it was not reliable, the opportunities scale showed good internal reliability. Moreover, children generally felt positive about their well-being. Measures of observed well-being were also collected and these showed weak associations with the subjective well-being measures. The discussion explores the findings from the two scales in relation to the literature around children’s well-being and the roles of observed and subjective measures in building a holistic picture of a young child’s well-being.