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Children’s Voices: A review of evidence on the subjective wellbeing of children with mental health needs in England

This report explores findings from an evidence review of the views, perspectives and experiences of children with mental health needs, on matters related to their subjective wellbeing.

This report forms part of a series of studies examining the subjective wellbeing of vulnerable groups of children in England. This series was produced as part of a larger project focused on improving evidence about childhood vulnerability.

Objectives of the rapid review

The main objectives of the rapid review were as follows:
1. To identify, appraise and synthesize published qualitative evidence on the subjective wellbeing of children with mental health needs in England;
2. To draw out key findings and conclusions from the evidence, as well as identifying any important gaps.

Scope
The review was limited to the exploration of qualitative evidence concerning the subjective views and experiences of children in England, published from 2007 and beyond.

The review focused on studies that captured and presented the direct voices, and first-hand accounts, of children. Adult perspectives on childhood experiences, and studies with excessive mediation and intervention by the author interrupting children’s accounts, were avoided or deprioritised. The team considered accounts by children of their own personal experiences, as well as their perceptions and reports of the experiences of their peers.

The review only considered literature containing evidence on the experiences and views of vulnerable children ages 17 years or under. Retrospective accounts of childhood, provided by adults from 18 years onwards, were generally avoided, due to the methodological limitations of such studies; however, decisions regarding the inclusion of studies containing retrospective accounts were made on a case-by-case basis (see Appendix 2: quality appraisal tool).

Methodological criteria for the inclusion of studies were broad and flexible (see Appendix 2: quality appraisal tool). There was no minimum sample size threshold for the inclusion of a study in the review; given the qualitative, personal and subjective focus of the research, diary studies of a single young person were considered eligible for review.

Finally, the review prioritised studies which entailed the collection of primary data: secondary literature based on analysis of pre-existing data was generally avoided, except where this information was necessary to fill important gaps in evidence.