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The Good Childhood Report 2018

In the 13 years since our national children’s well-being research programme was established, The Children’s Society has asked over 65,000 children how their lives are going. This authoritative programme gives us profound and unique insights into how children feel about their lives.

This seventh Good Childhood Report – produced in partnership with the University of York – gives the latest national picture of children’s subjective well-being and trends over a number of years.

Children’s happiness with their lives had risen steadily in the 15 years from 1995 to 2010. But this progress has now been reversed and children’s well-being is now as low as it was two decades ago.

The 2018 report identifies other disparities: for example girls are unhappier with their lives, more likely to have depression, and twice as likely to self-harm as boys. And shockingly, children attracted to the same or both genders have markedly lower well-being and higher rates of depression than other children – with almost half of these young people self-harming.

Our evidence shows that traditional gender stereotypes are still common and can be harmful to children’s well-being. The report highlights examples of young people struggling to fit in with society’s expectations of them, for example the damaging effects to girls’ well-being of being bombarded by comments about their appearance at school.

With children facing overwhelming and sometimes conflicting pressures about how they should look, who they should like and how they should behave, it should come as no surprise that many are struggling to have a happy childhood.

Our report makes challenging reading for parents, teachers and other professionals who aspire for children to have a happy childhood – but it also points to ways to boost young people’s well-being. For example, our new evidence underlines that strong family relationships make the biggest difference to young people’s well-being, as children who feel closer and argue less often with their parents are far happier. Healthy interactions at school, and with friends outside school, also help to enhance children’s well-being.

The reality is that we all need to do more to make sure every child feels happy and included at home, school and in our communities. Together we can help young people feel valued, cherished and loved for who they really are. Because no child should feel alone.

This edition of the report includes:

  • An overview of the latest statistics and trends in subjective well-being, including variations by gender and other protected characteristics.
  • Analysis of new data on the links between children’s subjective well-being and their mental health.
  • A focus on gender, including children’s perspectives on gender stereotypes and experiences of comments/behaviours about their appearance.