We know a lot about children without ever asking them. We can gauge their health, we can measure their education, we can monitor their nutrition, but we don’t always simply ask children themselves: how do you feel about your life?
But we need to. Understanding their perceptions and designing policies that respond to children’s priorities show us a practical way to help them lead better lives.
So how do we do that?
One relevant concept that has come to the fore in recent years is “subjective well-being” – essentially describing how people experience their lives, whether that’s positively or negatively. Today, the science and measurement of subjective well-being has become sufficiently mature to make it both useful and practical, yet it remains a concept applied to adults far more often than it is to children.
What a missed opportunity. We can imagine a world where a deep understanding of children’s subjective well-being is not just commonplace but is regularly and routinely informing the policies impacting their lives.
This primer on subjective well-being explains more and lays out three steps to help advance – in the words of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – “an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding” for every child.