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Expert Comment: The Good Childhood Report 2012

Report_141_x_200 Wednesday 25 April 2012

Dr. Joan Walton, Director - Centre For The Child, Family & Society at Liverpool Hope University

This report represents a significant landmark in developing an understanding of what causes children to be unhappy in their lives, and identifying specific criteria that will help more accurately measure child well-being.  Clearly the development of a comprehensive understanding of relevant indicators is a key component in enhancing the quality of children’s lives.  It is also noted that there is a companion document to this report entitled Promoting positive well-being  for children, the aim of which is to provide guidance to decision-makers at central and local levels in relation to policy-making and implementation.   

However in placing so much emphasis on the need to provide increasingly accurate indicators of measurement, and to provide information that will be helpful to the decision-making of policy makers, there is still a major question that has not been adequately addressed:  and that is, how do family members and direct carers of practice improve their practice on a moment-by- moment basis with children for whom they are responsible?   The research clearly indicates that the critical influencing factor in a child’s wellbeing is the quality of relationship they are experiencing with key adults.  It is important that children feel nurtured in that relationship, and also that adults are able to gain the right balance between protecting them, and enabling them to have choice, freedom and autonomy. 

There is no measurement or policy that will in itself improve the quality of relationship between adult and child.  At present the research is based on objective methods of data collection, which has now been expanded to include subjective views of children.  To progress to the next step, and enable those responsible for the wellbeing of children to improve what they do, requires a different form of research;  research which starts with the practice of the adult, and encourages them to ask themselves questions such as “How do I improve my practice?”  “ How do I improve my ability to develop quality relationships with children such that their well-being is improved?”

The data collected as a consequence of this form of research can then be used to complement the other forms of research that are undertaken.  This will ensure that there is not only a demonstration of how to measure children’s wellbeing, but will suggest what actually needs to happen in practice for it to be improved. 

Indeed it could be argued that once each adult was able to develop the quality of relationship that met the child’s needs, they would then have created the conditions which would enable them to be sensitive to all the other issues that were going on in a child’s life which have also been significant in determining well-being; and be able to give the appropriate guidance as and when required by that child. 

Click HERE to read more about The Good Childhood Report 2012.  

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