Children_ã_s happiness linked to supportive environment outside the home

Children_ã_s happiness linked to supportive environment outside the home

Children who report having more support in their community are also more likely to have high self-esteem, optimism, overall health, happiness and less sadness, says a study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

The study looked at children in their middle years of childhood, ages 6 through 12, and found that those who reported having more assets in their life, such as supportive relationships and a sense of belonging, are more likely to report high overall health and well-being.

_ã–The middle childhood years are a time that is particularly critical developmentally because it represents the transition from childhood into adolescence,_㝠says Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, the principal investigator of the study, and a professor in UBC_ã_s Faculty of Education and the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP).

Schonert-Reichl, and her team, developed a new research tool to assess the factors that help children thrive in their middle childhood.  The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) is the first tool of its kind that provides population-level information about the well-being of children in their middle years.

As a pilot study, the MDI was administered to 3,026 Grade 4 students in Vancouver public schools.  The MDI, a self-report survey, asked children about five supports in their lives: physical health habits, school experiences, how they spend their time after-school, friendships and relationships with parents, school and neighbourhood adults.

The study, Our children_ã_s voices: The Middle Years Development Instrument, Vancouver MDI 2010,  found that children with four or five assets are three to four times as likely to report medium to very high levels of well-being as compared to children who have only one or no asset.

Researchers found that good relationships with adults were the support system most associated with overall health and well-being.  Good peer relationships were the second-most important, says Schonert Reichl.

_ã–We can use this information to decide how we will support the positive development of children so that they can all reach their greatest potential,_㝠said Schonert Reichl, from the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education at UBC.

_ã–There is evidence that promoting children_ã_s social and emotional learning leads to healthy development and increased academic performance._ã

In Vancouver, the study found that 26 per cent of Grade 4 children were categorized as _ãÄlow_ã_ in child health and well-being, and another 34 per cent were considered medium. These findings indicate that less than half of Vancouver_ã_s children are thriving and meeting their fullest potential.

 The MDI was developed in partnership by the Vancouver School Board, United Way of the Lower Mainland, and UBC_ã_s Human Early Learning Partnership.

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