Dr Jennifer Fane1
1Capilano University, North Vancouver, Canada
Despite increased efforts within child wellbeing research to include children’s perspectives in our knowledge of child wellbeing, including young children’s voices within child wellbeing assessment continues to be a significant challenge. As the transition to school is widely understood as a key time to assess child wellbeing, preschool aged children are a frequent target of child wellbeing assessment, yet their voices have had little input into the instruments and frameworks used to measure child wellbeing. This study sought to investigate young children’s perspectives of their own wellbeing in relation to five Australian and International instruments/frameworks which gather data about young children’s wellbeing: (1) AEDC; (2) Report Card – The Wellbeing of young; (3) Australian Institute of Family Studies – Growing up in Australia Longitudinal study; (4) UNICEF – Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child well-being in rich countries; (5) CWI – Child and Youth Well-being Index.
Using a citizen-child approach to participatory research, three-to-five-year-old children attending eight diverse early childhood education and care services in Australia shared their experiences and understandings of wellbeing. Children’s accounts were compared to adult derived child wellbeing frameworks/instruments to determine the way children’s accounts accorded and differed from current conceptualisations.
The findings evidenced that young children’s accounts further validated current adult derived child wellbeing indicators. Additionally, children’s accounts uncovered two novel indicators yet to be explored in relation to child wellbeing social indicator frameworks: opportunities for play, and young children’s agency.
The role of agency and play in children’s conceptualisations of wellbeing are considered in light of contemporary empirical research and will be of keen interest to those education and public health professionals and policy-makers concerned with improving child wellbeing outcomes.
Jennifer Fane is a researcher and educator in the field of early childhood education and childhood studies. She holds a interdisciplinary PhD from Flinders University in the areas of public health, early childhood education, and social policy.