Unique research reveals what eight year olds in 16 different countries feel

by Ray Clancy on October 27, 2016

When moving abroad what the change will mean from a child’s perspective is not always taken into account and their views vary from country to country as a new piece of research shows.

The first ever look at how children aged eight in different countries feel about their lives examines their thoughts regarding their family, home life, money, friendships, possessions, school, where they live, their rights and overall happiness.

Children-SchoolThe research funded by the Jacobs Foundation involved 17,000 children aged eight in 16 countries across four continents and found that most were happy with their lives as a whole but a minority, around 6%, had low well-being.

Over a third of the children surveyed said that they ‘often’ or ‘always’ worried about how much money their family has. The levels of worry were highest at over 30% of children saying that they ‘always’ worried in Israel, Colombia, Spain and Nepal. In South Korea and Germany the figure was less than 10%.

Most children in the survey said that they felt totally safe at home, at school and in their neighbourhood. However 4% of children did not agree at all that they felt safe at home, 4% did not agreed that they felt safe at school, and 9% did not agree at all that they felt safe when out and about in their neighbourhood. While these percentages are small they still add up to large numbers of children in each country.

Some 62% totally agreed that they liked going to school. Children in Algeria and Ethiopia were most likely to like going to school and children in Germany, South Korea and the UK the least likely. In some countries, including Israel and six European countries, girls were much more positive about school than boys, but in other countries such as Nepal and Ethiopia there was no difference between girls and boys.

It reveals quite a high level of bullying as school. Many of the children, 41%, said that, in the last month, they had been left out by classmates while 48% said that they had been hit by other children at school. The percentage of children who had been hit was highest in Estonia, the UK and Germany and lowest in South Korea. The percentage who had been left out was highest in the UK and Romania and lowest in South Korea and Ethiopia.

Almost half of the children, 46%, said that they knew about children’s rights. This is lower than for similar surveys for older children aged 10 and 12. Children in Colombia were the most likely to know about children’s rights, and in Turkey, Ethiopia, Romania and Norway over half of children also answered ‘yes’ to this question.

‘For the first time ever we are able to hear from almost 20,000 eight years old children from 16 countries what they do, feel and want. This remarkable achievement teaches us first and foremost that children know better than anyone else about their lives and that any effort to improve it needs to be inclusive of their voice,’ said Professor Asher Ben-Arieh, one of the study’s principal investigators and co-chair of the International Society of Child Indicators.

The Children’s Worlds international survey project will continue to grow with further countries including Indonesia, Finland and Italy joining the second wave of the survey. The third wave will start in September 2017 with initial findings to be published in early 2019.

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