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Study examines the relationship between material resources and the wellbeing in children’s lives

Held in eight countries, the survey was attended by more than 35,000 children
Study examines the relationship between material resources and the wellbeing in children’s lives

Researchers highlight the importance of considering, in addition to basic rights, the emotional and security needs of children - Photo by: Rochele Zandavalli/UFRGS-Arquivo

Written by Carolina Golenia

More than 35,000 children aged 10 to 14 years participated in an international research whose aim is to verify the relationship between material resources and children’s subjective wellbeing. The study was conducted in eight countries (Algeria, South Africa, Brazil, South Korea, Spain, England, Israel, and Uganda), in Brazil, it was coordinated by Professor Jorge Castellá Sarriera from the Institute of Psychology of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS). A total of 1,020 Brazilian children were interviewed.

The researchers went to public and private schools and asked children of various social classes and both sexes to react to the following statements: 1. My life is going well; 2. My life is just good; 3. I would like to change many things in my life; 4. I wish I had another kind of life; 5. I have a good life; 6. I have what I want in my life; and 7. My life is better than that of many children.

“We are looking for data about material resources to which children have access. For example, access to good condition school uniform, to computer, to internet, to cell phone; considering that they are important resources for development”, explains Lívia Bedin, doctor in Psychology, who was also involved in the study. The researchers used the Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS) – an instrument that has already been validated in several countries.

Here in Brazil, the research was only conducted in Rio Grande do Sul, in the cities of Porto Alegre, Passo Fundo, Santa Cruz do Sul, Rio Grande and Santa Maria, which were selected by the number of inhabitants and university centers. In other countries, data collection was also very specific, with the exception of Spain, South Korea and England, which had more extensive surveys. Data were collected in 2011.

Dr Bedin emphasizes that some sociocultural factors can influence this perception related to material values. “For example, children of Israel who identify themselves as very religious have high score in terms of wellbeing even when they have few material resources.” Another aspect that drew the attention of the researchers was children’s wellbeing low scores in South Korea and England, even though children have access to these resources. “This may be what we call a materialistic tendency, especially observed in English society. The more they want to have something, the more dissatisfied they are with their wellbeing”, says Dr Bedin. On the other hand, in South Korea, there is the so-called Asian bias – in Eastern cultures in general, populations tend not to evaluate wellbeing very  positively when compared to Western societies.

The influence of material resources is significant for all countries. Data indicate that the higher the deprivation level the greater the impact on wellbeing. “This shows the importance of improving the material condition of children, especially in developing countries”, says the researcher. The study also allowed us to observe, however, that as soon as a minimum level of living conditions is achieved there is no improvement in wellbeing, “in fact, there are studies that show that aiming for wealth has a negative impact on wellbeing”, states Dr Bedin.

Professor Sarriera highlights that it is important that “in addition to basic rights, such as education and food, children also have quality of life in subjective indicators and have their emotional and safety needs considered.” He observes that, in general, the level of satisfaction with life is linked to material or economic aspects, and reinforces that this is not enough as one must also include psychological factor. “The idea of thisresearch is to have basic indicators of wellbeing in the development of children, so that they can grow with the material resources and also with the emotional and social means that can support a healthy personality”, he notes.

The study had the participation of the Universitat de Girona, in Spain; of the Universidad de Buenos Aires, in Argentina; of the Universidad del Desarrollo, in Chile; and of the International Society for Child Indicators (ISCI), which mediates between all participating countries. Each country had a research group of 20 to 30 people. Professor Sarriera  says that there are plans to expand this research in several ways: “In the scope and segment of these children in a longitudinal study, that is, probe these children again when they are aged 14 to 16, and then 20 to 24.”

Reference article

SARRIERA, Jorge Castellá et al. Material resources and children’s subjective well-being in eight countries. Child Indicators Research, v. 8, n. 1, 2014

Keywords: Well-being. Childhood. Psychology


Translated by Guilherme S. de Oliveira

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