The proportion of children aged 10 to 15 years who argued more than once a week with their mother fell significantly from 30.5% in 2009 to 2010 to 25.8% in 2015 to 2016.
The proportion of children aged 10 to 15 years who talked to their father more than once a week about things that mattered to them increased significantly from 38.0% in 2009 to 2010 to 45.2% in 2015 to 2016.
The growth in children talking to their fathers more was driven largely by girls, who reported an increase from 35.7% in 2009 to 2010 to 45.6% in 2015 to 2016, making this aspect of children's relationships with their fathers now very similar for both boys and girls.
The proportion of children aged 10 to 15 years reporting high or very high happiness with friends fell significantly from 85.8% in 2015 to 80.5% in 2017, with boys being the main driver of this change.
The proportion of children aged 10 to 15 years who reported using social networking sites for more than three hours on a normal school day increased significantly from 8.6% in 2010 to 2011 to 12.8% in 2015 to 2016, with girls more than twice as likely to spend this length of time using social networking sites
“The quality of relationships has a very significant impact on our sense of personal well-being and children are no exception. This is why we look at their relationships with parents and friends. It’s encouraging to see that among girls especially, family relationships are improving. Girls are now more likely to talk to their fathers about things that matter to them than previously. Use of social networking is on the increase among children – among girls more than boys. However, children's happiness with their friends has seen a drop. These findings can help to inform initiatives that are being adopted to reduce loneliness across all age groups in society.”
Dawn Snape, Assistant Director, Well-being, Inequalities, Sustainability and Environment (WISE) Division, Office for National StatisticsBack to table of contents
This article presents a picture of how children aged 10 to 15 years in the UK are coping in a range of areas that matter to their quality of life. The indicator set covers children aged 0 to 15 years.
Children’s quality of life is monitored using a set of 31 headline indicators designed to shed light both on their current well-being and on their future prospects. The measures include objective data (for example, participated in sport in the last week) and subjective data (such as happiness with appearance). The aim is to provide a holistic view of life in the UK for children reflecting both the circumstances of their lives and their own perspectives. This article focuses on family and social relationships but the full set of 31 measures, which includes the latest data for all the indicators where available, can be found in the dataset.
The analysis uses the latest data available as of March 2018. However, the data underpinning the indicators are from a range of different sources with different time periods and geographical coverage. Further information on the source of each indicator can be found in the indicator set.
Assessments of change
To provide an overview of if and how quality of life is improving for children in the UK, we assess whether each indicator has improved, deteriorated or remained unchanged. Within the reference tables, comparisons are made with the previously published data for each indicator. Where possible, the article also includes trends over a longer period to provide further context.
Our next publications and your feedback
We are in the process of reviewing our children’s well-being indicators and how we publish these data.
You can help inform our work by sharing your opinions in this short survey: ONS Children’s Well-being outputs: Your feedback.
Your feedback will be very valuable in making our results useful and accessible. If you have any questions, please contact us via email at QualityOfLife@ons.gov.uk.
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Children’s well-being is an important part of the nation’s well-being. Not only does childhood set the foundation for a well-functioning and healthy adulthood, but children ought to be able to experience life and flourish as individuals.
The importance of social connections to well-being throughout our lives is something that is gaining increasing policy attention. The Prime Minister recently announced the development of a strategy to alleviate loneliness in response to the Jo Cox Commission, and requested Office for National Statistics (ONS) to develop measures of loneliness for use with people of all ages. As this is such an important issue, children’s family and social relationships are the focus of this article as part of the latest update of the children’s well-being indicators.
Most people experience loneliness at some point during their lifetime. For children, one of the first reasons for loneliness is an absence of peer friendship, with an increasing focus on quality of friendships rather than quantity as children move into late childhood and adolescence (Qualter and others, 2015).
In March 2017, the government laid an amendment to the Children and Social Work Act 2017 by making Relationships Education statutory in all schools. The focus will be on different types of relationships, how to recognise, understand and build healthy relationships, how relationships may affect health and well-being, including mental health, as well as healthy relationships and safety online. In subsequent sections, this article will cover a range of issues relating to children’s social, family and community relationships using the data collected and analysed as part of the children’s well-being indicators.Back to table of contents
In The Good Childhood Report 2013 (PDF, 1.05MB), The Children’s Society found that a measure of family harmony was substantially more indicative of children’s well-being than family structure. Additionally, they also found that the quality of family relationships was one of the three most significant aspects of life that contributes to children’s overall sense of well-being.
Talking to parents
The percentage of children in the UK who reported talking to their father more than once a week about things that matter to them increased significantly between 2009 to 2010 and 2015 to 2016, increasing from 38.0% to 45.2%. This improvement was largely driven by girls, with 45.6% reporting regularly talking to their father in 2015 to 2016, compared with 35.7% in 2009 to 2010, making this aspect of children's relationships with their fathers now very similar for both boys and girls.
A greater percentage of children reported talking to their mother more than once a week about things that matter to them; however, this improvement was not significant. Despite this, children were significantly more likely to report talking to their mother than to their father. In 2015 to 2016, 64.9% of children reported regularly talking to their mother about things that matter, while only 45.2% of children reported regular conversations with their father in the same time period.
It is important to note that these analyses do not take family composition or living arrangements into account and specifically how these might relate to opportunities for interaction between parents and children.
Arguing with parents
Between 2009 to 2010 and 2015 to 2016, the percentage of children aged 10 to 15 years who argued with their mother more than once a week fell significantly, from 30.5% to 25.8%. Again, girls were the main driver, as the percentage of girls who reported regularly arguing with their mother in this time period also decreased significantly, falling from 31.0% to 25.2%. This marks the first time that boys have been more likely to report arguing with their mother than girls. Figure 2 shows the percentage of children who reported regularly arguing with their mother.
Despite this decrease, children remained significantly more likely to report frequent arguments with their mother than with their father. In 2015 to 2016, 25.8% of children reported arguing with their mother more than once a week, while 19.2% of children reported arguing with their father more than once a week in the same time period.
Again, it is important to note that family composition or living arrangements have not been taken into account for the purposes of these analyses. There is potential for further analyses to understand how this may impact interactions between parents and children.Back to table of contents
A child’s perception of where they live is important as it affects participation in local activities as well as their ability and confidence to go outside to play and make friends with other local children. The Sure Start children’s centres statutory guidance (PDF, 308.4KB) from the Department for Education highlights that building social capital and cohesion are ways of building communities’ capacity to improve young children’s well-being, as suggested in section 1 of the Childcare Act 2016.
Between 2013 to 2014 and 2015 to 2016, the percentage of girls who liked the neighbourhood where they lived increased significantly, from 88.3% to 92.6%. The overall percentage of children who reported liking the neighbourhood where they lived has increased each year, though these improvements were not significant (see Figure 4).
Safe after dark
In all years between 2011 to 2012 and 2015 to 2016, girls were significantly less likely than boys to report feeling safe while walking alone in their neighbourhood after dark. For example, in 2015 to 2016, 52.4% of girls reported feeling very safe or fairly safe after dark, compared with 66.1% of boys. Results from the Crime Survey for England and Wales show that this is a trend that starts early and continues into later life; throughout their lives women are less likely to feel safe after dark than men.
The percentage of children who reported feeling very safe or fairly safe has increased each year, however, this increase has not been significant. Figure 5 shows the percentage of children who reported feeling safe each year.
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The aim of the children’s well-being indicator set is to help us better understand children’s quality of life and well-being, and to monitor it over time. This report includes assessments showing the direction of change for each of the measures, whether they have improved, shown no overall change, or deteriorated.
Broadly speaking, indicators have only been assessed as having improved or deteriorated if the difference between the comparison periods is statistically significant using 95% confidence intervals. If a difference is said to be statistically significant, it is unlikely that it could have occurred by chance.
Confidence intervals give a measure of the statistical precision of an estimate and show the range of uncertainty around the estimate. As a general rule, if the confidence intervals around the estimate overlap with the interval around another, there is no statistically significant difference between the estimates.Back to table of contents
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You might also be interested in:
- Qualter, P et al. (2015). Loneliness across the life span
- Children and Social Work Act 2017
- The Good Childhood Report 2013. The Children’s Society
- Predicting Well-being (2013) NatCen
- The Good Childhood Report 2017. The Children’s Society
- Safety net: The cyberbully inquiry (2018). The Children’s Society
- Sure Start children’s centres statutory guidance (2013). Department for Education
- Childcare Act 2017
- Changing behaviour: Children, adolescents and screen use (2018) The British Psychological Society
- Social media and children’s mental health: a review of the evidence (2017). Education Policy Institute
- How healthy behaviour supports children’s well-being (2013). Public Health England
- Feeling unsafe walking home and being home alone after dark by age and sex. The effect of ‘fear of crime’ on quality of life year ending March 2016