Posted on Feb 06, 2018
Dr. Michael J. Lawler discussed what children say about their lives, what children in South Dakota say about their well-being, and what the common factors that predict well-being for children around the world.  Since 2010, Dr. Lawler has been spearheading a study in which children provide a self-assessment of their own lives: What do children say about their own lives?  This is an important indicator of developmental health and well-being (Ben-Arieh, 2010; Casas et al., 2013).  Furthermore, individual and contextual factors with geographic and cultural variation contribute to children’s subjective well-being (Broberg, 2012; Dinisman & Rees, 2014; Legace-Suguin & Case, 2010).
Today's Program Highlights
 
Children’s Worlds collects representative data from numerous countries on 8, 10, and 12 year old children’s perceptions of their own lives as measures of their subjective well-being, N = 34,500 (Dinisman & Rees, 2014) http://www.isciweb.org/.  Validity and reliability of the measures are well-established (Casas & Rees, 2015. US sample of children, n= 1,800).
 
Step 1 of the model studied 12 year olds in the US in rural communities.  It found subjective well-being for children in a rural US community (7th graders/12 year olds, n = 149). Regression and bootstrap analyses found that gender (being male), number of residences, school satisfaction, and family, teacher, and peer relationships predicted subjective well-being as measured by life satisfaction, mental health, and self-image (Newland et al., 2014).
 
Step 2 of the model studied 10 and 12 Year Olds in Rural US Communities.  It found predictors of subjective well-being for children in rural US communities (10 and 12 year olds, N = 1,286). Regression and bootstrap analyses showed gender (being male), school, and relationships predicted subjective well-being as measured by life satisfaction, mental health, and self-image (Newland et al., 2015).
 
Step 3 of the model studied 10 and 12 Year Olds in the US and 10 Other Countries.  It found predictors of subjective well-being for 10 and 12 year old children in the US and 10 other countries including Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America. Regression analyses found that gender (being male), relationships, school, and neighborhoods predicted subjective well-being as measured by life satisfaction, mental health, and self-image (Lawler et al., 2017; Lawler et al., 2015).
 
The International Relevance is that across all countries, relational, school, gender, and neighborhood variables were the strongest predictors of children’s well-being.  Findings strongly suggest the relevance of an ecological, relationship based model of children’s subjective well-being in examining international samples of children.
 
Step 4 of the model studied children from Rural US and Rural South Korea.  It found predictors of subjective well-being for 10 to 12 year-old children in rural US and rural South Korea. Family relationships, parent involvement, school quality, age (younger), and gender (male) predicted well-being for both countries. Also, neighborhood quality in South Korea and peers in the US, reflecting collectivism in South Korea and individualism in US (Lawler et al., 2018).
 
Step 5 of the model studied children from the US and 14 countries.  It found that multi-level modeling, and children’s well-being related to micro-systems (child-level) and not macro-systems (country level).  In addition, relationships, rather than material wealth (e.g., GDP) predict well-being (Newland et al., in-press).
 
The implications: 
 
•After comparing 14 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America, we found children’s well-being is determined by family and peer relationships, good schools, and safe neighborhoods.
 
•Globally, children tell us that health and well-being predictors are relational rather than material.
 
•We’ve also learned that girls report lower well-being than boys and developmental transitions to adolescence can threaten children’s well-being. (Dr. Lawler Presentation, February 5, 2018, Rotary).
 
 
Michael J. Lawler, MSW, PhD, is dean and professor at the School of Health Sciences, University of South Dakota. He has more than 30 years of experience as a practitioner, researcher and educator. Dr. Lawler is an appointed member of the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Children, Youth and Families, and United States Principal Investigator of Children’s Worlds: International Survey of Child Well-Being.
 
Program for February 12, 2018
 
Gary Mc Cann, Gary Mc Cann Group