A survey, currently being rolled out nationally, will ask students in years 4, 6 and 8 from a large sample of schools across all states and territories about their wellbeing, including perceptions of family, friendships, school and health.
The survey, led by Flinders University’s School of Social and Policy Studies, is the second phase of the Australian Child Wellbeing Project. The project also involves researchers from the University of New South Wales and the Australian Council for Educational Research, and is funded by the Australia Research Council.
Its aim is to benchmark child wellbeing in Australia.
“We want to see where the gaps are between those with high levels of wellbeing and those with low levels, how big the gaps are and what the policy implications are in terms of reducing those gaps,” Associate Professor Gerry Redmond said.
The first national study of its kind among young people in eight to 14-year old age group, the study will also be comparable with similar studies overseas.
“It will give us a picture, not just of how young Australians see their own wellbeing, but how as a whole they compare with young people in other counties,” Associate Professor Redmond said.
The content of the questions in the survey were informed by the results of a series of workshops, which established young people’s chief areas of interest and concern.
Professor Redmond said as well as having representation from more mainstream groups, the workshops focused in particular on young people who are often seen as marginalised in Australian society, among them those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, those living in rural and remote areas, young people with disability and young people from different cultural and ethnic groups, including young Indigenous people.
“We asked them what they thought made for a good life, and what barriers and challenges to that they see,” Associate Professor Redmond said.
“We wanted young people’s perspectives to drive how we designed the survey.
Focus groups will be used again when the survey is complete: “We will ask them about how we might interpret the findings, and ask them if what we have found makes sense in terms of their lives, so that we get their perspectives at the analysis end as well.”
Associate Professor Redmond said that while areas such as family, school, friendship and health were identified as important by the workshops, it was apparent that young people did not treat the various aspects of their lives as separate or contained.
“Learning for instance, is not the exclusive domain of school; it happens in other domains as well. Similarly, bullying doesn’t just happen at school, it can happen in the community and in the home.
“Worries about, let’s say, your family can also spill over in terms of health symptoms or engagement at school. So there are lots of important linkages between different parts of young people’s lives, and it’s imperative that we join the dots.”
Associate Professor Redmond said that the workshops revealed that while young people downplay the importance of money, they were very aware of the effects of a lack of money could have across a range of areas in their lives.
“I think this is one of the key things that is likely to come out of the main study as well: that young people in Australia experience real deprivation,” he said.