• Children's social and emotional relationships and well-being: from the perspective of the child

      McAuley, Colette; Rose, W. (2014)
      This chapter opens with a review of current conceptualizations of child well-being and a good childhood. It moves on to consider the origins and driving forces influencing the development of the field of child indicators. The incorporation of children’s subjective perspectives in measuring and monitoring their well-being is highlighted along with the concomitant challenges posed by this welcome development. Recent evidence from a quantitative survey which consulted children found three key determinants of child well-being. Their relationships with family and positive relationships with friends were positive influences while peer bullying negatively affected their well-being. Bearing these findings in mind, a body of qualitative research findings where children were central informants was selected for an in-depth examination of how these three key areas impacted upon their well-being. The studies included children in the general population, children living in different family types, children with special needs, children living in families experiencing difficulties, as well as children living in out-of-home care. Throughout the qualitative studies, there was clear evidence of the importance of relationships with family and friends. Children’s close relationships with both were characterized by a sense of trust. Shared activities were the vehicles for developing trust and learning about negotiation with others. Where children lived in different family types, the quality of their relationships rather than the structure was the critical factor. Acceptance and having close relationships with family and friends were equally important to children with special needs. Children living in families experiencing difficulties often had to balance feelings of loyalty to their parents with feeling unsafe and insecure at times. Developing and maintaining friendships was particularly challenging for these children. We gained a glimpse of the dilemmas these children face which should inform the development of support strategies. Finally, children in out-of-home care highlighted the importance of being able to develop trust in their social workers and carers and the impact of multiple moves of home and school on these developing relationships. Bullying and the fear of bullying was highlighted by the children in all of these circumstances as a constant preoccupation in their daily lives. One of the key messages from these studies was just how prevalent this issue is and how much of children’s energies are focused on preventing or combating it. Apart from seeking the support of parents, the development of strong friendships was viewed as the most successful strategy. On a more general note, children’s agency in their relationships and in keeping safe was clearly evident. It is argued that studies which place children’s perspectives at the center have an important part to play in informing policy development.
    • Emotional well-being and mental health of looked after children in England

      McAuley, Colette; Davis, T. (2009)
      The national prevalence studies of the mental health of looked after children in Great Britain provide sobering reading. Forty-five per cent of looked after children in England were found to have a diagnosable mental health disorder. In contrast, this is to one in 10 in the general population. Carers estimated that mental health problems were even more widespread. Children with mental health disorders were also more likely to have education, health and social issues. This paper discusses the findings and argues for early intervention along with inter-departmental and interdisciplinary approaches. The recent Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Review clearly indicates that issues of access to appropriate and timely Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services remain. However, the introduction of evidence-based approaches is encouraging. Young people's views on the services they want and on what is important for emotional well-being and mental health are important considerations.
    • Exploring eleven year old children's understanding of well-being using well-being maps: Commonalities and divergences across areas of varying levels of deprivation and ethnic diversity in an English Qualitative Study

      McAuley, Colette (2019-02)
      The aim of this paper is to explore eleven year old children's understanding of well-being through their completion of Well-Being Maps and subsequent interviews on their content. The children were asked to describe the people, places and things which they viewed as important to their sense of well-being. The subsequent interviews explored their rationalisations for their choices. Ninety-two eleven year old children attending four schools with varying levels of deprivation and ethnic diversity took part in the study. This is the first section of an English study which is a part of the Multi-National Children's Understanding of Well-Being Study involving 26 countries which aims to explore how children conceptualise and experience well-being from a comparative and global perspective. Commonalities and divergences in the English children's responses were explored. Across the entire sample of 92 children, there were clear commonalities. Relationships with family, predominantly parents, were viewed as very important. The reasons provided were consistent love and affection; constant support, encouragement and protection; fun to be with. The duration of this quality of parent-child interaction appeared to be the key. Trust and a sense of security were the result. Relationships with friends were deemed important by over two thirds of the children. The qualities of these relationships mirrored those with the parents with a sense of trust and security being present. Where places and activities were included on their maps, they were often linked to important relationships. Activities appeared to be important in acknowledging the relationship but also maintaining it. Activities were also valued by the children for skill development. There were some differences across the sample with relationships with friends and grandparents being more reported as important in the two areas of high deprivation, irrespective of ethnic diversity. The level of material possessions and holidays abroad were much more frequently reported in the school serving the low deprivation area. At times, the explanations for differences appeared to be an interplay of socio-economic factors and religious and cultural traditions. Suggestions for further research on children's perspectives on factors important to their well-being are made.
    • Exploring the relative influence of family stressors and socio-economic context on children's happiness and well-being

      McAuley, Colette; Layte, R. (2012)
      This paper examines the relative influence of family stressors and the family’s socioeconomic circumstances on children’s happiness. Data from the 9 year old cohort of the national Growing Up in Ireland study (GUI) was used to examine these relationships. The sample consisted of 8,568 children and their families. The stressors considered were a conflictual parent–child relationship; children with emotional and social problems; parental depression; low parental self-efficacy and child isolation. A group of families and children who were experiencing a higher level of these stressors was identified. This constituted 16 % of the sample. Although socioeconomic disadvantage contributed significantly to the vulnerability of this group, it was by no means the sole or dominant issue. Using the Piers-Harris Happiness and Satisfaction Subscale, children’s self-assessed happiness in this identified group was found to be significantly lower than in the other groups, irrespective of socioeconomic and demographic variables. The family stressors were found to explain more than twice the variance in the children’s happiness than explained by the measures of socioeconomic status. Nonetheless, most of the variance remains unexplained. Future research directions to explore this are indicated.
    • Post-adoption reunion sibling relationships: Factors facilitating and hindering the development of sensitive relationships following reunion in adulthood

      O'Neill, D.; McAuley, Colette; Loughran, H. (2016-05)
      This paper explores findings from an exploratory study on sibling relationships following adoption reunion in adulthood. The qualitative data was gathered through in‐depth interviews with 33 adopted adults who were reunited with their birth sibling(s) through an adoption agency in the Republic of Ireland. The findings throw light upon the development of the emotional, often complex, relationships which may emerge when siblings meet for the first time in adult life. Factors influential in facilitating or hindering these post‐reunion relationships are discussed. The important insights are then considered in the context of the wider international literature on adoption, search and reunion.
    • Poverty and its impact on parenting in the UK: Re-defining the critical nature of the relationship through examining lived experiences in times of austerity

      Rose, W.; McAuley, Colette (2019)
      Current political rhetoric and some media commentaries suggest there is a yawning gap of understanding between policymakers and the reality of families living in poverty in 21st century Britain. A key reason identified for the disconnect between policymakers and families is the absence of the voices of the families in public discourse. In this paper accounts of the lived experiences of parents in poverty are examined in four UK qualitative studies published in the period 1998-2016. Their accounts highlight how problems of disadvantage can be cumulative, compounding and enduring. The struggle to provide the basics of family life and the role of supportive communities and relationships are explored. The impact on parents of financial stress, the sense of shame and stigma often experienced and the consequences for their physical and mental health are highlighted. Under the government’s austerity policy, there is an increase in poverty even in working families, an increase in homelessness and considerable evidence emerging on the damaging consequences of food and fuel poverty on the health of children and parents. Listening to the lived realities of individual families provides a much greater understanding of family poverty and its causes and consequences, provides a corrective to the critical pejorative rhetoric and lays the foundation for the provision of appropriate government support.
    • Spending time with family and friends: children's views on relationships and shared activities

      McAuley, Colette; McKeown, C.; Merriman, B. (2012)
      Sociologists of childhood have stressed the importance of children’s experience in the present and children as agents who actively construct their own lives and influence relationships with family and friends. Current thinking in the field of child well-being emphasises the need to consult children as experts in their own lives. Findings from research with children have led to important insights about what contributes to well-being. Relationships with family and friends have been found to be central to well-being whilst bullying by peers deeply impacts on their well-being. Shared activities appear to be the context for children to not only master competences but also learn about and negotiate relationships. The Growing Up in Ireland interviews with 9 year old children were re-analysed with a view to exploring these crucial domains and how they impact on the children’s well-being. The children were found to have a wide circle of family connections and were particularly close to their mothers although also close to their fathers. Grandparents played a significant role in their lives and their relationships with siblings were often positive but did fluctuate. Reasons for closeness centred around trust. Lack of availability due to work was a key contributor to children feeling less close to a family member. The children were involved in a wide range of structured activities after school and at the weekend, This was usually balanced with free time although some ‘hurried’ children had frenetic lifestyles. Involvement in unstructured activities such as free play was particularly associated with time with friends and choice. Friendship was characterised by sharing and trust. On the other hand, bullying by peers had been experienced by many of the children and almost all were conscious of the danger of becoming bullied. The wider issues of work-family balance and its impact on children, the predominance of bullying and children’s right to be heard are reflected upon.