• 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.