Feeling Happy and Healthy, Having Fun and Friends: Children's understanding of well-being: a qualitative study

Penington, Jodi (2002). Feeling Happy and Healthy, Having Fun and Friends: Children's understanding of well-being: a qualitative study. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e800


The importance of promoting health and well-being has been recognised in recent Government reports and interventions. However, health and mental health have largely been conceptualised as an absence of illness and distress, rather than a presence of positive health or wellness. There has been relatively little attention to this important area, and less work on children's understanding of well-being.

This study uses a small-scale qualitative approach to consider how children understand well-being. Twenty school children took part in semi-structured interviews to elicit their definitions of well-being and the thoughts, feelings and beliefs associated with life going well. The interviews were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

Four main themes were developed from the interview data: 'self', 'self in relation to others', 'growing up' and 'the role of adults'. These were presented, illustrated with verbatim quotation from the interviews. The four themes could also be brought together under an overarching theme of self-definition. A wide range of definitions and thoughts, feelings and beliefs were generated by children in the interviews.

Children's definitions of well-being in this study reflected a more holistic definition, incorporating elements of social, emotional and physical well-being. Well-being was not understood solely in terms of an 'absence of illness'. There was some overlap with other recent conceptualisations of well-being. This is discussed in relation to the promotion of children's mental health and well-being in different settings, the development of treatment goals, and the role of the positive within psychology and other services.

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