Minutes of the Technical Assistance Workshop, May 3-5, 2000. Our Domains of Children's Well-Being -- Civil Life Skills


Concentrating on children's civic skills is vital for their well-being. Both in regard to its immediate meaning in children's lives and for their participation in long-term community, national, and global political life. We need to learn to what extent children are acquiring the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that are fundamental to democracy. We have decided to divide this domain into 3 subdomains: civic/community values and awareness, civic/community activities, and opportunities for civic/community activities.

Our Indicators-Civil Life Skills

Civic and community values and awareness:

  • Percentage who report an interest in current events and in social problems
  • Degree of support in tolerance and expression of minority views and other forms of civil rights
  • Perceived importance of contributing to the community and society

Civic and community activities:

  • Percentage of children who belong to and are active in an organization (political, community service, religious, or general)
  • Percentage of children who report having political, religious, or social discussions with family and friends
  • Percentage of children who volunteer

Opportunities for civic and community activities:

  • Percentage of children who are attending schools with student governments
  • Degree of child participation in decision making about their lives
  • Adult/government reaction to children's participation
  • Opportunities for voluntary work of children
  • Belief in one's ability to bring about change

Our Domains of Children's Well-Being--Personal Life Skills

We found it helpful to divide this domain into 3 subdomains: interpersonal skills and resources, academic skills and resources, intrapersonal skills and resources. This gives a sense of going from social interactions with others, through developing skills for learning and then to skills of dealing with one's self.

Our Indicators-Personal Life Skills

Interpersonal skills and resources:

  • Support from family, friends, and others
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Communication skills
  • Behavior among and with peers group

Academic skills and resources:

  • Literacy and numeracy level
  • Technological knowledge level
  • Level of "general knowledge" (i.e. history, arts, geography, culture)

Intrapersonal skills and resources:

  • Anxiety, depression, and general well-being
  • School behavior
  • Perceived well-being
  • Perceived self-efficacy

Our Domains of Children's Well Being--Safety and Physical Status

Safety and physical status are commonly thought of as the most basic components of well-being. A child who is not safe will likely neither live nor develop in an optimal way and may also be more vulnerable to physical injury and trauma. We have decided to split it into two sub-domains, i.e., safety and physical status. We believe such a differentiation will clarify the content of the domain. However, it may be that physical status is a subset of safety.

Our Indicators-Safety and Physical Status

Safety indicators:

  • Prevalence of the use of corporal punishment of children
  • Prevalence of child abuse and neglect in its various forms.
  • Perception of safety among children
  • Exposure of children to environmental hazards
  • Rate of hospitalization due to trauma
  • Rate of child death by age and cause

Physical status indicators:

  • Substance (tobacco, alcohol and drug) abuse
  • Height, weight, and body mass index measures
  • Level and incidence of physical activity
  • Eating habits and diet

Our Domains of Children's Well-Being--Economic and Social Resources

We argue that children are not merely an economic burden on society (or the family). Children are themselves an economic resource and furthermore, children are active actors and contributors within their household or the broader economy. We have divided the domain into 4 subdomains: macroeconomics and distributive justice, expenditures on children, access to resources, and children's contribution and autonomy.

Our Indicators-Economic and Social Resources

Macroeconomic and distributive justice:

  • Relative child poverty rates before and after taxation and transfers
  • Percentage of public expenditures by age groups

Expenditures on children:

  • Average costs of children (for the household and for society) by age group
  • Percentage of family expenditure contributed (spent by or on) children

Access to resources:

  • Measures of children share of the family material and economic resources
  • Access to various social, educational, and health services regardless of economic status

Children's contribution and autonomy:

  • Benefits/transfers paid directly to children or to family on behalf of children
  • Sources of income of children
  • Percentage of family resources contributed by children
  • Children's perception of their contribution to the family resources

Our Domains of Children's Well-Being--Children's Activities

Across political jurisdictions and cultures, children engage in work, play, creativity, consumption, social interactions, and other activities that are analogous to adult activities yet qualitatively different. Children are active in their families, among peers and community groups and in various social institutions such as schools, informal education, recreation, and information networks. Indicators in this domain may relate to the extent of engagement in activities, the nature of the activities, places in which these activities take place, and the children's perceptions of the relative importance and contribution of the different activities

Our Indicators-Children Activities

Distribution of children's time across types of activities

  • Percentage of time spent in productive activities (school, paid work, household work, and contributing to community)

Percentage of time spent in obligatory vs. voluntary activities

  • Distribution of children's time across different participants (with family, alone, with other children, with other adults, or with other children and adults)
  • Percentage of time spent in places not designated specifically for children
  • Distribution of children's time by satisfaction levels

Lessons Learned

  • Children's well-being is culture contingent, no culture could impose its beliefs or norms on others
  • Children are not a resource, they are human beings
  • The task is enormous thus there is room for everyone and almost any effort, the only condition is that it is aimed at improving child well-being
  • This is an emerging and dynamic field which has gained more and more interest around the world
  • To build a true international partnership, you have to have a flat hierarchy organization
  • The fact that no one owned the project contributed to its success
  • Having project members come as individuals and not representatives of their institutions, enabled us to concentrate on what we saw as important and interesting and not to be obligated to any particular view or issue