This study was based both on an extensive literature review, which examined seven electronic databases and collected data from an international network of informers regarding "state of the child" reports around the world. The databases used were: the U.S. Library of Congress, University of California library network, University of Newcastle library, University of Toronto library, Sydney University, University of South Africa and University of Hong Kong. The database research has resulted in 2,561 titles. After a thorough title screening, we were left with 241 titles and, after a thorough content screen, with 101. The international informers added 151 titles. After eliminating the duplicates, we had 134 state of the child reports to analyze and study.
Building a Common Language
One of the first things that struck us was the absence of any commonly widespread terms or language in the field. It seems therefore that any effort to analyze and learn from published reports, would have to start by clearing the fog that accompanies the discussion in the field. We therefore suggest the following terms and concepts as a basis for any future discussion.
- The target population. The target population is the population of children to which the report refers. We suggest the following two-option dichotomy. The whole child population meaning reports that cover all the children within a given geographical area. A segment of the child population means reports that cover only part of the child population identified by special need, special situation, age group, ethnic origin, or religion.
- The target audience at whom the report is aimed at. We identify several options. The general public and the media, policy makers, professionals working with children, advocates, the academic world, and children themselves.
- The report orientation. We suggest two possibilities. Service oriented, meaning the report focused on the availability of services for children and the consequences of specific programs, services, or policies. Children oriented, meaning a focus on the status of children without necessarily connecting them with specific services and without looking directly on the availability of services for children.
- The unit of observation. This phrase refers to the focus of the data collection. We know that in most data collection efforts the unit of observation was the family. We even know that if we would like to have better knowledge of children's lives, we need to focus on the child and not his household or family. Another distinction is between the child as a unit of observation rather than the program or the service.
- Domains are subtopics within the various reports, either as a separate chapter or a section devoted to a specific issue. We suggest a two-option dichotomy. Traditional domains, when the subtopics are divided by the different social services or professions. "New" domains, when the subtopics are defined as interdisciplinary and cut across services and focus on the child.
- Survival and beyond. We argue that measures that deal mainly with death and life, as well as with the basic needs of children, should be referred to as survival indicators. Any other indicators that measure the state and quality of life of children should be known as beyond survival indicators.
- Positive and negative indicators. We suggest the following language, negative indicators are indicators that are measuring the existence of harmful aspects in children's lives or their absence (i.e. child abuse or injuries). Positive indicators are indicators that measure the existence of desired and positive aspects of children lives (i.e. success in school, supporting family and leading an healthy life style).
- Types of reports. Reports that consist of a number of chapters, each devoted to a different domain, should be known as multi-topic reports. Those that are focusing only on one aspect or domain of children status are single-topic reports. Integrated-topic reports are those that use an integrated index for children's well-being.