04 SES 00 PS, General Poster Exhibition - NW 04
Posters can be viewed in the General Poster Exhibition throughout the ECER week.
Happiness and satisfaction among children are key areas of interest for social and educational policy in many developed countries. In recent decades, these issues have also gained importance in the Czech Republic, being associated with the social change that occurred in the country after the fall of the communist regime (1989). Following the example of more developed democratic countries, the Czech Republic strives to prioritise principles of cohesion and social inclusion. However, these principles are being adopted theoretically rather than in practice. The Czech Republic, like some other post-communist countries of the former Eastern Bloc, still faces problems of persistent and deepening educational inequalities among children and adolescents; a high degree of selectivity within the education system; or insufficient ability to ensure equality of opportunity for children from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds or children with disabilities. This situation is the result of decades of social fragmentation, social exclusion, school segregation, and the institutionalisation of disadvantaged groups, including children. Compared to other European countries, the Czech Republic still has one of the highest numbers of children placed in institutional care and special schools (Committee on the Rights of the Child 2003; OECD 2011). (Note: institutional care for children and adolescents in the Czech Republic consists of a wide range of facilities varying by, inter alia, age, user circumstance, duration of stay, or the presence of educational and medical services. Examples of such institutions are the shelter home, children’s home, children’s home with a school, diagnostic institute, and corrective institute.)
A number of research studies have shown that children from socially-disadvantaged backgrounds who are placed in institutional care are significantly less happy and satisfied than children who grow up in complete or single-parent families. These children are more vulnerable to developing socially undesirable behaviour and experiencing social exclusion, as shown, for example, by Delgado et al.’s (2020) research with Portuguese children. They are also more prone to engaging in risky behaviour and developing behavioural disorders (e.g. neurosis, negativism, theft, school failure, truancy, flight, substance abuse, and risky sexual behaviour). Further, they have been found to feel less loved and supported by the adults around them, and have less stable lives (Dinisman, Montserrat, and Casas 2012).
Research on happiness and satisfaction in children has received some attention in international surveys (see e.g., PISA 2019). However, in the Czech and also partially the European research context, little attention is paid to how happy and satisfied children in institutional care are with their lives. Further, the influence of psychosocial factors on children's happiness/satisfaction has not been sufficiently analysed. The aim of this study is therefore to answer the research question: Does the level of happiness and satisfaction in children aged 10–15, who spend their childhood in institutional care, differ in comparison to children from complete or single-parent families? The aim of the research was also to analyse selected psychosocial factors and determine whether the degree of happiness/satisfaction in children is influenced by:
- a subjective assessment of the feeling of security and stimulation of the environment in which they spent their childhood (safe, unsafe, or stimulating, non-stimulating);
- a subjective assessment of the feeling of acceptance from the caregiver (feels accepted or does not feel accepted by the parent, foster parent, social worker, educator in an institution, etc.);
- a subjective assessment of one's spirituality (considers himself/herself spiritual or does not consider him/herself spiritual);
- a subjective assessment of the typology of one's own personality (sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic and melancholic); and
- sex and age.
The research was conducted in 2020 with a sample of 954 primary school children from various socio-cultural backgrounds (Mage = 13.26, SD = 1.49). Of this, the total number of children who spent their childhood in institutional care was 103 (10.8%). The number of children who grew up in a single-parent family was 181 (19.0%), and a total of 670 (70.2%) children spent their childhood in a complete family. The sample was compiled by contacting primary schools and several forms of institutional care centres. Data collection was carried out online with the consent of the headmaster, the head of the institution (or another person of appropriate competence and stature), or the child's legal guardian. The research was conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of APA (2009). Happiness, defined as a state in which positive emotions dominate over negative ones, was examined using a standardised 4-item Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS) questionnaire (Lyubomirsky and Lepper 1999). Satisfaction, defined as the rational assessment of one's own life, was also examined using a standardised 7-item questionnaire: The Students' Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS) (Huebner 1991). As part of the research, the validation and adaptation of SHS and SLSS in the Czech context were performed. The psychometric properties of these scales were verified by means of exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. It was found that the SHS and SLSS are unidimensional constructs and their use is suitable both in the Czech cultural context and also for children aged 10–15. These findings thus correspond, for example, with the results of a Spanish study (Extremera and Fernández-Berrocal 2014), which dealt with the adaptation of the SHS and SLSS in adolescents. The purpose of the multiple linear regression analysis was to identify and describe the influence (importance) of individual independent variables (i.e. psychosocial factors and socio-demographic characteristics of children) on children’s levels of happiness and satisfaction. To estimate the predictive power of independent variables on the dependent variable (average score values measured on the SHS and SLSS scales), standardised regression coefficients (β) and values of squared structure coefficients (rs2) were analysed.
In accordance with the research conducted on Portuguese children (Delgado et al. 2020), this study clearly confirmed that children in institutional care facilities are significantly less happy (β = −0.103, p < 0.01) and satisfied (β = −0.178, p < 0.001) than children from single-parent or complete families. Analysis of the influence of the predictors included in the regression model also showed that if children did not feel accepted by their caregiver, they declared the lowest levels of happiness (β = −0.184, p < 0.001, rs2 = 22%) and satisfaction (β = −0.265, p < 0.001, rs2 = 44%). At the same time, children who rated their childhood environment as unsafe and non-stimulating appeared to be significantly less happy and satisfied. The subjective assessment of the typology of one's own personality was also an important predictor of happiness and satisfaction, with the ‘melancholics’ declaring the lowest levels of happiness and satisfaction. The influence of gender and spirituality proved to be a statistically and substantively insignificant predictor, but with increasing age, children’s satisfaction and happiness levels decreased. The findings from this research can serve to facilitate a re-evaluation of current norms in Czech society, particularly vis-à-vis policy in the area of care for children from vulnerable backgrounds who are often placed in institutional care. Deinstitutionalisation and strengthening of foster care for children who would otherwise be placed in institutional care can be a significant positive starting point for strengthening overall social inclusion, cohesion and, above all, preventing the development of risky behaviour and socio-pathological phenomena which are relatively frequent in ‘institutionalised’ children.
American Psychological Association (2009). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Delgado, P., Carvalho, J., Montserrat, C., & Liosada-Gistau, J. (2020). The Subjective Well-Being of Portuguese Children in Foster Care, Residential Care and Children Living with their Families: Challenges and Implications for a Child Care System Still Focused on Institutionalization. Child Indicators Research, (13), 67–84. Dinisman, T., Montserrat, C., & Casas, F. (2012). The Subjective Well-Being of Spanish Adolescents: Variations According to Different Living Arrangements. Children and Youth Services Review, (34)12, 2374–2380. Extremera, N., & Berrocal-Fernández, P. (2014). The Subjective Happiness Scale: Translation and Preliminary Psychometric Evaluation of a Spanish Version. Social Indicators Research, (119)1, 473–481. Huebner, S. (1991). Initial Development of the Student's Life Satisfaction Scale. School Psychology International, (12)3, 231–240. Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. (1999). A Measure of Subjective Happiness: Preliminary Reliability and Construct Validation. Social Indicators Research, (46)2, 137–155. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2019). PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students’ Lives. Paris: OECD Publishing. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2011). Doing Better for Families. Paris: OECD Publishing. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (2003). UN Committee on the Rights of the Child: Concluding Observations: Czech Republic, 18 March 2003, CRC/C/15/Add.201. [cit. 2020-10-10]. Available: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3f25962b4.html
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