Subjective well-being among preadolescents - Evidence from urban China

Discussion Paper
1 January 2011

We conducted a survey in the Guangdong province in China to measure happiness among preadolescents and their parents. The objective of this study was to investigate what explains preadolescents’ happiness level and whether their happiness is related to the happiness level of their parents. We do not find any significant relationship with respect to the latter, and the factors that explain the variation in happiness among parents do not explain the variation among children. In general, children´s happiness is not explained by socio-economic factors, in fact not even by having divorced parents, which is a situation that clearly decreases the happiness level of parents. Instead, relations with parents and friends are important for the well-being of preadolescents.

The higher the number of close friends a child has and the more her parents spend time and converse with her, the happier she feels. One interesting finding is that neither absolute nor relative grades are correlated with well-being. Yet, being bullied has one of the strongest negative impacts on the happiness of preadolescents.

For a policymaker, these findings have implications for future policies. If one would like to improve the wellbeing of preadolescents, more attention should be given beyond the concern for the socioeconomic status of the children’s families, e.g., to children’s networks of friends,
relationships with parents, and school environment.

With the recent focus on happiness in China, as stressed by Premier Wen Jiabao at the opening of the National People’s Congress in 2011, it will of course be of interest to see how empirical findings as those reported in our paper will shape future policies in China.

Related peer-reviewed article has been published on the Journal of Socio-Economics.


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Publication | 31 May 2011