Situated within the context of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, we promote the use of children’s subjective well-being (SWB) measures as an essential part of rights monitoring efforts. We particularly believe that monitoring efforts should include the voices of the children themselves.
Although children’s well-being includes objective and subjective components, we focus on the subjective components, which can be conceptualized as twofold: hedonic and eudaimonic. The hedonic component includes monitoring children’s frequency of positive emotions (e.g., joy, interest), and negative emotions (e.g., sad, anxious), along with their cognitive evaluations of their lives as a whole and/or with specific life domains, such as family, school, or community. The eudaimonic component involves children’s perceptions of individual and environmental assets that are empirically related to the broader, hedonic indicators. Such assets include major individual assets (e.g., optimism, gratitude) and environmental assets (e.g., family coherence, peer support) that are linked to hedonic SWB and overall positive developmental trajectories. The overarching principle is that SWB emerges out of beneficial upward cycles related to core developmental tasks that form positive psychological mindsets related to self-identity (self-efficacy, persistence, self-awareness), self-other relationships (peer, school, and family), emotional competence (empathy, self-control, emotion regulation), and engaged living (gratitude, zest, optimism). SWB is enhanced when children’s experiences foster the development of all core traits—the combined effects of which we call “covitality” (Renshaw et al., 2014). Children with high levels of covitality show positive development across important life domains. This covitality model provides a more comprehensive model of the components that make up the psychological scaffold upon which children can build stable, resilience-promoting SWB.
Psychometrically sound measures of both components of children’s SWB have been developed recently offering important benefits for monitoring children’s rights. We believe school psychologists are uniquely situated to help schools monitor and promote children’s well-being using such measures.