Children's Perspectives on Health: What Makes Children Feel Good According to Themselves?

By Kostmann, Ebba; Nilsson, Lena | International Journal of Education, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Children's Perspectives on Health: What Makes Children Feel Good According to Themselves?


Kostmann, Ebba, Nilsson, Lena, International Journal of Education


Abstract

The object of this study is to examine children's perspectives on health and what elements make them feel good. Health promoting contributions rarely emanate from children's perspectives but most often from a child perspective, what adults consider children need in order to feel well. There are relatively few studies made from children's viewpoints on health - children should be made more involved in the shaping of health interventions. The study was carried out at two nine-year compulsory schools in Western Sweden, 78 pupils aged 9 through 11years participated. To collect the material interviews was the principal source, and the result is mainly supported by an analysis of the contents from 52 interviews. What the children declared to be the most important element for health were relations. This circumstance was stated in 88 percent of the interviews, and it was in substance the relations to family and friends that were brought up. A condition to lift children's perspectives is that they are taken seriously, that their part-taking leads to influence and a real utilization of their opinions. A conclusion from this study is that activities that handle health for children and young people should consider children's perspectives: partly through focusing the work on promoting children's social and familial relations, and partly to let the children participate more in the final shape of contents and working methods.

Keywords: Children's perspectives, Participation, Health, Relations

The Health Adventure The Oasis Vara, is a part of the regional work with public health in the Swedish region Västra Götaland, whose vision is to promote the health of children and young people. The personnel, i.e. the health educationists, meet children, young people and adults in both programmes and studies within the fields of health, parenthood, friendship, love, and relations. The Health Adventure is continuously developing and improving the work. According to Nilsson (2008) it should be investigated within this development work whether the field of activities is founded on children's thoughts about health, or on the health educationists' thoughts on what children need in order to promote their health.

1. Child perspective or children's perspectives

It is quite common that educationists that work with children take a child perspective instead of children's perspectives. That means that they proceed from their own view, what adults think children need in order to feel well, instead of starting with children's perspectives. Grown-ups are in a higher position of power, and they take for granted that they know more than children, and that children do not know what is best for them. It is the task for adults to make sure that children do the right thing, and that they learn certain things - the educationist has a normative mission. In this instance it is not possible or necessary that the educationist follows the will of the child. Children's perspectives, unlike child perspective, is a matter of children expressing their views. The educationist is in this case endeavouring to meet the child on its own conditions through reasoning, listening and talking. The adult person tries to compromise and reach agreements through taking part of the children's thoughts (E. Johansson, 2003). To utilize children's perspectives implies that their participation leads to influence and real utilization (Pramling Samuelsson & Sheridan, 2003). According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (commonly abbreviated as the CRC, CROC, or UNCRC) and Article 12, children have the right to have their opinion heard and to participate in decisions that affect them (Unicef, 2008).

Traditionally, childhood and children's lives have only been investigated from an adult perspective and from the adults' understanding of them. Children have been excluded from research processes; they have not been included in democratic processes or in making decisions (Christensen & James, 2008). …

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