United Way of the Lower Mainland

United Way of the Lower Mainland
Vancouver School Board

Vancouver School Board
Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP)

Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP)
The University of British Columbia

The University of British Columbia

September 13, 2010 13:12 ET

One in Four Grade 4 Children in Vancouver Are Not Happy: Study

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Sept. 13, 2010) - A quarter of Grade 4 public school children in Vancouver say that they are not doing well in overall health and well-being.

The finding is included in a new study, the result of a research partnership between the Vancouver School Board, United Way of the Lower Mainland, and the University of British Columbia's (UBC) Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP).

The study found that 26 per cent of Grade 4 children–were categorized as low in child health and well-being, and another 34 per cent were considered medium. These findings indicate that less than half of Vancouver's children are thriving and meeting their fullest potential.

"Our findings suggest a clear and urgent need for increased attention to the social and emotional well-being and health of children during the middle childhood years," said Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, the principal investigator of the study, and a professor in UBC's Faculty of Education and the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP).

After four years of validation research, preparation and pilot studies, Schonert-Reichl and her team developed a new research tool that assesses the health and well-being of children in their middle years of childhood, ages 6 through 12.

The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) is the first tool in Canada that provides population-level information about the self-esteem, optimism, overall health, happiness, and absence of sadness of children in middle childhood.

The MDI was administered to 3,026 Grade 4 students. representing 80 per cent of Grade 4 public school students in Vancouver in January 2010. It is a child self-report survey that gathers information from children on their social and emotional development, physical health and well-being, relationships and connectedness with parents, school and neighbourhood adults, and peers, school experiences, and how they spend their time during the after-school hours.

According to the study, Our children's voices: The Middle Years Development Instrument, Vancouver MDI 2010, the research also found that children's well-being and their assets (conditions in a child's life that provide support and protect against risk) vary across neighbourhoods in Vancouver. "We found considerable variation in the presence of assets and children's overall health and well-being across the 23 Vancouver neighbourhoods," said Schonert-Reichl.

"On average, children in neighbourhoods with higher socio-economic status reported a higher presence of assets that require financial resources as well as time resources, for instance, music lessons, participation in team sports."

The MDI asks specifically about the after-school hours, and what children do in that time, including sports, lessons, and crafts. It asks how often they participate in these structured activities and also asks about unstructured activities and their respective frequency. The MDI asks what children wish to be doing after-school, where they wish that activity to be, and what barriers they face in doing their desired after-school activity.

"The MDI will not stop in Vancouver. We plan to continue this partnership and roll out the MDI to other communities," said Michael McKnight, President & CEO United Way of the Lower Mainland, adding, "A special thanks to the efforts and contributions of the Vancouver School Board administrators, teachers, staff, community school teams, and – particularly – all of the Grade 4 children who devoted their time to making the MDI a success."

Researchers believe that the data can be used to not only raise awareness about the health and well-being of children during the middle childhood years, but to also help inform planning efforts to promote positive development so that all children can reach their greatest potential.

"Across North America, there is a burgeoning interest in assessing and monitoring children's social and emotional development, health, and well-being at population-levels. There is evidence that promoting children's social and emotional learning leads to healthy development and increased academic performance," said Schonert Reichl.

Results of this research will be shared at the Vancouver MDI Forum, an event hosted by United Way of the Lower Mainland, 4 - 6 p.m. on September 22, at UBC Robson Square.

For more information visit www.uwlm.ca.

Contact Information

  • United Way of the Lower Mainland
    Michael Becker
    Media Relations
    604-268-1333 or Cell: 778-836-7530