Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Are HK Children Happy?

Children at the Hong Kong Book Fair stocking up on their favourite reads
The lives of Hong Kong's next generation are not getting better, according to the child happiness index by Lingnan University.

The study was commissioned for the second year by the Early Childhood Development Research Foundation, surveying 1,119 students aged eight to 17 from September to October 2013.

The happiness index rose from 6.91 in 2012 to 7.23 last year, with the index maximum at 10.

However, the scores fell when it came to insight and fortitude -- two of the four determinants for happiness. The other two are love and engagement.

Researchers saw a decline in fortitude to 6.64 out of 10 from 7.10. They said it was "worrying and should be attended to" as it indicated children may not know how to deal with situations that did not meet their expectations.

Lead researcher professor Ho Lok-sang said the decline was "rather significant".

"There were several children who committed suicide last year, which showed that the resilience of some of our children is quite weak," he said. "Parents should guide their children, starting from an early age, [on] how to deal with pressure, as it is a major source of unhappiness."

To grade their fortitude, children surveyed were asked to respond to statements such as "you have the courage to face difficulties" and "you won't give up easily once you have decided to do something".

In order to test their insight -- an ability not to compare themselves with others and learn from their mistakes -- they were asked to respond to statements like "we don't need to be better than others, but need to try our best".

The results for insight dropped from 6.37 in 2012 to 6.19.

In addition the survey found children from poorer families tended to be unhappier. "When children want to take part in some extra-curricular activities but their parents do not have enough money to support them and ask them not to do that, there may be some conflicts within the family, thus making children unhappy," Ho said.

The study also found the children suffered pressure from schoolwork and extra-curricular activities, which could adversely impact children's happiness.

It's a sad state of affairs when children aren't perceived to be happy because things get  more complicated when you get older. If children cannot handle the pressure that is imposed on them now, they will find it even harder to deal with stress as they grow up.

That said children in Hong Kong are deprived of childhoods with parents signing them up for all kinds of extra-curricular activities from the age of 18 months in the hopes that will give their children an edge in being accepted in schools.

Many parents know they aren't giving their kids enough play time and yet the guardians get sucked into the rat race of keeping up with the Joneses because they would feel guilty if they didn't push their child enough to get the best education.

Which is why we will see this happiness index go down further with each passing year and children will have every right to blame their parents for their unhappiness...

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