World Vision study finds most German children are healthy and happy | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 01.06.2010
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World Vision study finds most German children are healthy and happy

Most German children are content with their lives, according to a recent study. Material possessions play a role in a child's happiness, but not as much as a feeling of being treated with respect, the study found.

Young girl looking out window

Experts say too much pressure is placed on children

Four out of five German are content with their life and well-being, according to a study released on Tuesday by the Christian aid organization World Vision.

The study, which is based on interviews with 2,500 German children between ages six and 11, is a follow-up to a similar study on German children's well-being by World Vision.

Since the first study was published in 2007, the relative well-being of Germany's youth has not gotten significantly worse, according to social and health researcher Klaus Hurrelmann. This is true for children who responded positively as well as the 20 percent who said they were unhappy with their lives, he said.

Material happiness

Child sitting alone near garbage dump

Unhappiness is closely tied to poverty and unemployment, the study found

Those who say they are unhappy live disproportionately in households with unemployed parents, Hurrelmann said, but that in no way leads to a lack of material possessions.

"Here, money is invested in game consoles and Gameboys, in televisions in the children's rooms," he said. "And all of the children's free time revolves around this."

The study found that happiness is somewhat tied to material possessions, but not nearly to the extent that many might expect. Most important, it said, is that the children feel they are treated with respect.

Education researcher Sabine Andresen said it was important for parents to find a balance between placing value on their children's opinions and enforcing rules that establish order in their daily lives.

"Parents should place enough trust in their children that they have some freedom, some autonomy," she said. "This interplay is definitely very important."

Teacher writing on chalk board in classroom

A longer school day would relieve some pressure on children, Doerner says

School reform

Katja Doerner, a Green Party politician and member of the parliamentary Children's Commission, said a child's unhappiness may have to do with the increasing amount of pressure placed on children in schools, which begins around the fifth grade.

"This has taken place without the logical development of all-day school instruction," she said, referring to the fact that most German schools end at lunchtime.

"Instead, we just crammed more instruction into the individual school days... without thinking about how we might organize the day so that children come home with no homework to do," she added. "From my point of view, that is a strong argument for a good and functioning all-day school system."

Author: Marcel Fuerstenau (acb)
Editor: Rob Turner

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