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Abstract

Subjective well-being as a new field of social science research is calling for unique and innovative metrics and research methods. Studying the well-being of children introduces additional hurdles for data collection and research. The current field-favorite survey, the Personal Wellbeing Index–School Children (PWI-SC), asks participants to rate their “happiness” on a rating scale for seven domains of well-being and overall satisfaction with life. Current literature in the field of developmental and family science informs on the cognitive capabilities of children throughout their development and suggests that children in middle childhood may lack the ability to express abstract ideas (happiness) in a concrete format, such as a rating scale. Using comparative analysis of the PWI-SC and personal interviews, data from 33 participants aged 6–10 suggests that the PWI-SC is invalid and unreliable when used alone for participants under the age of 10. Furthermore, some of the language used in the PWI-SC provokes tangential but inaccurate impressions in a majority of participants, acting as a barrier for gathering information about specific domains of well-being. To increase the reliability and accuracy of subjective well-being studies with children in middle childhood, researchers should consider the use of qualitative measures such as personal interviews in conjunction with quantitative such measures as the PWI-SC.

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