Lost in transition: An investigation into young children’s experiences and understandings of wellbeing during the transition to school

Author: Jennifer Joan Fane

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 6 Nov 2022.

Fane, Jennifer Joan, 2020 Lost in transition: An investigation into young children’s experiences and understandings of wellbeing during the transition to school, Flinders University, College of Medicine and Public Health

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact copyright@flinders.edu.au with the details.

Abstract

Despite increased calls to include children’s perspectives in child wellbeing research, young children’s

voices continue to be largely excluded. The exclusion of young children‘s perspectives from current

constructions of wellbeing is additionally problematic due to the widespread acceptance of the

transition to formal schooling as an ideal time to assess and intervene in child wellbeing.

In this thesis I explore how to include young children’s experiences and understandings of wellbeing

within current constructions. This exploration gives insight into the ways in which young children’s

experiences and understandings differ from current adult derived conceptualisations and

operationalisations of wellbeing. I also analyse how children’s accounts of their own wellbeing during

the transition to school can inform current initiatives and models of support in relation to the

transition to school: such as current calls for increased service integration within early childhood

education and care contexts.

Drawing on children’s rights discourses and citizen-child theory, my research study was designed to

enable the co-construction of knowledge with children about their perspectives of their own

wellbeing. To achieve this, I developed a visual research method using emoji to support children’s

active and meaningful engagement in the research process and minimise adult/researcher input,

language, and conceptualisations of wellbeing during child focus groups.

In the initial stage of the study, I tested the use of emoji to analyse young children’s capacity to

participate in participatory wellbeing research and share their experiences and understandings of

wellbeing when research methods that value and make space for children’s participation are used. In

the initial study, I compared young children’s experiences and understandings of their own wellbeing

with widely used child wellbeing measures and indicators. Through analysis of the data, children’s

accounts led to the identification of two novel child-identified indicators of child wellbeing:

opportunities for play and children’s agency.

From the initial research stage I adapted the emoji method to engage with the two child-identified

indicators of wellbeing across a longitudinal study that followed 20 children transitioning to school. I

analysed data to explore how diverse levels of service integration influenced children’s experiences

and understandings of their own wellbeing. Service integration alone was not a significant factor in

relation to children’s experiences of wellbeing. The inclusion of children’s voices within current

constructions and operationalisations of wellbeing can have theoretical, practice and policy benefits

within early years sectors to support child wellbeing.

Keywords: wellbeing: early childhood: early years: education: public health: social indicators: social policy: health

Subject: Public Health thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Medicine and Public Health
Supervisor: Professor Colin MacDougall