Monday, 29 April 2013

Youth Participation

Youth participation means recognising that young people have important contributions to make in decisions that impact their lives. When done effectively, it ensures that young people have the skills, knowledge and confidence to get involved with decision making; and enabling a culture within which young people's opinions and contributions are recognised, valued and acted upon by the wider society.

An interesting conference on Youth Participation took place at the London School of Economics on the 18th of April. The conference was organised by the National Council for VoluntaryYouth Services (NCVYS), who had done a great job presenting nearly all National Charity organisations who work with youth as partners. Established in 1936, the NCVYS is a diverse and growing network of over 280 national organisations and regional and local networks that work with and for young people. Their mission is to work with the members from voluntary and community organisations to build thriving communities and sustainable networks that help all young people achieve their potential.

The conference was focused on exploring meaningful and practical ways to engage young people in the decision-making processes of an organisation’s work. The seminars were held by the winners of young Partners Award 2012: The Rural Youth Voice ProjectLeapConfronting Conflict training provider and the Fun Youth Involvement board. Experts (E.Mtungwazi, Head of recruitment at City Year) John Laughton, founder of Dare2Lead, and   Ross Hendry, director of policy from the office of the Children’s Commissioner) gave interesting talks about young people’s recruitment and retention, investing in leaders and in young people as partners. The most valuable part of the conference however was networking with the young participants themselves. It was so interesting to meet so many confident youngsters who knew what they wanted to do with their lives; they look so optimistically towards the future believing that they can change the world.

As we have already posted on our website and blog, we involve young people as co-researchers in HBSC study, which give the study another dimension: young people watching and observing other young people of nearly the same age!  We have held workshops with young people, established connections with local schools, through which we have formed Research Advisory Groups. These young researchers help our research by sharing their own experiences. For instance, taking on board young researchers’ feedback can ensure questions are easy to understand and reflect topics highly relevant to them. Young people can help us identify new research areas, evaluate the questions used in the HBSC questionnaire and helping to explain current HBSC findings. Organisations like the NCVYS help bring together people doing this kind of work in different arenas, ensuring we can learn from each other and spread the culture of youth participation even further.

                                                                                                        Ellen Klemera

Free seminar: Life-threatening illnesses in childbirth

The School of Health and Social Work and the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC) are delighted to present:

 ‘Life-threatening illnesses in childbirth: 
The long term burden for mothers and families’

Dr Lisa Hinton 
Senior Researcher, Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, 
University of Oxford

Dr Hinton is a senior qualitative researcher in the Health Experiences Research Group (HERG). Her research focuses on women's health, in particular experiences of infertility, pregnancy and childbirth, and the role of the Internet in mediating health experiences. Dr Hinton’s PhD explored the information and support needs of women and men going through infertility. She has published on the award-winning on-line website  Healthtalk. During her doctoral studies she also spent time on secondment as a Committee Specialist to the Health Select Committee at the House of Commons.

The seminar will be held on Wednesday 8th May 1.00pm to 2.00pm in Room F414 (Health Research Building), University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield AL10 9AB.  Please confirm whether you will be attending by e-mailing Julie Mace

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Summary: ReACH Seminar on Bullying

Our Twitter followers will be happy to know the seminar on bullying, which we have been tweeting about constantly, has finally taken place! This blog post will summarise the event for those of you who were unable to attend. The seminar was organised by the Research in Adolescent and Child Health (ReACH) interest group at the University of Hertfordshire, and proved to be an interesting and discursive event.  Professor Fiona Brooks from the University of Hertfordshire opened the seminar with the following thought-provoking questions which set the mood for the rest of the afternoon;

“Where does teasing end and bullying begin?”
“What form does bullying take?”
“What is the real prevalence of bullying?”
“What actions are effective to address bullying?”

Professor John Freeman from Queen’s University, Canada was the first of our speakers. John is a member of the Canadian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) team; and his presentation used HBSC data to compare bullying in England and Canada. In both the English and Canadian HBSC survey, young people are asked how often they had been bullied and bullied others in the last two months. John begun by comparing prevalence rates: more young people in Canada reported being bullied and bullying others than in England, but both countries saw a decrease in bullying behaviours with age. John then highlighted how different methods of measuring prevalence often result in varying levels being reported. HBSC Canada uses an additional measure of bullying to England; in which questions ask about specific behaviours i.e. “Have you been called mean names?” This measure of bullying, which does not include the word bullying, reports higher rates of prevalence than the single question. To conclude John discussed the negative health outcomes of bullying; in both England and Canada young people who experienced bullying had a significantly lower life satisfaction than those who had not been bullied.

Our second speaker was Dr Sarah Woods from the University of Sunderland. Sarah presented an evaluation of the Red Balloon Learner Centres, based on a PhD project by Dr Nicky Knights. The Red Balloon Learner Centres provide intensive full-time education for children and adolescents who have experienced severe bullying; the centres provide a personal academic, pastoral and therapeutic programme. The Red Balloon Learner Centres were evaluated based on improvements in psychosocial wellbeing and academic functioning, and compared to the interventions offered by local authority. Both the Red Balloon Learner Centres and the local authority interventions proved to have significant beneficial results on both wellbeing and academic functioning, with Sarah’s work establishing optimum results between 3 and 6 months. While Sarah found no differences between the positive effect of the Red Balloon Learner Centre’s and the interventions provided by local authority; she highlighted how the young people attending the Red Balloon Learner Centres had experienced more severe and enduring bullying. Consensus following Sarah’s presentation was that while interventions like Red Balloon Learner Centre’s are costly, the cost of doing nothing i.e. burden on NHS, and criminal justice system, is much greater in the long run.

Jessica von Kaenel-Flatt and Jennifer O’Brien from The BB Group were our final presenters of the afternoon. Jessica and Jennifer reported findings from the Virtual Violence II study by BeatBullying; a comprehensive survey of over 4000 young people in the UK designed to measure prevalence, methods, motivations and consequences of cyber bullying as well as teachers’ interpretations of the behaviour and interventions available. The survey reports that 28% of 11 – 16 year olds have been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phones of the internet; and 21% of young people aged 8 – 11 years reported experiencing cyber bullying. Certain groups of young people were identified as being more at risk of cyber bullying; girls are more likely to be victims of cyber bullying than boys and disabled young people were nearly twice as likely to be bullied as their non-disabled peers.  Jessica and Jennifer discussed preventative strategies for cyber bullying which lead to much discussion surrounding parents’ responsibilities. Should parents ensure they themselves are up-to-date with technology in order to protect their children and what about the use of parental restrictions?

The seminar closed with an insightful video of our young researchers discussing bullying; describing how the stigma attached to bullying is detrimental to the behaviour being reported. We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our presenters. The seminar proved to be a great success, and we hope that all attendees found it both interesting and useful. For more details, we provided an up-to-date account of the seminar on twitter - @HBSCEngland.

Kayleigh Chester

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

ChildLine report a 68% increase in calls concerning self-harm

HBSC England is committed to studying issues which are relevant to young people’s lives. The study is tailored to cover important, up-to-date topics; for instance in the next HBSC England questionnaire we intend to include questions on cyberbullying and sleep in accordance with societal changes and gaps in current research. To coincide with the Association for Young People’s Health (AYPH) recent report on self-harm1, this blog post explains why HBSC England will be adding self-harm measures to the next survey round.

Self-harm is a complex behaviour to define; essentially it describes the intentional harming of one’s own body resulting in tissue damage2. It can involve many behaviours including cutting, burning, scratching and swallowing toxic substances. There is much debate surrounding the similarities between self-harm and suicide; researchers are divided as to whether self-harm has suicidal intent or not. Research demonstrating differences in the methods and frequency of those self-harming with the intent to kill themselves and those without3 offers support for defining self-harm as separate from suicidal ideation. The motivations for suicidal self-harm have also been shown to differ to those without suicidal intent; individuals with suicidal intent report self-harming in order to make others better off whereas non-suicidal individuals report self-harming as a way of expressing anger and to punish themselves4. However, others believe distinguishing between the two behaviours is both problematic and irrelevant. It is difficult to establish suicidal intent, and there is a consistent link between self-harm and suicide5,6; consequently researchers suggest self-harm should encompass all self-harming behaviours irrespective of intent. Defining self-harm is also made increasingly more difficult because a variety of terms are used to coin the behaviour, including self-injury, self-poisoning, para-suicide and self-mutilation.

Research has consistently shown that self-harm is a behaviour predominantly carried out by adolescents7,8; it is also more common among females than males8. The exact prevalence of self-harm is unknown; however it is estimated around 10% of adolescents report having self-harmed8. Self-harm is typically carried out in private and kept hidden, so it is very difficult to measure prevalence. Often prevalence rates have been based on hospital admissions for self-harm, but this is not an effective measure as many self-harmers do not require or seek hospital treatment. Consequently, the exact prevalence of self-harm is unknown; and could feasibly be much higher than current estimations.

The HBSC England team will include questions on self-harm in their next survey; since we want to both strengthen the evidence base around the prevalence of self-harm, and also analyse the factors in a young person’s life that may correlate with this behaviour. The aim is to not simply report the prevalence of self-harm among young people but wishes to contribute to the current understanding of the behaviour. Since the HBSC study examines young people’s lives in their broad social context and includes questions about a wide variety of aspects of young people’s lives including family, school, friends and the community; the breadth of the study makes it possible to understand self-harm in more detail. We can establish relationships between self-harm and other important factors in young people’s lives; this will help to identify factors which put them at risk of self-harming and factors which protect young people from self-harming. Recently ChildLine reported a 68% increase in children seeking help for self-harm from 2011 – 20129. This increase may suggest that self-harm is on the increase, which makes it even more important that self-harm continues to receive research attention so we can begin to fully understand the behaviour. The HBSC England team hopes the inclusion of self-harm measures in the HBSC study will allow them to make a contribution to the knowledge and understanding of self-harm among adolescents.

Kayleigh Chester


1 Hagell, A. (2013). Adolescent self-harm: AYPH Research Summary No. 13. Association for Young People's Health (AYPH) & ChiMat.
2  Fliege, H., Lee, J. R., Grimm, A., & Klapp, B. F. (2009). Risk factors and correlates of deliberate self-harm behavior: A systematic review. Journal of psychosomatic research, 66(6), 477-493.
3 Nagy, E., & Páli, E. (2009). Clinical diagnoses, characteristics of risk behaviour, differences between suicidal and non-suicidal subgroups of Hungarian adolescent outpatients practising self-injury. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 18(5), 309-320.
4 Brown, M. Z., Comtois K. A., Linehan, M. M. (2002). Reasons for suicide attempts and nonsuicidal self-injury in women with borderline personality disorder. J Abnormal Psychology, 111, 198–202.
5 Cooper, J., Kapur, N., Webb, R., Lawlor, M., Guthrie, E., Mackway-Jones, K. & Appleby, L. (2005). Suicide after deliberate self-harm: a 4-year cohort study. Am J Psychiatry, 162, 297– 303.
6 Nock, M. K., Joiner, T. E., Gordon, K. H., Lloyd-Richardson, E., & Prinstein, M. J. (2006). Non-suicidal self-injury among adolescents: Diagnostic correlates and relation to suicide attempts. Psychiatry research, 144(1), 65-72.
7 Hawton, K., Saunders. K. and O’Connor, R. (2012). Self-harm and suicide in adolescents. The Lancet, 379, 2373-82.
8 Hawton, K., Rodham, K., Evans, E., Weatherall, R. (2002) Deliberate self-harm in adolescents: self-report survey in schools in England. BMJ, 325, 1207–11.
9 Saying the unsayable: What’s affecting children in 2012. Report by ChildLine.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Child wellbeing: Our response to UNICEF’s Report Card 11

The UNICEF Report Card 11, which is based partly on HBSC international data, was released on the 10th of April and positioned the UK halfway through a ranking of 29 rich countries for child well-being. The British press responded to the news in different ways (somewhat upbeat at BBC News; gloomier at the Guardian), but attention was mostly on the fact that the UK lag behind many other countries.

This is true – but while efforts need to be made to ensure that we improve the lives of young people in the UK further, it is also important not to lose sight of the positive changes that have already taken place.
First of all, although to be ranked 16th of 29 countries may well be disappointing, the UK has strengthened its position by 4 points since the early 2000s when it was placed second to last of 21 countries. Out of the countries investigated, only one (Portugal) improved by more (5 points) and one (Ireland) by the same number. This is not a cause for complacency, but it shows that significant improvements have been made during this time period.

There is also variability between the different markers used to obtain the overall ranking, and for housing & environment the UK ranks a more respectable 10th. Further, on the child Deprivation Index (used as part of the Material Well-being indicator) it’s in the top third. The risk behaviours of smoking, drinking, cannabis use, and physical fighting all show positive downward trends.

Teenage fertility (live births) is highlighted in the report as an area where the UK actually shows an increase over the last decade. Again, it is important to note the significant achievements made in this area. Report Card 11 groups all of the UK countries together, but we know from recent statistics that in England and Wales conceptions (which encompasses all pregnancies, including those that end in miscarriage or abortion) among women aged under 18 are the lowest since 1969. Recent moves to disband the Teenage Pregnancy Unit, and a continued reluctance to make sex education a compulsory part of the curriculum in schools in England, may well put such positive changes in jeopardy however.

It is not all good news, of course. UNICEF places the UK 24th on the education indicator, which includes both participation and achievement (based on PISA scores for reading, maths and science). We also know from HBSC international data that 15 year olds in England, Wales and Scotland rank in the top 10 (of 39 countries) for feeling pressured by school work, and discussions with our young co-researchers indicate that pressure over academic attainment is a source of much stress to young people. On the other hand, the HBSC study also shows that young people in England are more likely than their peers in many other countries to say that they like school.

We are optimistic that many aspects of young people’s lives are changing for the better, and we hope that a genuine concern for their well-being will result in future policy and practice that enhances it even further.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

UNICEF Report Card 11: Child wellbeing in rich countries

UNICEF’s Research Office has released Report Card 11, charting the well-being of children in 29 rich countries. The report is based partly on HBSC international data, and focus on comparisons of indicators both between countries and over time.

The report ranks countries based on five indicators: material well-being (monetary and material deprivation), health and safety (health at birth, preventive health services, and childhood mortality), education (participation and achievement), behaviour and risks (health behaviours, risk behaviours, and exposure to violence), and housing and environment (Housing and environmental safety). It notes that overall, most of these areas show improvement over the last decade, and that the Netherlands and the three Nordic countries of Finland, Iceland and Norway fare best in terms of child well-being.

What is the situation for young people in the UK?

Report Card 11 does not distinguish between the separate countries of the UK but have grouped England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland together. In the overall ranking, the UK is placed 16 out of 29 countries – an improvement of 4 points since the early 2000s when the UK ranked second to last of 21 countries.

There is variation between the different domains in where individual countries are placed – the UK is ranked 10th for Housing & Environment, 14th for Material Well-being, 15th for Behaviours & Risk, 16th for Health & Safety, and 24th for Education. Positive changes from the early to the late 2000s are evident for young people in the UK across most of the indicators, with particularly big changes noted for risk behaviours like smoking, drinking, using cannabis and being involved in physical fighting.

The report also looked at how children and young people themselves rate the quality of their life, and for self-reported life satisfaction, the UK ranks 14th, suggesting that young people here rate the quality of their lives slightly better than objective indicators would suggest.

More information (including the full report) is available from UNICEF here.

The HBSC International report for 2009/ 10 is available from the WHO here