Theorising social and emotional wellbeing in schools: a framework for analysing educational policy

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Young people are increasingly lamented as unable to cope with ‘everyday realities of life’ with educational institutions and parenting styles accelerating what some refer to as the ‘snowflake generation’. This paper addresses confusion that exists in the framing of social and emotional wellbeing, delineating three competing perspectives: (1) ‘skills and competencies’, (2) ‘morals and ethics’ and (3) ‘capital and identity’. Embedded within each perspective are distinct notions of the ‘self’ and processes of socialisation and identity formation. The competency-based perspective shifts attention towards the individual and is reliant upon universal skills. This contrasts with a morals and ethics-based perspective on social and emotional wellbeing which is seen to be contingent upon the values that guide our moral and ethical frameworks, and informs how we relate with others. A capital and identity perspective does not speak of ‘wellbeing’ per se, but rather places emphasis on the different sets of resources available to children. These perspectives offer fundamentally distinct framings of the ‘crisis of youth’ and we draw out the implications for current and future policy development they imply.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)613-633
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Issue number4
Early online date11 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


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