Conceptualising Child Wellbeing: A case study in a Hong Kong private school

  • Stephanie Howdle-Lang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


Research in Hong Kong has revealed low levels of child wellbeing (CWB), but has been largely conducted with children over the age of 10 using self-reported responses to adult assigned indicators. There is, to my knowledge, no qualitative research that has taken account of how younger children conceptualise wellbeing. This study addressed the lacuna in child standpoint research (Fattore, Mason and Watson, 2016) into conceptualisations of CWB in Hong Kong.
A case study was undertaken in one Hong Kong private school, using Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory of human development. In exploring the context of the case study school, the macrosystem of societal norms privileged in a globalised, neoliberal hegemony was explored through policy analysis. In the school, an empirical study employed a Mosaic approach. Children generated data in the form of photographs, writing, discussions and drawings, analysed the data and constructed their own conceptualisations of wellbeing based on what they found.
At policy context level, the conceptualisation of wellbeing was found to broadly align with a focus on individual wellbeing. The documentation indicated the devolution of responsibility for CWB from governmental level, first to schools and then to individuals. Children were found to be represented as adults-in-waiting and the schools’ role was implied to make children responsible for their own wellbeing conforming to a neoliberal market-driven economy.
Children’s conceptualisations of wellbeing had some points of resonance with policy understandings, with evidence of children accepting responsibility for their own wellbeing. There was a dissonance, however, as children also perceived wellbeing to be community-based and all aspects of it to be interconnected.
This study contributes to global research into how children understand wellbeing and provides possible approaches for engaging young children in data collection and analysis, thus privileging, above all, their voices.
Date of Award12 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorCeri Brown (Supervisor), Sam Carr (Supervisor) & Kate Bullock (Supervisor)


  • wellbeing
  • child wellbeing
  • school
  • Hong Kong
  • Relational Wellbeing Theory
  • child standpoint research
  • policy analysis
  • case study

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