Defining Well-Being in a Local Context: Lessons from the Field

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Agata ZBIKOWSKA, University of Warsaw, Poland
Since the fall of communism, inequality between children from poorer and wealthier environments in Poland steadily grows. Social class and economic situation are important factors in children’s possible educational and professional success (Lareau 2003), and it is also known that leisure activities differ depending on class, gender, race and age (Rojek 2010). Therefore a qualitative research was conducted in Poland to establish which leisure time activities may contribute to the later success of adolescents. It took place in one city, and in an attempt to capture as many nuances of the local dynamic as possible, interviews were conducted not only with teenagers themselves, but also with their parents and local authorities.

The results suggest that on each level definition of child’s well-being is constructed differently. Local authorities are convinced they do everything they should to provide equal chances for development of young people by guaranteeing access to schools, cultural institutions and sports facilities. Yet for middle class parents this is not enough, so they put strong emphasis on extracurricular education, which in Poland is mostly private and therefore expensive, but gives an opportunity to obtain skills beneficial to children’s later careers. In case of lower class parents this option is not available, so they describe success differently. Adolescents also create their own definition of welfare, which focuses much more on the present than imaginable future. Furthermore, all these definitions derive from an ever-present neo-liberal narrative. If it changed, so would the definitions.

Taking all of this into account, which elements can a researcher safely compare? In my paper I will focus on finding common areas of these definitions and underline aspects that should be treated with caution.