Pre-adolescent children’s understanding of health and being healthy: A multidimensional perspective from the UK

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Abstract

Purpose – We applied a multidimensional conceptual lens that incorporated physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual health dimensions to explore pre-adolescent children’s understanding of health and being healthy.
Design/methodology/approach – Forty-six children aged 9-11 years old completed a short questionnaire about their understanding of health and what it means to be healthy. Data analysis was completed through a deductive analysis applying a multidimensional conceptual lens and an inductive thematic analysis of the content of children’s responses to each question.
Findings – The analysis of children’s understandings of health and being healthy both revealed five common themes: Being Well, Physically Active, Fit, and Healthy; Healthy Eating and Body Composition; Physical Activity Examples; Physical Activity Characteristics; and Unsure or Ambiguous. An additional theme of Social and Emotional emerged for children’s understanding of what it means to be healthy. Across both questions the majority of responses reflected the physical dimension of health, with only a few references to the social and emotional dimensions. There was no evidence of the intellectual or spiritual dimensions of health in children’s responses to either question.
Practical implications – Our data suggest that the plateau in adolescent UK children’s trajectory of understandings originates earlier in childhood, with children aged 9-11 years showing a similarly limited understanding of health and being healthy as UK early and middle adolescents (12-15 years). Moreover, this focus on the physical dimension is narrower than previously considered as it is restricted to the movement category of this dimension only.
Originality/value – Our findings have implications for the timing and focus of health education interventions for children.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Education
Early online date1 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Feb 2022

Keywords

  • Children
  • Health
  • Health education
  • Knowledge
  • School health promotion

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