Background and objectives
Wellbeing and health among school children are of great concern. Health symptoms may influence absence from school, sleep, and other aspects of daily life and perceived pain in childhood may also be a marker for later mental or somatic problems. Contributors to wellbeing and health are, however, less explored. Our aim was to assess the impact of assumed promoting and assumed adverse factors on school wellbeing and health symptoms (sadness, anxiety, stomach ache, and headache). As a component of this aim we wanted to study the agreement between children and significant adults in their reports of possibly influential factors.
In cross-sectional studies of 419 children from five schools in coastal to inland areas in a region in central Norway, we assessed the associations of potentially influential factors with self-reported school wellbeing and health symptoms in logistic regressions.
In Paper 1 we assessed the associations of assumed promoting and assumed adverse factors with school wellbeing in proportional odds logistic regressions. In multivariable analyses, children, and especially boys, who enjoyed their school work or perceived to get necessary help from teachers showed higher prevalence of school wellbeing than those who were dissatisfied with school work or teacher support. For girls, the relational experience of being bothered in class was associated with lower degrees of school wellbeing.
In Paper 2 we studied the associations of assumed promoting and assumed adverse factors with health symptoms in proportional odds logistic regressions. In multivariable analyses, perceptions of getting necessary help from teachers showed a significant and negative association with stomach ache in girls. For both genders, loneliness was associated with self-reported sadness, and in addition, loneliness was related to higher prevalence of anxiety and headache among girls.
In Paper 3 we assessed the concordance between children, teachers, and parents in reports of victimization caused by bullying. Further, in binary logistic regression, we studied the relation between reported victimization and health symptoms as reported by the children. In reports of victimization, the agreement was low to moderate for the three sources of information. Children who reported being victimized had a higher prevalence of sadness, anxiety, stomach ache, and/or headache, and the results showed a gradient, such that higher frequency of victimization was related to higher loads of health symptoms. Victimization as reported by teachers or parents showed weaker relations to health symptoms reported by the children, and only for anxiety, there was a clear effect of dose.
Children’s perceived school wellbeing and self-reported health symptoms may partly be influenced by different factors, and there may be gender differences. Regarding school wellbeing, our results suggest that factors related to the classroom situation may be more influential than relational experiences in recess, and that boys may be more receptive to promoting factors such as teacher support, whereas girls may be more vulnerable to adverse relational aspects in the classroom. Perceived loneliness should perhaps be given more attention in schools. Loneliness was strongly related to subjective health symptoms, especially in girls. Moreover, the low agreement in reports of an assumed adverse factor (victimization) may be worth noticing. But the impact of agreement about peer victimization on children’s later wellbeing and health is to our awareness unknown, and should be assessed in future studies.