This working paper looks at teenagers' experiences and opinions about what constitutes well-being for young people. It is based on interviews carried out with teenagers from the Young Lives sample in four districts of Peru, interviewed in 2007, 2008 and again in 2011.
Young people's definition of well-being varies according to their own circumstances and the transitions they are experiencing at any particular time. Given this, the authors situate their perceptions within the context of change, and continuity, the children experience between the dates of the different interview rounds. During the first round of interviews in 2007, the children were just starting secondary school, while by the time of the third round of interviews in 2011, many of them had finished school and were making the transition into the adult world.
Among the main indicators of well-being identified by the young people were maintaining a good relationsip with their parents and being able to count on good friends. Whether they lived in town or in rural areas, the children in all three rounds of research emphasised the importance of education and doing well at school. They also considered that the financial situation of their family was an important factor in their well-being.
On the other hand, the loss of the support of a parent – through illness or even death – was seen as a major risk for young people's well-being. Parental support is, without doubt, one of the most important factors that they feel contributes to their sense of "having a good life". To be exposed to violence – whether at home or school – is a major threat to their well-being. The feeling of being alone was also identified as a difficulty, and was associated with a sense of not being accepted or not having the support to face up to and deal with problems a young person may encounter.
A further finding of the research is a certain ambivalence or uncertainty about whether work is a good or a bad thing for young people?s well-being. Particularly in rural areas more boys said that having to work to do chores could conflict with their schoolwork, but they also considered it to be an important way in which to help their family, as well as a means to gain skills they would need as they grow up. Pregnancy was mentioned as a risk in that it could radically change young people's lives and prospects. In the interviews conducted in 2011 it was raised more often as a threat to their well-being, probably because of the age the young people were at.
In general the young people were of the opinion that their well-being depended on multiple factors, many linked to their education, where their parents and relatives had an important role to play. Many hoped for opportunity to continue their education after leaving school and to get work which would be better paid than their parents had. The young people saw themselves as being in control of their own lives, capable of bringing to themselves, and their families, better well-being.