Separation from one or both parents is children’s biggest anxiety, followed by worries over homelessness, divorce, and household money problems. Poor relationships among family members also resonate with children.
These were the results of a survey of 1,296 seventh-grade children conducted by Children’s Commissioner Jozef Mikloško in cooperation with the Institute for Work and Family Research, Trnava University, the Catholic University in Ružomberok, and the St Elizabeth University of Health and Social Work.
The research took place in autumn last year at 67 schools, the commissioner's website states.
“We can say that the relationships in families are crucial elements of a child’s life,” writes Mikloško.
Other than family-related fears, 94 percent of children expressed anxiety about starvation. Bullying, violence and the threat of addiction were also sources of worry.
The poll shows that children mostly find comfort and safety within the nuclear family, and amongst grandparents and friends. For 97 percent of children, parents were the most important people in their lives – children would also rely on their help at times of hardship, the poll shows. The study writes that children’s overall feelings of safety are primarily determined by their sense of safety and comfort at home.
Children notice inequality around them
The survey shows that children are not concerned only with issues surrounding their families and friends.
“Girls are more sensitive towards threats to kids’ mental health, violence, bullying and lack of forgiveness in relationships,” notes the vice dean of Trnava University‘s Philosophy Faculty, Mária Dědová. According to her, girls are more prone to fear of cyber-bullying. Dědová adds that children’s feeling of safety is affected by the support they receive from peers and parents. The survey emphasises that parents should explain current events, cyber safety and how to navigate the online space, as this can help to tackle and prevent further anxieties.
According to the poll, more than half of respondents spent five hours per day on average on the internet. Online friends therefore belonged in the group of important close people for 34 percent or responding children. Out of these, 27 percent said they feel safe in their company.
In addition to girls’ struggles tied to bullying and cyber safety, they are more negatively affected by pressures related to their self-image and body image. Gaining weight, being ridiculed and not being listened to worries children, girls especially, the poll showed.
Research conclusions raise eyebrows
The research relies heavily on circling back to the family. As the Sme and Denník N dailies point out in commentaries on the results, some experts have detected bias in the survey’s results. The survey stresses the importance of two-parent families multiple times, while pointing out that children in one-parent families or in families with adopted children, are not as “safe” as traditional, “complete” families in which both parents are present in children’s lives. The experts challenged such statements, commenting that adopted children can enjoy lives just as safe and valued as children living with their biological parents.