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There has been a growing recognition for children’s voices to be heard on matters which affect their lives. This has been encouraged by the ratification of the UNCRC in Ireland which has influenced numerous other policies. This study aims to provide an opportunity for young children to have their voices heard and demonstrate how children can be involved as active research participants in empirical research. An emphasis was placed on positive psychology. The aim was to explore the children’s perception of happiness and ascertain the factors which contributed to their happiness within the pre-school environment. Fifteen children attending a pre-school in urban Dublin were the research participants. An adaptation of the Mosaic approach was used to collect the data. Specifically methodological tools included photographs, focus groups and drawing activities.
The findings from the study indicated that children could offer insightful and valuable information regarding their understanding and experiences of happiness. Children’s perceptions of happiness were linked to physical features, emotional well-being, familial relationships and comedic influences. Four main themes emerged with regard to factors contributing to the children’s happiness in their pre-school environment. These included; a sense of identity and belonging, outdoor learning environment, relationships with peers and teachers and play opportunities. The study identified that as primary stakeholders in the early years setting children have meaningful insights to share. Based on the findings recommendations were made for further similar research to be carried out in alternative geographical areas in Ireland.
Tobin, D. (2014) Children’s Right to be Heard: Exploring Children’s Perceptions of Happiness and Factors Contributing to Happiness in the Pre-School Environment. Masters Dissertation, Dublin Institute of Technology.