Childhood strides | The Changing Childhood Project | UNICEF x Gallup

Childhood Progress

Childhood strides

Nostalgia can be a powerful force. But when it comes to childhood, has life changed for the better?

We conducted a survey among 15–24 and 40+ year-olds across 21 countries to explore how childhood is changing.

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Consider the following seven dimensions of childhood: quality of health care, quality of education, physical safety, mental well-being, opportunities to play, access to healthy food, and access to clean water.

How many of these seven dimensions do you think are better for children today than for their parents' generation?

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Large majorities of people think childhood has improved in most countries across multiple dimensions over the past generation.

Across these different dimensions of childhood, young and older people alike are most convinced of progress in the areas of health…

…and clean water.

Progress is also acknowledged across generations — though to a lesser degree — in the quality of education…

…opportunities to play…

…physical safety…

…and access to healthy food.

Young and old are least convinced of progress on children's mental well-being.

These views broadly line up with reality: Over the past three decades, the world has recorded stunning progress in expanding access to clean water, reducing child malnutrition, providing essential health care, and much more. In 1990, 9% of children never made it to their fifth birthday. By 2020, that share had dropped to less than 4%.

While too many children around the world continue to struggle and are denied their most basic needs, it's undeniable that huge gains have been achieved for most of the world’s children.

More 15-24 year-olds say on average childhood is better todayMore 40+ year-olds say on average childhood is better today

Overall, young people are more likely to acknowledge improvements in children’s lives.

That’s true in nearly all countries, but especially so in Ukraine and Peru.

By contrast, young people are no more likely than older people to believe children's lives have improved in Morocco, India, and Bangladesh.

Will progress in different dimensions of childhood continue to improve over the next generation?

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Learn more about this aspect of how childhood is changing.

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