Examining how contexts shape young children's perspectives of health

Lori G. Irwin, J. L. Johnson, A. Henderson, V. S. Dahinten, C. Hertzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Background: We know that the social conditions in which children live exert a strong influence on their health; yet, we do not know how children's experience of these conditions of daily life shape their perspectives of health. Methods: Through ethnographic research methods,the first author spent 1 year with the 14 6-year-old children involved in this research and examined how the contexts of daily life influenced the children's perspectives of health. The children involved in this study all lived in a neighbourhood characterized as having a complex of mid to high range of neighbourhood factors associated with vulnerability. Results: The findings demonstrate that the children were able to articulate the health requirements of physical activity and healthy eating that supports their health. However, there was a disparity between the children's health knowledge, their perceptions and their contextual realities in relation to health. Children spoke of concerns for their physical safety within their schools and neighbourhoods; their lack of free range of play, and that they had few opportunities to play with or get to know neighbourhood friends. Conclusion: Professionals incontact with children and families who live in challenging social conditions need to be aware of how these contexts shape children's understanding of their own health potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-359
Number of pages7
JournalChild: Care, Health and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Children's views
  • Health beliefs
  • Psychosocial factors
  • Qualitative
  • Social disadvantage


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