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In the current South African socio-political framework children have been afforded the highest priority within government, via affirmation of their rights. Not only have the rights and needs of children been entrenched in the development strategies of the government, but children themselves have been guaranteed socio-economic rights and protection from abuse, exploitation, and neglect. Subsequently, knowledge and information on the well-being of children have become important pursuits. It has also become increasingly important to obtain an understanding of what children regard as essential to their well-being. The current study explores children’s subjective perceptions of well-being, with a specific focus on elucidating the discourses that children use to assign meaning to well-being. A qualitative study was conducted using a series of focus group discussions with 56 children between the ages of 13 and 15 from rural and urban geographical locations. A discourse analysis reveals a complex interplay between the social environment and the children’s sense of well-being. Three key thematic domains were identified, namely, personal safety, infrastructural deficiencies, and psycho-social functioning. Central discourses to emerge from these thematic domains were closely interrelated and mutually influencing and focussed on, personal safety, the social environment and a stable self as ‘non-negotiables’ of well-being, helplessness and vulnerability, desensitisation, marginalisation, (non)acknowledgement and (dis)respect. A notable finding emerging from the study was the extent to which the participants’ discursive constructions of well-being were ideologically configured. The findings raise important considerations for educational and intervention programmes and policies aimed at children and youth.

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Journal Article

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