The 7 Cs wellbeing programme: a Singaporean study on the wellbeing and the development of resilience in preschool aged children

Yoke Yin Yvonne Chan

PhD thesis, conferred 2015

This thesis examined the wellbeing of preschool children in Singapore and their development of resilience. The study was situated in Singapore and utilised a mixed mode methodology to investigate the extent to which the implementation of a wellbeing programme that built resilience impacted on a sample of young children and their wellbeing and resilience. ‘Wellbeing’ is related to characteristics that prevent illness and psychological problems and encompasses capabilities that enable people to cope effectively with challenges and stress. It includes good physical health and a feeling of happiness, satisfaction and social functioning. Resilience is a dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity. Given the proposition from research literature and media focus that Singapore’s merit-based academic system, parental expectations for high academic achievements often begin early in the child’s life. This academic emphasis may result in children becoming unduly stressed. The failure to recognise and manage children’s stress symptoms effectively can cause them serious long-term effects such as behavioural and social problems, mental illness, ill health and feelings of lack of fulfilment.

Research emphasises the importance of promoting and developing resilience in the early childhood years and doing so in preschools in Singapore may be an important step in helping Singaporean children cope better with the many stressors they face daily and in the future. This study investigated preschool children’s ‘wellbeing’ and ‘resilience’ using a mixed mode methodology. The internationally validated Leuven Wellbeing Scale was used to measure children’s wellbeing. The study also included the findings about perceived factors affecting children’s wellbeing gathered from interviews with a sample of children and educators, and surveys with parents. The child wellbeing profiles that were generated from the Leuven Wellbeing Scale and primary research data on the perceived factors that influenced children’s wellbeing were used to develop a ‘wellbeing programme’ – named the 7 Cs Wellbeing Programme. This programme focused on building resilience and the capacity to cope with academic and other life stressors that children typically face in the preschool system in Singapore. The 7 Cs Wellbeing Programme was implemented over a ten-week period in eight kindergartens with five and six year-old children in Singapore in 2012.

Findings from children’s wellbeing results from the study, showed that there were statistically significant differences in the children’s total wellbeing scores across the eight kindergartens after participating in the intervention programme. The findings also indicated that the children showed positive development across the seven different dimensions of resilience again measured from the responses of the educators, as well as showing an increase in their overall wellbeing scores. Qualitative data, which included information on factors contributing to better outcomes in wellbeing from informants such as the children and their educators, added to the rigour and depth of the study in that they provided a more comprehensive explanation of the perceived protective and risk factors that contributed to children’s wellbeing and resilience. In addition, the qualitative data also provided insights into aspects of the 7 Cs Wellbeing Programme that were effective in developing resilience in the children. The findings of the study suggested that educators’ expertise, as well as the provision of additional support for children with additional learning needs, school philosophy and pedagogy of the kindergarten educators, may have contributed to better outcomes in children’s development of resilience and total wellbeing scores. The 7 Cs Wellbeing Programme may provide a framework for operationalising the goals of the ‘Refreshed Kindergarten Curriculum Framework’ launched by the Ministry of Education in Singapore in 2013 as they related to building wellbeing.

Supervisor: Professor Alison Elliott