When you ask the fish: Child wellbeing through the eyes of Samoan children

Emma Dunlop-Bennett, Jenny Bryant-Tokalau, Anthony Dowell

Abstract


Child wellbeing is the subject of substantial academic and policy interest globally and in New Zealand. Notably however, the voices of children are largely missing in much of the extended literature. In addition, and largely due to an assumption that wellbeing is a universally held construct, the influence of cultural values and beliefs on the perceptions and experiences of wellbeing of children, such as the Samoan children in this study, have not warranted in-depth attention. This study explores the influence of culture on how 8-year old Samoan children living in Wellington, NZ, conceptualise their wellbeing (Dunlop-Bennett, 2019). Part I of this article details the research approach developed for this study. Guided by Talanoa ile i’a (Faleolo, 2009) or ‘Talking to the Fish’, this study positioned children as experts on their wellbeing and through the use of talanoa and photos successfully created the reflective discussion space for 11 Samoan children to share their knowledge. The findings, outlined in Part II, show that when given the opportunity, these Samoan children offered critical and realistic insights into their experiences and aspirations. One model of wellbeing shared by these children used the analogy of a seesaw, where wellbeing was achieved when the “good bits and the bad bits” are balanced. The influence of context of wellbeing was a second key finding. These Samoan children’s experiences of wellbeing indicated a subtle interplay and balancing of their fa’asamoa (the Samoan way) and New Zealand life experiences. While this ethnic-specific study does not purport to represent the diversity of the Samoan diaspora, it presents a model that can be adapted by the Samoan diaspora living in other parts of New Zealand as well as other Pasifika and minority groups, as appropriate.


Keywords


Child wellbeing, Samoan wellbeing, culture, wellbeing

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v9i4.1005

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