What does it take to raise happy, well-adjusted kids? A UNICEF study broke this question down into five factors: housing and environment, behaviors and risk, education, health and safety and material well-being. They used these categories to determine which industrialized countries were getting it right.
A 2013 UNICEF report found that American kids ranked 26th – just above Lithuania, Latvia and Romania — out of 29 countries, and children in the United Kingdom ranked 16th. Kids in the Netherlands ranked first.
The report is a follow-up to a 2007 study that also showed the Netherlands in first place, with the U.S. and U.K. in the lowest two slots.
Those study results come as no surprise to Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchison, the authors of the new book The Happiest Kids in the World. Acosta, who is American, and Hutchison, who is British, have first-hand experience in how differently the Dutch raise their children as compared with their native countries.
In their book, the two mothers, who are both married to Dutch men and are living in the Netherlands, identify several factors that are responsible for the sunny dispositions of Dutch children. The factors include more sleep for Dutch babies, less emphasis on academic achievement, more focus on family time and more involvement in childrearing by fathers.