How can the social environment be used to achieve healthier lifestyles for children aged 4-12?
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Recent news articles reveal that the social environments and lifestyles of children need improvement. This thesis looks into the neighborhood, presence of peers, media education, and leisure as aspects of the social environment. As the social environment is thought to relate to the lifestyles of children, this thesis aims to answer the question of whether improving the social environment can make the lifestyles of children aged 4-12 more healthy. This was researched by a mixed-methods approach. For the quantitative part, data of the Kindmonitor 2017 was used, which was analyzed using the program SPSS. The qualitative part entails interviews with the parents of children in Alblasserdam. As the results of these interviews seemed surprisingly positive, additional interviews with experts in the field were conducted. The results of this study imply that overall a healthy social environment for children is related to a healthier lifestyle. Furthermore, each aspect of the social environment relates to at least one aspect of the lifestyle. To conclude, this research shows that a healthy social environment can certainly contribute to a healthier lifestyle for children. However, this study also shows that, although the average state of the social environments and lifestyles of children are sufficient, there are areas that can be improved, especially for special needs children. Therefore, policymakers should focus on vulnerable children as they score below average. Hereby, the focus should specifically be on leisure activities and peer contact, which can be tackled by providing opportunities for these children to play sports in an organized manner.