[The UNICEF report can be downloaded at
"The Netherlands has always been a very child-centred society," says Paul
Vangeert, professor of developmental psychology at the University of
Groningen. "In particular, there is a lot of focus on young children."
He says he is not surprised by the report.
"On the one hand you have objective indicators in the report like health, income and education.
The Netherlands is a very rich country. On the other hand, and perhaps
more importantly, are the subjective indicators, young people's own subjective sense of well-being."
Child well-being table
9. Republic of Ireland
15. Czech Republic
20. United States
21. United Kingdom
Much of this, he says, comes from the relationship that Dutch parents
have with their children. And, from the fact that less pressure is put on them at school.
"If you take the percentage of young mothers in the labour force, it's
not very high in comparison to comparable countries," Mr Vangeert told
the BBC News Website. "There is a strong tendency for mothers to raise
children or take a long time off work after children are born."
He says children are used to a
"highly protective, highly positive caring environment."
One of the strong points of the Dutch family, he says, is that it is
very open and communicative. Relations are generally good between parents and children and they can talk about almost anything.
But, he says, the downside is that children almost rule the family.
"It's almost a caricature that children are the ones that decide what
happens within the family," says Mr Vangeert. "Their wishes become so strong that parents have to work very hard to give them what they want.
Sometimes, there can be a lack of balance between the happiness of the
child and that of the parent."
18-year-old Ysbrand, a student in Helmond near Eindhoven, says this
picture matched his childhood. He says that his parents spent a lot of time with him when he was younger. His mother stayed at home while his
But, he said the contrast when you get to 18 can be something of a shock.
"Now I'm left to look after myself," he told the BBC News website. "My
parents say that I need to care for myself and to be independent. It's
hard. I don't have much money as a student and to go out is expensive.
Beer, for example, is very expensive in the Netherlands."
He says that while he has been drinking and smoking for some time, his
parents have never really seen it as a big issue.
"They've never liked it," he says. "But they realise that they were
young once. They are just waiting for me to give it up in my own time."
The Dutch are famous for their liberal attitudes towards drinks, drugs
"Because parents are more relaxed, the dynamics of the problems are less
severe than in countries where they are seen as more of a serious issue," says Mr
Laura Vos, a 16-year-old schoolgirl from Amsterdam agrees.
"In this country, it's very free, you can do anything you want," she
told the BBC's Newsnight programme. "You can smoke at 16, you can buy pot in the store next to the school. You can do what you like and
because it's not illegal, it's not that interesting for us to provoke our parents with it."
Schoolfriend Michell Klimt told the BBC that she thought that teenagers
in other countries had to deal with the type of peer pressure that her friends did not have to even consider.
"I think in England, for example, there is a lot of pressure on
teenagers. There is something on MTV called Virgin Diaries. Girls of 16
and 17 worry because they are still virgins. It's like they have to have
sex to be cool," she says."In Holland, it isn't that important - it doesn't matter to anyone."
Rutt Veenhoven, professor of social conditions for human happiness at
Erasmus University in Rotterdam, says he was unsurprised by the report's
"Small affluent countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark are very
democratic and very free. There is also a very good education system. People can use that freedom and education to make the right choices," he
Selma el Maknouzi, a 16-year-old student from The Hague says young
people in the Netherlands have a lot to look forward to.
"I'm very happy with the education here because it's at a very high
level," she told the BBC News website. "Everybody has the chance and the
opportunity to do whatever he or she wants to do. There are many jobs -
everyone can work and there are opportunities to build a good career in
Mr Veenhoven says that the general picture is pretty much in keeping
with what he has seen in samples of the adult population. He says that typically in Western Europe countries like the Netherlands and Denmark
score particularly well.
"And we know that happy adults raise happy children," he says.