Children and adolescents in institutional care versus traditional families: a quality of life comparison in Japan

Takahiro Nakatomi, Shuhei Ichikawa, Hideki Wakabayashi, Yousuke C. Takemura - Health and Quality of Life Outcomes



A good quality of life (QOL) is important for the physical and mental well-being of all children. However, young people who live in an institutional setting may face different challenges than those who are raised in a traditional family. While a few quantitative studies of institutionalized children’s QOL have been conducted, no research has investigated the QOL of young people living in Children’s Homes (CHs) in Japan. This research compared the QOL of children and adolescents in Japan who live in CHs with that of children and adolescents living in traditional families.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in July 2016 with 204 students (grades three through nine), 47 of whom lived in a CH, and 157 of whom lived in a traditional family. Ages ranged from 8 to 15 years (CH: 55.8% Female, 44.2% Male; Traditional: 54.1% Female, 45.9% Male). Participants answered the kid-Kinder Lebensqualität Fragebogen (Translated from German: Children’s quality of life questionnaire; KINDL®) Japanese Version, which covers six subscales of QOL; they filled in the questionnaires at home. Analysis of variance was used to compare QOL between the two samples.


The total QOL score for all students (combined elementary school students and junior high school students) from CHs was statistically significantly lower than that for students from traditional families. Scores for the subscales, emotional well-being and family, were also significantly lower for CH young people than for those in traditional families. While elementary pupils in CHs reported lower QOL than those in traditional families, no significant differences in QOL were seen between junior high school students from CHs and their peers from traditional families.


The findings presented support previous research showing that the QOL of elementary school students living in CHs is significantly lower than that of their peers in traditional families. However, this difference was not observed among junior high school students. This contrast suggests that QOL changes with age. Future research is needed to evaluate the determinants of QOL among all generations and family contexts.