Developing and selecting measures of child well-being

This guide, written by Howard White and Shagun Sabarwal for UNICEF, focuses on the development and the selection of measures of child well-being for impact evaluations.

The paper also provides an overview of some of the ethical issues and practical limitations that may be present and outlines an example of indicators that have been used in UNICEF studies.


"Indicators provide a signal to decision makers by indicating whether, and to what extent, a variable of interest (such as use of health services) has changed. Indicators can be used at all levels of the results framework from inputs to impact, and should be linked to the programme’s theory of change (see Brief No. 2, Theory of Change). For any one programme or policy there should be a comprehensive set of indicators covering all levels of the theory of change. Indicators have an important role for all monitoring and evaluation (M&E) activities, including impact evaluation (see Brief No. 1, Overview of Impact Evaluation).

Most important at the lower levels of the causal chain are monitoring indicators such as inputs (e.g., money spent, immunization kits supplied), activities (e.g., health workers trained, immunization days held) and outputs (e.g., clinics built). For higher-level indicators of outcomes and impact, however, monitoring tells us what has happened but not why it happened. To understand this, impact evaluation must be used. This simply means that while indicators can monitor progress – such as progress made towards the achievement of a particular goal (e.g., reduction in under-five mortality rates) – or provide a warning sign of things going wrong (e.g., 90 per cent of school-aged children in a village do not attend school), understanding the factors behind achieving or not achieving the goal requires more intensive research or evaluation."


  • Indicators: a brief description
  • How to select or develop indicators
  • How to collect indicators on child well-being
  • Ethical issues and practical limitations
  • How to use indicators in impact evaluation
  • Example indicators used in unicef studies


White, H., & Sabarwal, S. (2014). Developing and Selecting Measures of Child Well-Being. UNICEF. Retrieved from:

'Developing and selecting measures of child well-being' is referenced in: