Improving Quality of Life

Quality of life can be improved when children and youth have high-quality relationships, guidance, and investment from their communities to develop into successful adults.

Children and youth experience numerous transitions and face a wealth of physical, mental, social, and emotional changes on the path to adulthood. Raising children in a loving, stable environment that provides positive stimulation, and making sure they receive early screening and intervention for health and/or developmental problems help increase positive wellbeing and increases the chance of a bright future. As children become more independent of their parents, friends and peers become important to their development. Positive new experiences and behaviors, in addition to healthy relationships, empower young people to develop into thriving adults, actively engaged in their continued education, careers, civic life, and their families.

What's happening

  • In 2023, children and youth under 18 years old comprised 23.6 percent of the total population in North Dakota (184,734). Due to an increase in resident births and an influx of younger families into the state, the number of children has grown consistently since 2010.
  • The percentage of North Dakota high school students who binge drank in 2021 was higher in North Dakota as compared to the U.S. average (14.0% and 10.5%, respectively). However, the rate of high schoolers who were binge drinking declined from 16.4 percent in 2017 to 14.0 percent in 2021.
  • About three in eight high school students have ever had sex (36.6% in 2021). While 15.6 percent of 9th graders reported having had sex, 56.4 percent of 12th graders have ever had sex in North Dakota.
  • For middle school children grades 7 and 8, in average, 6 percent of students ever had sex (3.5 percent of 7th graders and 8.3 percent of 8th graders).

Making connections

Building a pathway to success begins early in life, and must provide opportunities for all children and youth. Maintaining good health, via regular medical checkups, proper nutrition, and exercise, starting at an early age can lead to optimal growth and development of children and youth. Quality educational experiences (e.g., preschool enrollment) and opportunities produce positive outcomes that compound throughout an individual’s life as they enter into the workforce and start contributing to the economy and community. In addition, having meaningful, caring, and supportive relationships in young people’s lives is also connected to a range of positive outcomes, some of which include better academic motivation, improved grades, greater civic engagement, and higher ambitions for the future. Therefore, an investment in our children is an investment in the future of our state. 


Karen Olson: The 30th edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT® Data Book finds that 175,772 children will shape the future of a more diverse North Dakota.

“A growing child population is good for North Dakota if we invest in them now, educate them and enable them to contribute to our economy, and become a strong, well educated workforce that will support another growing population, our aging baby boomers. The oldest baby boomers (the large population cohort born from 1946 to 1964) are now 73 years old and the youngest are 55 years. So, in another 10 years, nearly all baby boomers will be of retirement age.”

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Shweta Arpit Srivastava and Dr. Ann Burnett: “Giving rope and pulling it back”: Parental dilemmas to prevent adolescent substance use.

“The current opioid crisis in the US warrants adolescent substance use prevention more than ever before, especially because drugs, alcohol, and suicides are contributing to an alarming drop in US life expectancy for the second year in a row. In such a scenario, parenting adolescents becomes increasingly challenging because, on one hand, parents learn scary facts from the media and feel the urge to protect their children; on the other hand, they need to continue to show love and care for their children. It is certainly hard to balance discipline and love.”

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Lindsey Leker: Creating Community with the use of Technology and Youth Leadership.

"Through an opportunity called, 4-H Tech Changemakers initiative, Microsoft is equipping young people with the knowledge, resources, and empowerment to lead in their communities through technology. Teens across the country are combining their skills with the power of technology to bring people together, solve problems, and create economic opportunities in their communities. These tech-savvy and community-oriented young people are called Tech Changemakers."

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North Dakota Compass

Center for Social Research
North Dakota State University

Compass created by:
Wilder Research

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