Early relationships, not brainpower, key to adult happiness

Positive social relationships in childhood and adolescence are key to adult well-being, according to Associate Professor Craig Olsson from Deakin University and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Australia, and his colleagues. In contrast, academic achievement appears to have little effect on adult well-being. The exploratory work, looking at the child and adolescent origins of well-being in adulthood, is published online in Springer's Journal of Happiness Studies.

We know very little about how aspects of childhood and adolescent development, such as academic and social-emotional function, affect adult well-being - defined here as a combination of a sense of coherence, positive , and self-perceived strengths.

Olsson and team analysed data for 804 people followed up for 32 years, who participated in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS) in New Zealand. They explored the relative importance of early academic and social pathways to adult well-being.

In particular, they measured the relationship between level of family disadvantage in childhood, social connectedness in childhood, in childhood, social connectedness in adolescence, academic achievement in adolescence and well-being in adulthood. Social connectedness in childhood is defined by the parent and teacher ratings of the child being liked, not being alone, and the child's level of confidence. Social connectedness in adolescence is demonstrated by social attachments (parents, peers, school, confidant) and participation in youth groups and sporting clubs.

The researchers found, on the one hand, a strong pathway from child and adolescent to adult well-being. This illustrates the enduring significance of positive over the lifespan to adulthood. On the other hand, the pathway from early language development, through adolescent academic achievement, to adult well-being was weak, which is in line with existing research showing a lack of association between socioeconomic prosperity and happiness.

The analyses also suggest that the social and academic pathways are not intimately related to one another, and may be parallel paths.

The authors conclude: "If these pathways are separate, then positive social development across childhood and adolescence requires investments beyond development of the academic curriculum."

More information: Olsson C et al (2012). A 32-year longitudinal study of child and adolescent pathways to well-being in adulthood. Journal of Happiness Studies; DOI 10.1007/s10902-012-9369-8

Related Stories

Social norms for obesity learned in childhood

Dec 19, 2011

Newcastle University research studying siblings has revealed that childhood experience and genes may set your weight rather than social networks later in life. 

Youth's social problems contribute to anxiety and depression

Mar 25, 2008

Socially successful children tend to have fewer symptoms of anxiety or depression, while children with problems such as anxiety and depression tend to have difficulties forming relationships and being accepted by friends. ...

Adolescents involved with music do better in school

Feb 10, 2009

A new study in the journal Social Science Quarterly reveals that music participation, defined as music lessons taken in or out of school and parents attending concerts with their children, has a positive effect on readin ...

Positive teens become healthier adults

Jul 19, 2011

Teenagers are known for their angst-ridden ways, but those who remain happy and positive during the tumultuous teenage years report better general health when they are adults, according to a new Northwestern University study.

Recommended for you

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
3 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2012
Interesting. Libertarians say the same thing, when they are defending their ideological support for child molestation.

"Positive social relationships in childhood and adolescence are key to adult well-being" - Article
freethinking
1 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2012
VD your lying again.
Progressive Ideology of hate supports child molestation. Progressives support and encourage 1 parent households, discourage fathers being involved with children, support homosexual couples raising children (even though 7 out of 10 adult homosexuals say they have had sex with children under 18).

Conservative Ideology is that 1 Mother 1 Father = best for children. Every study shows that economically, physically, emotionally, every aspect of well being is best served with 1 mother 1 father married. Traditional marriage is not hate, but is best for raising children.
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Aug 03, 2012
The Libertarian Party Platform holds that prostitution is legal, sacred, commerce.

It also holds that children of any age can at any time proclaim themselves as adults and by doing so gain all of the privilege, rights and responsibilities of adults.

Under the Libertarian law then, any child who proclaims itself an adult has the right to engage in prostitution since they have all of the same rights and responsibilities as adults.

Child prostitution (molestation) is therefore legal under Libertarian ideology.

Is FreeThinking unaware of the Libertarian Party policy? Or is he denying that human rights are inalienable for all humans - in direct violation of Libertarian Ideology?
freethinking
1 / 5 (2) Aug 03, 2012
VD, off your meds again? I keep quoting Conservative Ideology. You keep stating what would happen under Progressives.

You keep calling a child an IT. A child is human and is a him or a her. Why do you hate so much? Were you abused as a child or are you a child abuser that needs to degrade children and others so you can abuse them without guilt?
Sigh
not rated yet Aug 06, 2012
Interesting. Libertarians say the same thing, when they are defending their ideological support for child molestation.

"Positive social relationships in childhood and adolescence are key to adult well-being" - Article

I fail to see the connection, even after reading your follow-up comment. Are you saying libertarians view child molestation as a positive social relationship? If yes, can you provide a source?
Sigh
not rated yet Aug 06, 2012
Progressive Ideology of hate supports child molestation.

That alleged connection is no clearer. For a start, are you equating support for single parent families with a "Progressive Ideology of hate"?

7 out of 10 adult homosexuals say they have had sex with children under 18

Your phrasing is consistent with two 17 year olds having sex with each other, then reporting that when they are over 18. And where I live, the age of consent is 16, and those over 16 can consent to sex with anyone else over 16, no matter how much over 16.

Every study shows that economically, physically, emotionally, every aspect of well being is best served with 1 mother 1 father married.

Then you are not familiar with Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's book "Mothers and Others", presenting a comprehensive argument that humans are cooperative breeders, that children benefit from having more than two parental figures, but that the sex of those parental figures and whether they are married matters little?