According to a new study healthy,
positive relationships play a key role in determining how happy we will be as
In contrast, academic achievement appears to have little effect on adult well-being.
We know very little about how aspects of childhood and adolescent development, such as academic and social-emotional function, affect adult wellbeing-defined here as a combination of a sense of coherence, positive coping strategies, social engagement and self-perceived strengths.
Associate Professor Craig Olsson from Deakin University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, and his colleagues 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 particularly focused on the relationship between social connectedness in childhood, language development in childhood, social connectedness in adolescence, academic achievement in adolescence, and well-being in adulthood.
Social connectedness in childhood was defined by parent and teacher ratings of the child being liked, not being alone, and the child’s level of confidence. Social connectedness in adolescence was demonstrated by social attachments with parents and peers, as well as participation in youth groups and sporting clubs.
The researchers found a strong connection between child and adolescent social connectedness and adult well-being, noting this illustrates the “enduring significance of positive social relationships over the lifespan to adulthood.”
The researchers also found that the connection 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 analysis also suggests that the social and academic paths are not related to one another, and may actually be parallel paths, the researchers said.
“If these pathways are separate, then positive social development across childhood and adolescence requires investments beyond development of the academic curriculum,” the researchers conclude.
Journal of Happiness Studies.