Posted on Mar 18, 2011, 6 a.m.
British researchers report that positive adolescence years promote well-being in midlife.
While much is known about the associations between a troubled childhood and mental health problems, little research has examined the affect of a positive childhood. Marcus Richards, from the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), and colleagues utilized information from 2,776 individuals who participated in the 1946 British birth cohort study, to reveal associations between having a positive childhood and well-being in adulthood. A 'positive' childhood was based on teacher evaluations of students' levels of happiness, friendship and energy at the ages of 13 and 15, with a positive point assigned for specific happy and sociable behaviors, and ratings noted for discontent or disobedient conduct. The researchers then linked these ratings to the individuals' mental health, work experience, relationships and social activities several decades later. They found that teenagers rated positively by their teachers were significantly more likely than those who received no positive ratings to have higher levels of well-being later in life, including a higher work satisfaction, more frequent contact with family and friends, and more regular engagement in social and leisure activities. Happy children were also much less likely than others to develop mental disorders throughout their lives – 60% less likely than young teens that had no positive ratings. The team concludes that: “Childhood well-being predicts positive adult well-being, and not merely the absence of mental ill-health.”
Marcus Richards; Felicia A. Huppert. “Do positive children become positive adults? Evidence from a longitudinal birth cohort study.” J Positive Psychology, Volume 6 Issue 1 2011, pages 75 – 87, January 2011.