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S.D. Clark Professor of Sociology, FRSC NetLab Director
Department of Sociology 725 Spadina Avenue, Room 388
University of Toronto Toronto Canada M5S 2J4 twitter:barrywellman
Updating history: http://chass.utoronto.ca/oldnew/cybertimes.php
Just published: NETWORKED: The New Social Operating System.
Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman. MIT Press.
Hardbound $19; Kindle $16
Early relationships, not brainpower, key to adult happiness
Social connection is a more important route to adult well-being than
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 coping strategies, social engagement and self-perceived
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, language
development 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 social connectedness to adult well-being. This illustrates the
enduring significance of positive social relationships 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."
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
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