HAPPINESS IN CHILDREN: A REVIEW OF THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE, pp. 51-70
Authors: Mark D. Holder and Robert J. Callaway
Abstract: The study of positive subjective well-being has received far less attention than the study of negative dispositions (e.g., depression and anxiety). Though the past decade has witnessed an increased research focus on well-being, including happiness, this increase has been largely based on studies of adults, and to a lesser extent, adolescents and the elderly. Until recently, happiness in children was largely ignored by researchers. However, high levels of happiness in children are strongly desired by adults across many cultures. The limited research on happiness in children is reviewed here. This research suggests that questionnaires (e.g., the Subjective Happiness Scale) and methods (e.g., self-report and other-report) used to assess happiness in adults can be used effectively, with little modification, to assess children. Additionally, many of the correlates of adult happiness (e.g., personality and social relations) are similarly associated with children‘s happiness. Furthermore, demographic variables that account for little of the variance in adults‘ happiness likewise account for little of the variance in children‘s happiness. However, there may also be some differences in the predictors of adults‘ versus children‘s happiness. For example, increased religious practice predicts increased happiness for adults, but does not predict increased happiness in children. Furthermore, differences between adults and children have been found in the strength of the relations between happiness and its predictors. For example, spirituality may be a stronger predictor of children‘s happiness than adults‘ happiness. Because studies have only recently identified several of the factors associated with children‘s happiness, future research to assess the efficacy of strategies designed to enhance happiness in children is discussed.