While it is commonly understood, and studies have confirmed, that there is a relationship between having an unhappy childhood and having an unhappy and unfulfilling adult life, less commonly studied are the effects of a happy childhood on a person's adult life.
A recent study found that, perhaps not surprisingly, people who have happy teen years tend to be happier as adults. The thing that was surprising about the study was that it found that the happy adults were much more likely to be divorced than their less-happy peers.
The study was completed by psychologists from the University of Cambridge and the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing. They used data from nearly three thousand individuals who were born in 1946.
At ages thirteen and fifteen, the children were rated by their teachers on characteristics that denoted happiness and strong social adjustment, as well as negative characteristics.
Some of the positive choices for ratings were: unusually happy and contented, makes friends extremely easily, and extremely energetic, never tired.
Negative conduct like lying, disobedience, restlessness, daydreaming, and emotional problems such as anxiety, fearfulness, diffidence, avoidance of attention, etc., were also recorded.
The results were compared with the same subjects' mental health and relationships several decades later. Teens rated positively were much more likely to have higher levels of well-being in middle age. They had higher work satisfaction, more frequent contact with family and friends, and more regular engagement in social and leisure activities.
The happy teens were much less likely to develop mental disorders: sixty percent less likely than their peers.
Pittsburgh divorce attorneys noted that the study concluded that happiness or unhappiness had no bearing on the subjects' likelihood of getting married. The surprise was that the happy teens (and then happy adults) were far more likely to be divorced than the less-happy peers.
The researchers could not conclude exactly why this was the case, but they hypothesized that the happy people had greater self-esteem and self-efficacy that made them more willing and able to leave a bad marriage.
Source: PsychCentral "Happy Teens Tend to Be Happy Adults, But More Likely to Divorce" 2/28/2011