It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“Good social relationships in your youth might translate to happiness as an adult, while doing well in school seems to have little influence on well-being later in life, new research suggests.” (“Why Being Social In Youth Is Linked To Adult Happiness”; LiveScience.com 8/2/2012)
Let me start by saying one thing: I don’t have kids.
That seems a necessary disclaimer for a post like this. Because I want to be very clear that I’m not telling you how to raise your kids. I don’t have kids, so who am I to give advice?
Ok. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about this study. “The study is based on 32 years’ worth of data for 804 people who participated in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS) in New Zealand. … The researchers reported a strong ‘pathway’ from child and adolescent social connectedness to adult well-being and happiness.” In fact, the pathway from childhood sociability to adult happiness is stronger than the link between academic achievement or early language development and happiness. Interesting. That’s not to say that academic achievement isn’t important — but it isn’t everything.
There’s a lot of pressure on kids these days to do it all–school, sports, arts, volunteer, other things that I probably haven’t even heard of. They’re scheduled down to the minute, with parents spending their weekends chauffeuring from one practice to another. When I was in high school, much of this “doing” was to guarantee a strong college application. I’d like to think that’s not the reason for second graders who spend Saturdays running from gymnastics to swim practice to piano lessons to dance class, but who knows. Still, if this research says anything, it’s that it’s just as important to allow for childhood socializing. In the long run, apparently, that’s what counts.
This research shouldn’t come as a surprise really. We already know that strong adult relationships are a major key to happiness, so why wouldn’t strong childhood relationships correlate in the same way? After all, those who learn young to be social are more likely to continue that behavior into adulthood.
So, all this to say, what’s wrong with letting kids hang out with other kids just for the sake of being social? When I have kids, will I be a horrible mom for putting a greater emphasis on friendship and socializing than, I don’t know, learning to speak German at age 2?
What do you think? Should helping kids socialize be priority numero uno?