The key to children's future happiness

Investing in your children's emotional health may be one of the most important things you can do for them.

It is believed by many that growing up with good grades and financial success might be the most significant contributors to happiness and success. An study published in The Economic Journal demonstrates otherwise, and points to a different key factor to the future happiness of children.

Economist Richard Layard and his colleagues asked the question about what predicts a successful and happy life. They found that neither income nor academic ability had nearly as much influence on someone's happiness than his or her emotional health growing up.

The research on well-being

To look at what accounts for life satisfaction as an adult, Layard and his colleagues examined data from almost 10,000 individuals born in 1970. Each person was asked to report on their life satisfaction at various points throughout their lives. These individuals were also members of the British Cohort Study, which extensively surveys its participants on a variety of topics every five to seven years. The team of researchers analyzed this data in concert with additionally acquired information having to do with numerous factors in participants' lives, including, but not limited to: Physical and emotional health, marital status, income, employment and factors which influenced them as children such as their academic performances, socioeconomic statuses and emotional health.

The findings from the research

Layard and his colleagues found that the most significant factor which contributed to the happiness and life satisfaction of its British subjects in adulthood was their emotional health during childhood.

It was found that income or academic performance growing up were among the least significant predictors of life satisfaction in adulthood.

Ramifications of the study

The authors conclude that investing today in a child's emotional health is a valuable and worthy endeavor. As economists, they point out that interventions in childhood to support the emotional health of children can provide "massive savings" to public finances in the future.


How to nurture your child's emotional health

Now that more is being understood about emotions and how very important emotional health is, it only makes sense to make efforts to foster children's emotional health. There are a number of ways that you can help your child be emotionally healthy, one of which is by attending to their emotional intelligence. Other factors key to raise emotionally healthy children include a safe and nurturing environment at home, interest in and acceptance of children's emotional experiences, respect for children's boundaries, being reasonable and predictable with disciplining, and modeling healthy communication and respect.

Helping children feel soothed from emotional overwhelm can also be helpful in teaching kids how to manage big emotions. Likewise, if your child experiences a traumatic event, actively assisting in the recovery process will help. If there is a possibility of any childhood mental health problems, such as an autism spectrum disorder, early intervention services can also be invaluable.

The bottom line is that it is never a mistake to invest in your child's emotional health. There is now even more proof about how important doing so can be.


Layard, R., Clark, A. E., Cornaglia, F., Powdthavee, N. & Vernoit, J. (2014) What predicts a successful life? A life-course model of well-being. The Economic Journal, Vol. 124: 580, pp. F720-F738.

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