Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 1069–1083 | Cite as

A 32-Year Longitudinal Study of Child and Adolescent Pathways to Well-Being in Adulthood

  • Craig A. OlssonEmail author
  • Rob McGee
  • Shyamala Nada-Raja
  • Sheila M. Williams
Research Paper


The purpose of the study was to investigate the relative importance of child and adolescent social and academic pathways to well-being in adulthood (32-years) indicated by a sense of meaning, social engagement, positive coping and prosocial values. Data were drawn from a 15 wave (32-year) longitudinal study of the health and development of around 1000 New Zealanders (Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, New Zealand). Moderate continuity in social connectedness (0.38) and high continuity in academic ability (0.90) was observed across childhood and adolescence. Adolescent social connectedness was a better predictor of adult well-being than academic achievement (0.62 vs. 0.12). There was evidence of an indirect pathway from adolescent academic achievement to adult well-being through social connectedness (0.29). Indicators of well-being in adulthood appear to be better explained by social connection rather than academic competencies pathways. Implications for promoting longer term well-being during the school years are discussed.


Childhood Adolescence Language development Academic achievement Social connectedness Well-being Adulthood 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Craig A. Olsson
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  • Rob McGee
    • 3
  • Shyamala Nada-Raja
    • 3
  • Sheila M. Williams
    • 3
  1. 1.School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityGeelongAustralia
  2. 2.Environment, Genes and HealthMurdoch Childrens Research InstituteParkvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, Dunedin School of MedicineUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of PaediatricsThe Royal Children’s Hospital, The University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  5. 5.Psychological SciencesThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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