Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 177–198 | Cite as

Does Positive Mental Health in Adolescence Longitudinally Predict Healthy Transitions in Young Adulthood?

  • Meredith O’ConnorEmail author
  • Ann V. Sanson
  • John W. Toumbourou
  • Jacolyn Norrish
  • Craig A. Olsson
Research Paper


The present study examined the longer-term implications of adolescent positive mental health for successful young adult transitions. Positive mental health in adolescence was defined by indicators roughly corresponding to Seligman’s positive psychology PERMA framework (positive emotional experiences, engagement, relationships, purpose, and accomplishment), with the addition of health. Data were drawn from one of Australia’s longest running studies of social and emotional development (Australian Temperament Project, est. 1983, N = 2443), which has followed a large representative community sample from infancy to 27–28 years of age. In the analyzed sample of n = 999, positive mental health at 15–16 years was associated with indicators of career progression (educational attainment and perceived competence) and taking on citizenship responsibilities (volunteering and civic activities) over a decade later at 27–28 years. Mental health problems in adolescence were more relevant to establishing romantic partnerships in young adulthood: adolescent antisocial behaviors predicted higher likelihood of being in a relationship, while depressive symptoms predicted lower quality partnerships. The results suggest that successful transitions into young adult roles and responsibilities may be facilitated by targeted mental health promotion interventions designed to both foster positive mental health and address mental health difficulties in adolescence.


Positive mental health Internalizing and externalizing problems Positive psychology PERMA Positive education Developmental tasks Young adulthood Emerging adulthood Longitudinal 



The Australian Temperament Project is a collaboration between The University of Melbourne, the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, The Royal Children’s Hospital, and Deakin University; further information available at C Olsson is supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Senior Research Fellowship [DP130101459]. We acknowledge all collaborators who have contributed to the Australian Temperament Project, especially Margot Prior, Frank Oberklaid and Diana Smart. We would also like to thank all families involved in the ATP for their invaluable contribution to the study. Geelong Grammar School provided personnel support for this study, for authors M O'Connor and J Norrish. The funding body had no role in relation to the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meredith O’Connor
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Ann V. Sanson
    • 2
  • John W. Toumbourou
    • 4
  • Jacolyn Norrish
    • 1
  • Craig A. Olsson
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  1. 1.Institute of Positive EducationGeelong Grammar SchoolCorioAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PaediatricsUniversity of Melbourne, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health SciencesParkvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Murdoch Childrens Research InstituteRoyal Children’s HospitalParkvilleAustralia
  4. 4.School of Psychology, Faculty of HealthDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  5. 5.Centre for Social and Early Emotional DevelopmentDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  6. 6.Adolescent Health ResearchMurdoch Childrens Research InstituteParkvilleAustralia
  7. 7.Royal Children’s HospitalParkvilleAustralia

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