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Prof. Bill McCarthy

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A new University of California Davis study has found that happiness and well-being in adolescents report less involvement in crime and drug use than other youth.[googlead tip=”patrat_mic” aliniat=”dreapta”]


To reach this finding, researchers at the University of California Davis used 1995 and 1996 data from nearly 15,000 seventh- to ninth-grade students in the federally funded National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

[googlead tip=”lista_mica” aliniat=”stanga”]About 29% of the students surveyed reported having committed at least one criminal offence, and 18% claimed they had used at least one illegal drug.

The researchers then correlated these reports with students’ self-assessments of emotional well-being and found that those who said they were happier were less likely to commit crimes or use drugs.

Happiness and well-being in adolescents report less involvement in crime and drug use than other youth.

Happiness and well-being in adolescents report less involvement in crime and drug use than other youth.


[googlead tip=”vertical_mare” aliniat=”stanga”] “Our results suggest that the emphasis placed on happiness and well-being by positive psychologists and others is warranted,” said co-author Bill McCarthy, a UC Davis sociology professor.


The researchers also found that youth with even minor depression were much more likely to be involved in criminal activity or drug use. And while most of teenagers have periods of happiness and depression, “it’s when negative periods begin to outnumber the more positive ones that trouble can start,” the UC Davis researchers said.


“In addition to their other benefits, programs and policies that increase childhood and adolescent happiness may have a notable effect on deterring non violent crime and drug use,” said Prof. Bill McCarthy.


Prof. Bill McCarthy and Teresa Casey, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis argued that positive emotions also have a role.

The UC Davis team theorized that the benefits of generally happiness – such as maintaining strong bonds with others, feeling good about oneself, and gaining good social skills – can help teenagers make good decisions.

“We hypothesize that the benefits of happiness – from strong bonds with others, a positive self-image and the development of socially valued cognitive and behavioral skills – reinforce a decision-making approach that is informed by positive emotions,” they wrote in their study.

Their research finds that happier adolescents were less likely to report involvement in crime or drug use. Adolescents with minor, or nonclinical, depression had significantly higher odds of engaging in such activities.

The study was to be presented Monday at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Las Vegas.

Since the study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, the findings should be viewed as preliminary.