Developmental Pathways to Adult Happiness: Social Competence and Timely High School Graduation

Abstract

Academic and social success are key points of emphasis for adolescents. Yet, it remains unclear whether competence in these areas during adolescence leads to happiness in adulthood. We also know surprisingly little about the mechanisms by which these factors might influence future quality of life. The present study examined the relative impacts of social and academic success (measured in adolescence) on satisfaction with life approximately 16 years later. In addition, indirect pathways were assessed through life stress and social support in early adulthood. Participants (N = 157) were drawn from a sample of children born to low-income mothers followed from birth through age 39 years. Results showed a direct pathway from adolescent social competence to adult life satisfaction, and no such effect of high school graduation. Neither indirect effect was significant. These results extend and support previous cross-sectional research, and call into question the ability of the present K-12 education system to meet the expectations of modern parents.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Availability of Data and Materials

Data will be made publicly available upon acceptance of the manuscript.

Code Availability

The corresponding author will provide code upon request.

References

  1. Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Manual for the Child Behavior Checklist/4-18 and 1991 profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont Department of Psychiatry.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Aikins, J. W., & Litwack, S. D. (2011). Prosocial skills, social competence, and popularity. In A. H. Cillessen, D. Schwartz, & L. Mayeux (Eds.), Popularity in the peer system (pp. 140–159). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Alesina, A., Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2004). Inequality and happiness: Are Europeans and Americans different? Journal of Public Economics, 88, 2009–2042.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Anderson, C., Kraus, M. W., Galinsky, A. D., & Keltner, D. (2012). The local-ladder effect: Social status and subjective well-being. Psychological Science, 23(7), 764–771.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Argyle, M., & Henderson, M. (1985). The anatomy of relationships. London: Methuen.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Argyle, M., & Lu, L. (1990a). Happiness and social skills. Personality and Individual Differences, 11, 1255–1261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Argyle, M., & Lu, L. (1990b). The happiness of extraverts. Personality and Individual Differences, 11, 1011–1017.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4, 1–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Berking, M., Wupperman, P., Reichardt, A., Pejic, T., Dippel, A., & Znoj, H. (2008). Emotion-regulation skills as a treatment target in psychotherapy. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 46(11), 1230–1237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2008). Hypertension and happiness across nations. Journal of Health Economics, 27, 218–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Bowling, N. A., Eschleman, K. J., & Wang, Q. (2010). A meta-analytic examination of the relationship between job satisfaction and subjective well-being. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83(4), 915–934.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Boyd, L. A., & Roach, A. J. (1977). Interpersonal communication skills differentiating more satisfying from less satisfying marital relationships. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 24(6), 540.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Broadhead, P. (2003). Early years play and learning: developing social skills and cooperation. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Bukowski, W. M., Buhrmester, D., & Underwood, M. (2011). Peer relationships as a development context. In M. Underwood & L. Rosen (Eds.), Social development (pp. 153–179). New York, NY: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Ciarrochi, J., Scott, G., Deane, F. P., & Heaven, P. C. (2003). Relations between social and emotional competence and mental health: A construct validation study. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 1947–1963.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., & Baum, A. (2006). Socioeconomic status is associated with stress hormones. Psychosomatic Medicine, 68, 414–420.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Cooper, C. (Ed.). (2004). Handbook of stress medicine and health. Chicago, IL: CRC Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Cuñado, J., & de Gracia, F. P. (2012). Does education affect happiness? Evidence for Spain. Social Indicators Research, 108, 185–196.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Cunningham, J. B., & Sweet, B. (2009). Individual competencies that older workers use in successfully adapting during their careers. International Journal of Human Resources Development and Management, 9(2–3), 198–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2002). Will money increase subjective well-being? Social Indicators Research, 57, 119–169.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 81–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. DiTommaso, E., Brannen-McNulty, C., Ross, L., & Burgess, M. (2003). Attachment styles, social skills and loneliness in young adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 303–312.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., & Pachan, M. (2010). A meta-analysis of after-school programs that seek to promote personal and social skills in children and adolescents. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45, 294–309.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Egeland, B. R., Breitenbucher, M., & Rosenberg, D. (1980). Prospective study of the significance of life stress in the etiology of child abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48, 195–209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Egeland, B., & Brunnquell, D. (1979). An at-risk approach to the study of child abuse: Some preliminary findings. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 18, 219–235.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Fackler, D., & Weigt, E. (2020). Who buffers income losses after job displacement? The role of alternative income sources, the family, and the state. LABOUR, 34(3), 239–276.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Flora, J., & Segrin, C. (1999). Social skills are associated with satisfaction in close relationships. Psychological Reports, 84, 803–804.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2010). Happiness and economics: How the economy and institutions affect human well-being. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Greve, B. (2011). Happiness. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Harter, S. (1985). The self-perception profile for children: Revision of the perceived competence scale for children (Manual). Denver, CO: University of Denver.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Harter, S. (2012). Self-perception profile for adolescents: Manual and questionnaires (Revision). Denver, CO: University of Denver.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Hassan, E. (2006). Recall bias can be a threat to retrospective and prospective research designs. The Internet Journal of Epidemiology, 3, 339–412.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Hatch, S. L., & Dohrenwend, B. P. (2007). Distribution of traumatic and other stressful life events by race/ethnicity, gender, SES and age: A review of the research. American Journal of Community Psychology, 40, 313–332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Hennekam, S. (2016). Competencies of older workers and its influence on career success and job satisfaction. Employee Relations, 38, 130–146.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Hickson, H., & Dockery, A. M. (2008). Is ignorance bliss? Exploring the links between education, expectations and happiness. In Khorshed Alam (Ed.), 37th Australian conference of economists (pp. 1–24). Gold Coast, QLD: Economic Society of Australia.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Hoyle, R. H. (1995). The structural equation modeling approach: Basic concepts and fundamental issues. In R. H. Hoyle (Ed.), Structural equation modeling: Concepts, issues and applications (pp. 1–15). London: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Hoyle, R. H., & Panter, A. T. (1995). Writing about structural equation models. In R. H. Hoyle (Ed.), Structural equation modeling: Concepts, issues and applications (pp. 158–176). London: SAGE.

    Google Scholar 

  40. HSBC Holdings plc. (2015). The value of education: Learning for life [PDF Document]. Retrieved from http://www.hsbc.com/~/media/hsbc-com/newsroomassets/2015/pdf/voe2-global-report-final-lr.pdf.

  41. Huppert, F. A., & Johnson, D. M. (2010). A controlled trial of mindfulness training in schools: The importance of practice for an impact on well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(4), 264–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Inglehart, R., & Klingemann, H. D. (2000). Genes, culture, democracy, and happiness. Culture and Subjective Well-being, 45, 165–183.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Katz, N. H., Lawyer, J. W., Sweedler, M., Tokar, P., & Sossa, K. J. (2020). Communication and conflict resolution skills. New York, Ny: Kendall Hunt Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Layard, R. (2005). Happiness: Lessons from a new science. New York: Penguin Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. 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, 124, F720–F738.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Losel, F., & Beelman, A. (2003). Effects of child skills training in preventing antisocial behavior: A systematic review of randomized evaluations. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 587, 84–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Masten, A. S., Roisman, G. I., Long, J. D., Burt, K. B., Obradović, J., Riley, J. R., et al. (2005). Developmental cascades: Linking academic achievement and externalizing and internalizing symptoms over 20 years. Developmental Psychology, 41, 733–748.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. McDonald, R. P., & Ho, M. R. (2002). Principles and practice in reporting structural equation analyses. Psychological Methods, 7, 64–82. https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.7.1.64.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Michalos, A. C. (2008). Education, happiness and wellbeing. Social Indicators Research, 87, 347–366.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Muresan, G. M., Ciumas, C., & Achim, M. V. (2019). Can money buy happiness? Evidence for European Countries. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 16, 1–18.

  51. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2010). Mplus user’s guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.

  52. National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Newsom, J. T., & Schulz, R. (1996). Social support as a mediator in the relation between functional status and quality of life in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 11, 34–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Okano, L., Jeon, L., Crandall, A., Powell, T., & Riley, A. (2019). Developmental cascades of social competence, achievement in school, and achievement on standardized assessments during the transition to adolescence and secondary school. Journal of Adolescence, 74, 91–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Olsson, C. A., McGee, R., Nada-Raja, S., & Williams, S. M. (2013). A 32-year longitudinal study of child and adolescent pathways to well-being in adulthood. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1069–1083.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Oreopoulos, P. (2007). Do dropouts drop out too soon? Wealth, health and happiness from compulsory schooling. Journal of Public Economics, 91, 2213–2229.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Otto, K., Sobiraj, S., Schladitz, S., Garrido Vásquez, M. E., Roe, R., & Mabunda, M. B. (2019). Do social skills shape career success in the psychology profession? A mixed-method approach. Zeitschrift Für Arbeits- Und Organisationspsychologie, 63, 88–99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Pinquart, M., & Sorensen, S. (2000). Influences of socioeconomic status, social network, and competence on subjective well-being in later life: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 15, 187–224.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Pulliam, J. D., & Van Patten, J. J. (1991). History of education in America. New York, NY: Merrill.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Rezaei, A., & Jeddi, E. M. (2018). Relationship between wisdom, perceived control of internal states, perceived stress, social intelligence, information processing styles and life satisfaction among college students. Current Psychology, 1, 1–7.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Rice, F. P., & Dolgin, K. G. (2005). The adolescent: Development, relationships and culture. Auckland: Pearson Education.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Rook, K. S. (1990). Social relationships as a source of companionship: Implications for older adults’ psychological well-being. In B. R. Sarason, I. G. Sarason, & R. P. Gregory (Eds.), Social support: An interactional view (pp. 219–250). New York: John Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Sandvik, E., Diener, E., & Seidlitz, L. (1993). Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self-report and non-self-report measures. Journal of Personality, 61, 317–342.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Sarason, B. R., Sarason, I. G., Hacker, T. A., & Basham, R. B. (1985). Concomitants of social support: Social skills, physical attractiveness, and gender. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 469–484.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Sarason, I. G., Sarason, B. R., Shearin, E. N., & Pierce, G. R. (1987). A brief measure of social support: Practical and theoretical implications. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4, 497–510.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Sattler, J. M. (1982). Assessment of children’s intelligence and special abilities (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Segrin, C. (1993). Social skills deficits and psychosocial problems: Antecedent, concomitant, or consequent? Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 12, 336–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Segrin, C., & Taylor, M. (2007). Positive interpersonal relationships mediate the association between social skills and psychological well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 637–646.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Siedlecki, K. L., Salthouse, T. A., Oishi, S., & Jeswani, S. (2014). The relationship between social support and subjective well-being across age. Social Indicators Research, 117, 561–576.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Taylor, S. E., & Seeman, T. E. (1999). Psychosocial resources and the SES-health relationship. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 896, 210–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2016). [Graph illustration Unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment]. Current Population Survey. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm.

  72. Veenhoven, R. (1996). Developments in satisfaction-research. Social Indicators Research, 37, 1–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Wechsler, D. (1974). Manual for the Wechsler intelligence scale for children, revised. Psychological Corporation.

  74. Witter, R. A., Okun, M. A., Stock, W. A., & Haring, M. J. (1984). Education and subjective well-being: A meta-analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 6, 165–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Funding

This research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01HD054850), the National Institute of Mental Health (R01MH40864), and the National Institute of Aging (R01AG039453).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert J. Klein.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval

This study was approved by the local IRB.

Consent to Participate

All participants provided informed consent before participating.

Consent for Publication

All authors consent to the publication of this work.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Klein, R.J., Englund, M.M. Developmental Pathways to Adult Happiness: Social Competence and Timely High School Graduation. J Happiness Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-021-00354-9

Download citation

Keywords

  • Development
  • Satisfaction with life
  • Academic achievement
  • Social competence
  • Life stress
  • Social support