Happiness Is Antidote To Teen Crime And Drug Use
The psychology of happiness is a fairly new but growing field and certainly the consequences of happiness are something rarely measured by sociologists. But a University of California, Davis, study reported August 22 at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Las Vegas, found that kids in grades seven through nine committed fewer crimes, including drug-related crimes, if they were 'happy.'
The data used for the Davis study came from the largest, most comprehensive study ever conducted of 7th through 9th grade adolescents; the 1995 and 1996 National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health had 15,000 participants. This abstraction of the data focused on emotion, depression, and juvenile crime.
The researchers, Bill McCarthy, a UC Davis sociology professor, and Teresa Casey, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, correlated the teens' self-reported data on crimes committed with separate self-assessments of emotional well-being.
Twenty-nine percent of the youths reported having been involved in at least one crime, while 18 percent of them reported using at least one illegal drug. Involvement with crime and drugs was observed to be less frequent among those who reported a high sense of well-being. Those who reported being down or depressed more often than happy, were more likely to report having committed a crime or used drugs. Intensity of the emotions also had an effect on the likelihood of committing or not committing a crime.
Data was also studied from one year to the next, and it was observed that the adolescents whose emotional well-being dropped from happy to depressed during the course of the year, had significantly higher crime tendencies.
“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,” McCarthy and Casey explained.
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