By Emily A. WilsonHow do you keep kids happier, and out of the way?
The question has haunted parents, teachers, and school counselors for years, but new research suggests there are no easy answers.
It’s been an ongoing debate among researchers and experts, with many pointing to childhood happiness and academic success as key factors in school achievement.
Now, a team of researchers has conducted a systematic review of research on happiness and student achievement in a new issue of the journal Child Development.
The study found that children who do well on standardized tests and who score highly on measures of academic achievement, on-time attendance, and extracurricular activities tend to do well academically and have fewer behavioral problems.
But researchers said their study only shows that there are some possible links between school achievement and emotional well-being.
“This is really a preliminary finding,” said Dr. Amy J. Whelan, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington.
“We don’t know the real answer.”
But what we do know is that there’s a lot more research out there that suggests there’s not a direct link between emotional well being and academic achievement.
The new research is based on a systematic analysis of more than 7,000 children who have participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which is the largest cohort of students ever conducted on happiness.
Researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and co-author Andrew A. H. Meeks, director of the Center for Children and Society at the National Institute on Aging, analyzed data from nearly a third of children in the study and found that their overall scores were on average higher on standardized measures of achievement, attendance, extracursiveness, and on-task behavior.
In a study published earlier this year in the journal Science, Hales, Meeks and colleagues found that emotional well well-beings were related to academic achievement and academic performance in children from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, including those who were low-income, middle-class, and rich.
But the study also found that low- and middle-income children were significantly less likely to be highly rated academically.
Hales said that may be because students who are high on the scale of well- being were less likely than low- or middle- or high-income kids to report having received any positive attention from their teachers or teachers’ aides.
“You may get more positive attention, but you may not get the kind of attention that you would like,” Hales told ABC News.
In another study, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the relationship between parental socioeconomic status and academic outcomes in about 2,500 children from kindergarten through third grade.
Researchers compared children’s standardized test scores from their parents and the average scores of their peers.
They also looked at school attendance, academic achievement on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and the amount of extracurantery activities.
The children who were wealthier and more likely to have parents with a high income and lower socioeconomic status had lower academic performance on standardized testing.
“There’s some evidence that having parents with higher income and higher socioeconomic status is associated with higher levels of child well-Being,” said Hales.
“It seems to be a very robust relationship.
It may be a causal one, but there’s other evidence supporting the idea.”
The research is preliminary, but Hales is hopeful that it can help parents and school administrators understand what it means for their children.
“Parents and school staff need to know that the link between well-Behaviors and academic achievements is real,” she said.
“The question is, do they want to take that risk?”
This is a developing story.
Check back for more updates.