The Back To School Reminder We All Need: Grades Don’t Equal Happiness

gradesWith back to school just around the corner, mothers and fathers are no doubt ruminating over many a scholastic question. Old meditations on public school vs. private, new teachers, and tutors have parents returning to the big picture this coming autumn. Will a private school education eventually land your daughter at Harvey Mudd? How are your child’s teachers impacting their budding interests in future areas of study? But while it can be fairly easy to get caught up in report cards and percentages, a New Zealand study reminds us that a bright path to adulthood is not always defined by grade point averages.

Livescience reports that researchers of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development analyzed 32 years worth of data for 804 participants. They embarked on the various ambitious task of trying to determine what ensured “well-being in adulthood.” A nebulous undertaking, I’m sure. Craig Olsson from Deakin University in Australia and his colleagues reportedly looked at “social connectedness” and language development in childhood and then “social connectedness” and scholastic achievement in the teen years. Social connectedness was determined by teachers and parents rating the child’s confidence levels, how often the child was alone, and how well he or she was liked. The same element of the study was quantified again in adolescence by the kid’s participation in groups and attachments to peers and parents. Turns out, according to this research, that being stellar in school wasn’t necessarily a guarantee of well-being:

The researchers reported a strong “pathway” from child and adolescent social connectedness to adult well-being and happiness. Meanwhile, there was little evidence connecting early language development and adolescent academic achievement to adult well-being, which suggests social and academic pathways might not be closely related.

“If these pathways are separate, then positive social development across childhood and adolescence requires investments beyond development of the academic curriculum,” the authors concluded, according to Springer.

That isn’t to say that all solitary bookworms are ticking time bombs for adult disaster. But the findings do put a grades — a common assessment of a child’s adjustment — in their place.

(photo: Serhiy Kobyakov/ Shutterstock)

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