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

Robert J. Klein, Michelle M. Englund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3023-3041
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jan 22 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
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).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V. part of Springer Nature.


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


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