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The Benefits of Adolescent Well-Being: Happiness, Substance Use, and Crime

Bill McCarthy, Ph.D, Department of Sociology, UC Davis
Mar 08, 2012 from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-800)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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Most research on the returns to happiness uses a static approach and focuses on adults and positive outcomes. We add to this literature with an analysis that adopts a dynamic perspective and examines adolescent happiness and its consequences for three negative outcomes: property crime, and the use of alcohol and illegal drugs.  We also challenge approaches that downplay the contribution of positive emotions to decision-making while highlighting the role of negative emotions or reflective thought. Using two waves of data from the nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we examine the effects of happiness and change in happiness on offending and substance use, independent of the effects of other dimensions of well-being (i.e., depression), other mechanisms of decision-making (i.e., reflective thought), and prior involvement in crime.  Our results suggest that crime and drug use are less likely to be chosen by adolescents who use their positive emotions when they make decisions.

Bill McCarthy works in the sociology department at UC Davis. Together with Teresa Casey he is examining the origins of adolescent well-being and its short and long-term consequences. His other research examines the effects of adolescent romantic and sexual relationships on positive and negative outcomes; emotional labor, stigma and their consequences for service workers; violence and sex work; and homicide.

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