How much of adult well-being is determined by childhood influences? The answer to this question is very important to policy-makers since it influences educational and family policies. In a new discussion paper, Richard Layard, Andrew E. Clark, Francesca Cornaglia and Nattavudh Powdthavee estimate how adult life-satisfaction is predicted by childhood influences. The authors differentiate between direct effects of childhood influences and indirect effects affecting adult life-satisfaction through adult circumstances.
According to the study, the most powerful childhood predictor of adult life-satisfaction is the child’s emotional health. Next comes the child’s conduct. The least powerful predictor is the child’s intellectual development. Although intellectual performance is a good predictor of the person’s educational achievement and income, it has hardly an effect on adult life-satisfaction since income itself has been found to have a very limited impact well-being. Likewise, family background (economic, social and psychological) is a quite limited predictor of most adult outcomes except educational qualifications.