Would you say children are happier today than their peers 20 or 30 years ago ?
Psychology frequently searches for the path to happiness of humans. Here's an intriguing TED talk about how to stay happier and more focused while spending your everyday life: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2013/04/02/matt-killingsworth-tedxcambridge/ Do you think it is true for kids too ?
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Ack. This is a really difficult question, hence I've taken 29 days to answer it despite seeing it straightaway!
I'm 33, so I was a little kid 30 years ago (very happy, felt very safe) and a teenager 20 years ago (and no-one's happy with they're 13 but I still felt relatively safe).
My kids are 11, 10 and 5. They have infinitely better toys than I did. More of them. They have more 'stuff'. They play out way less. They have nicer food and better TV. Loads of it.
Thirty years ago, at the grand old age of three, I declared I was leaving home. This was due to some kind of slight involving a cough sweet if I remember correctly. At three years old, I packed my little bag, informed my mum and flounced out, slamming the door behind me. I walked up the drive, around the corner, climbed a tree and sat there until the boredom was too much to take. I was probably there for six minutes but it felt like six hours. I learned some lessons... That wouldn't happen now.
At 13, I would go on 30 mile bike rides in the holidays. That's right, 30 miles. My friends and I had the kind of freedom my kids would be downright scared of.
I don't know about happiness, but we certainly had more freedom. Bad things still happened then as they do now. The majority of us were fine as the majority are now. Can I bring myself to let them have the freedom I had? Nope. And society would frown on me if I did.
Once the basic care needs are met (food, shelter, warmth), happiness comes from within, clearly. And that pot of happiness within gets topped up by happy social experiences, and by warm nurturing family life. That's timeless.
But one thing that chips away at this pot of happiness is stress. And when I compare the way my kids are taught now, compare the pressure of 11+ exams (I had NO pressure when taking mine 22 years ago), the pressure of SATs while in Primary School and the enormous social pressure I see my daughter navigating, I do worry. They have two busy working parents, who probably exude stress at times too. Poor things.
In summary, I think we've probably just swapped one set of negatives for another and one set of positives for another. And if we asked my kids this in 20 or 30 years, they'd probably say the same!