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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Valuing happiness in youth: Associations with depressive symptoms and well-being

  • Author(s): Gentzler, Amy L
  • Palmer, Cara A
  • Ford, Brett Q
  • Moran, Karena M
  • Mauss, Iris B
  • et al.

© 2019 Elsevier Inc. In Western society, happiness is often viewed as an important or even preeminent life goal. Yet, research with adults suggests that excessively valuing happiness (e.g., equating happiness to constant feelings of happiness, worrying about happiness even when happy) is linked to more depressive symptoms and lower subjective well-being. We extended this work by investigating valuing happiness in youth within three samples: 7–12 year-old children (Study 1; N = 76); 14–18 year-old adolescents (Study 2; N = 142); and 12–18 year-old adolescents (Study 3; N = 152). Paralleling research with adults, valuing happiness was related to higher depressive symptoms in all three studies. These associations were moderated by perceived stress in Study 2 and age in Study 3. Valuing happiness showed inconsistent associations with well-being. This research suggests that youth who value happiness too much are more depressed. We highlight the need for prospective designs and implications for understanding depression risk.

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