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Happiness Tends to Deter Crime

24 Aug 2011 | PsychCentral

A new study reports that a happy teen is less likely to be involved in criminal activities or use drugs.

UC Davis researchers Bill McCarthy, Ph.D., and Teresa Casey report their findings in a paper titled "Get Happy! Positive Emotion, Depression and Juvenile Crime."

"Our results suggest that the emphasis placed on happiness and well-being by positive psychologists and others is warranted," McCarthy said. "In addition to their other benefits, programs and policies that increase childhood and adolescent happiness may have a notable effect on deterring nonviolent crime and drug use."

The researchers evaluated results from a 1995-1996 federally funded study of Adolescent Health - the largest, most comprehensive survey of adolescents ever undertaken.

Investigators compared self-assessments of emotional well-being to criminal activity or reports of drug use. They discovered about 29 percent of the youth surveyed reported having committed at least one criminal offense, and 18 percent said that they had used at least one illegal drug.

The review is important because research on the value or consequences of happiness, in relation to juvenile crime, has not been studied. Currently, experts believe adolescents' decisions about crime emerge from attitudes and emotions.

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