Are kids happier than adults?

The Importance of Fun

When it comes to having fun, kids have the advantage over adults. While most adults would like to have a good time, the desire is often tempered by a competing need to get ahead in life or to get things done. How many times have you skipped a social outing in order to whittle away at your workload? If you've spent time around a kid hooked into a video game with a "to do" list of parent-provided chores collecting dust nearby, you'll realize ambivalence about the importance of fun is largely an adult dilemma.

The daily lives of adults and children are quite different. While an adult's day is largely filled with tasks, responsibilities and the acquisition of resources, a kid's life in a privileged country is generally structured around having fun, or being educated in fun or interesting ways. While play is viewed as a necessary component of childhood, it's perceived as a luxury for adults. And as hard as we try to make sure our kids are having fun, they may be even happier when provided less structure or forced stimulation.

However, not all kids are the same, and plenty of kids are burdened by school or home responsibilities, or may be withdrawn and depressed. These kids are less likely to feel an overall sense of happiness than kids brimming with love, zest and hope, character traits associated with happiness in children [source: Park].

Social relationships play a significant role in a child's sense of overall happiness. Family and peer relationships -- both positive and negative -- seem to have equal impact on a child's well-being. Negative peer relationships -- those marked by bullying or exclusion -- will influence a kid's sense of happiness, but so too will positive family relationships.

A link has been found between access to entertainment and amusement activities and children's health [source: Rogers]. Kids who live in areas with a greater number of parks, public performances and leisure-activity providers tend to be healthier -- and happier -- than kids in the boring town next door.