Title

Examination of the impact of an intervention in positive psychology on the happiness and life satisfaction of children

Date of Completion

January 2009

Keywords

Psychology, Developmental|Psychology, Clinical

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Positive psychology is a relatively new perspective in psychology, which shifts the focus from treating suffering and disorder to that of endorsing health and happiness. Recent research has begun to examine different interventions, such as those that focus on gratitude, which aim to increase happiness and well-being among an adult population (Seligman, Steen, Park and Peterson, 2005). There is, however, a shortage of research which examines the use of such interventions with children or adolescents. The purpose of the present study was to evaluate the use of exercises in positive psychology, specifically those dealing with gratitude, as a way to increase the happiness and life satisfaction of children. Participants included 50 middle school students recruited from a private Catholic school located in the New York City area. Students were administered multiple scales examining baseline measures of happiness and life satisfaction. Students were then randomly assigned to the control or experimental group. Students in the experimental group received instructions on how to complete two assignments in positive psychology; a Gratitude Letter and Three Good Things in Life. Students in the control group received instructions on how to complete a control task called Life Details. Students in both conditions were given one week to complete the assignments. Post-test data was gathered at the end of the week. Follow-up data was collected approximately two-months after completion of the assignments. Results revealed small to moderate effect sizes at follow-up for happiness as measured by the Subjective Happiness Scale and the item measuring "Happy" on the Positive and Negative Affect Scale. Such results suggest that certain exercises in positive psychology, especially those which focus on gratitude, may be efficacious in promoting happiness and life satisfaction in middle school children. ^