Happy Kids! (Or are they?)

The Associated Press and MTV conducted a poll of 1,280 people ages 13-24 and determined that kids love their parents. Okay, I over-simplify. But in response to the open-ended question, “What makes you happy?” the most common answer was their parents. What great news! Right?

Of course, what the AP article doesn’t clearly state is that while 49% of teens said that their relationship with their family made them “very happy,” a full 61% said that “listening to music” also made them “very happy.” So, are they happier with music than their family?

Also glossed over is the statistic that 58% of those polled said that “the way things are in the world” made them either somewhat or very unhappy. Only 15% said they where somewhat or very happy with the state of the world. To me, that sounds like a lot of young adults who are dissatisfied with the world they soon will be inheriting…

One thing that is so frustrating with these types of polls is that they take a sampling (less than 1,300) of kids, ask them a bunch (100) of different questions and then someone somewhere along the line between the people conducting the research and the reporters reporting on it decides which “research” findings they want to publicize. And, folks, that’s all we see–what someone else has decided is important. Now, as someone who works in education research, I fully understand that it’s not always easy, possible, or even desirable to publish the full text of questions asked, how the responses are analyzed, or what conclusions can be drawn. But as a discerning consumer of information, this poll just leaves me wanting to know more. Who are these 1,280 kids? Are they truly a representative sample of kids across the U.S.? Good research practices would dictate that they are, but without more information, we just have to trust that this poll, and the news article written from it, is giving us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

As it happens, I know of a far superior research study into the true happiness of kids today that provides relevant, real-time data reporting personalized to your specific socio-economic, cultural, and geographic background: just ask them yourself. I hear that works wonders.

Graphic from: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070820/ap_on_re_us/youth_poll_happiness

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