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“Dr. Happiness” to Speak at University of Utah on the Pursuit of Well-Being

March 11, 2003 — Early in his college studies an academic advisor told Ed Diener that writing a research paper on happiness would ruin his career. Now, more than 20 years later and with plenty of research on the subject under his belt, the University of Illinois Psychology Professor is an expert on the topic.

Diener, dubbed “Dr. Happiness” by the press, will be at the University of Utah on Thursday, March 27, from 12 until 1 p.m., to discuss recent research on life satisfaction-and how to obtain it. Sponsored by the U’s Department of Family and Consumer Studies and the Eric Moerer Memorial Lecture Series, Diener’s lecture, “Pursuit of Happiness: Causes and Consequences of Subjective Well-Being,” will be held in the Marriott Library’s Gould Auditorium and is free and open to the public. The academic presentation will focus on the relationship between happiness and demographic and cultural influences, specifically income. Diener will also discuss the benefits of happiness in terms of the successful life outcomes it helps produce.

“There are many aspects to achieving contentment. Recent research shows that happiness is related to temperament, but very happy people all have one thing in common: good social relationships,” Diener notes. “And most very happy people have meaningful internal goals that they enjoy pursuing.”

On Wednesday, March 26, at 7 p.m., Diener will present “The Pursuit of Happiness: Is There Anything Parents Can Do to Raise Satisfied, Happy Children?” The 45-minute lecture, to be delivered at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School, located at 720 S. Guardsman way (1580 E.), is free and open to the public and will be followed by breakout sessions facilitated by faculty from the U’s Department of Family and Consumer Studies. Information specific to the developmental milestones and obstacles of preschool, elementary, junior and senior high school-age children will be presented. Critical issues for children-school, friends, academics and social and emotional development-will be discussed, followed by a question-and-answer period. A list of resources for parents, including books, Web sites and local organizations, will be available as well. No registration is required.

“When you ask parents what their goals are for their child, they often say, ‘I just want my child to be happy.’ Yet people are often misguided in what will make their child happy,” notes Marissa Diener, U assistant professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies and Ed and Carol Diener’s daughter, who is one of the organizers of the events. “Parents often think giving things and external rewards will make their child happy; when, in fact, doing that undermines the child’s long-term happiness. Children need guiding principles. Intrinsic interests and values are what bring children, like adults, happiness.”

Cheryl Wright, an associate professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies and director of the U’s Child and Family Development Center, concurs. She observes that many parents overschedule their children, use praise inappropriately, impose too many or too few boundaries, rescue from failure and put too much pressure on their children to achieve.

The Eric Moerer Memorial Lecture Series, sponsored by Tina and Michael Moerer, honors their son Eric, a gifted student who died while still in his teens.

For more information on the lectures, contact the U’s Department of Family and Consumer Studies at 801-581-6521.