Why Dutch Children Are The Happiest In The World

On Fatherly, Patrick Maynard wrote this piece on research underscoring the roles of independence and lack of academic pressure in the happiness of children in the Netherlands: 

“If you’re a 9-year-old child in Amsterdam’s Zeeburg neighborhood and want to go to the main library in the Dutch capital, you have a few options. You can walk to the building, taking tree-lined streets and paths that run along the canals until you reach your destination about an hour later. You can take the number 22 bus, which will be free, thanks to a program that started this summer, or the similarly free number 14 tram. Or you can bicycle, which will be easy, since Amsterdam boasts some of the best cycling infrastructure in the world. In any case, there’s a good chance that you will make your way to the city’s central public book collection without the supervision of a parent. And your parent will probably be fine with that. . . . 

This trust from parents and teachers, along with the independence it leads to, are key reasons that Dutch children are ranked among the happiest in the world. The country’s emphasis on cycling and transit infrastructure, which facilitate kids’ autonomy, doesn’t hurt either, says Lisa Corrie, a Netherlands-based education consultant. Nor does the relatively low level of inequality in the country, as inequality can lead to a society where people are less trustful of each other.

All of these factors lead to happy children, and other countries could learn a lot from how the Dutch raise such happy kids.

What Makes Dutch Kids So Happy

According to a recent UNICEF report, the Netherlands ranks 1st in child wellbeing out of several dozen countries studied, with Denmark and Norway following in the rankings. Among English-speaking countries, Ireland ranks highest, coming in 12th, with the U.K. ranking 27th, Canada 30th, Australia 32nd, New Zealand 35th, and the United States 36th.

Because of Dutch society’s relative emphasis on cooperation, social learning, and equality over individual achievement, there’s ‘less pressure on kids to perform academically in school,” Corrie says. Students don’t get any homework until after the primary years. However, children still learn a lot just by exploring the world around them on their own terms: The Netherlands ranks 3rd for academic, social, and emotional skills.”

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