Ruut Veenhoven
Conditions of Happiness, Kluwer Academic, 1984, Dordrecht/Boston

Abstract Chapter 8

Only a few investigations looked into the antecedents of happiness. Most of these focused on earlier living conditions, while some stray ones took a glance at earlier personal characteristics.

Earlier living conditions.
Several investigations inspected the link between current happiness and conditions in youth especially the relationship with 'family conditions'. It appeared that currently unhappy people met with a relatively great amount of instability in their youth; 'illness', 'death', 'conflict' and divorce' being more frequent in their family histories. There are also indications that contacts with their parents were less affectionate relatively. Disruptions at the level of society sometimes appeared predictive for later happiness as well. People raised near scenes of World War II appeared to be less happy later on. However, people who grew up in poverty during the Great Depression did not. Most results tie up nicely with the current view that children need affection and stability in order to grow up to be happy adults. Yet several are open to other interpretations as well.
Some other investigations dealt with stressful life events in adulthood. Contrary to expectations, most did not find more such events in the life histories of presently unhappy persons. This indicates that challenges do not always involve harm: manageable ones may rather foster growth. Only the horrors of Nazi concentration camps seemed to have been excessive enough to depress the appreciation of life lastingly.

Earlier personal characteristics.
As yet hardly any investigations have looked at the relationship between current happiness and earlier personal resources, personality traits, lifestyles, convictions or appreciations. One study found good looks at highschool age predictive of later happiness among American women. An other found some lifegoals more prevalent in the life histories of happy Dutchmen ('work', 'study' and 'enjoyment').
Several investigations documented that current happiness is linked with past happiness. That can mean either that people tend to stick to once formed evaluations, or that re-evaluations tend to result in similar conclusions mostly, because they draw on rather stable characteristics of life. It may also indicate that happiness tends to amplify itself; beneficial consequences of joy in living strengthening the basis for later enjoyment of life.