New Research Shows Correlation Between Montessori Education and Wellbeing

The study shows people who attended Montessori school as children had higher levels of happiness as adults

Melissa McElhill

A group of psychologists—including Angeline S. Lillard, author of Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius—recently published a study that demonstrates a plausible connection between attending Montessori school as a child and leading a happy, fulfilling life as an adult.

The study interviewed 1905 adults ages 18 to 81 years old about different aspects of their wellbeing, such as how confident they feel, and how they are able to meaningfully connect with other human beings.

Their answers were compared with demographic information, including the schools the interviewees went to as children. (About half the sample of participants attended conventional schools and the rest had attended Montessori schools for at least 2 years, and an average of 8 years, between the ages of 2 and 17.)

The group of researchers discovered that adults who had attended Montessori school for at least two childhood years had significantly higher adult wellbeing. The results of the study also suggest the higher the number of years of Montessori school attendance, the higher their wellbeing as an adult.

When asked about the study, Lillard said, “Other studies have shown that children’s academic outcomes in Montessori are better, but there are very few studies of long-term wellbeing and pedagogical history. Although this is only a study of association, not an experiment, we think it raises important questions and puts a spotlight on something that should be considered a very important element in the suite of potential school outcomes: felt happiness and meaning in life."

[The study] puts a spotlight on something that should be considered a very important element in the suite of potential school outcomes: felt happiness and meaning in life.

Angeline S. Lillard
Angeline S. Lillard
Psychologist and author of "Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius"

Lillard and the team of researchers cite particular areas of the Montessori Method as reasons why attending Montessori school sets children up for success later in life, including:

  • self-determination—children can choose their own work, which meets the fundamental human need for self-government and helps build willpower
  • meaningful activities—children work on challenging but possible tasks, where there is a clear purpose and series of steps to carry out, which encourages engagement and curiosity
  • social stability—classrooms span multi-age groups (such as 3 to 6 years old) and have the same teacher for that period of time, meaning children get to lead their young classmates while being simultaneously inspired by their older classmates, and develop an intimate relationship with their teacher
A young girl approaches a challenging set of Montessori materials
The student concentrates deeply, building a cube from a set of smaller prisms
A smile starts to emerge as she independently completes the activity

It's not surprising Montessori has such a powerful impact on long-term wellbeing. Early childhood is a deeply impactful, formative period of growth, where deep-seated world views and habits get formed in the subconscious mind.

One of the reasons Montessori can make such a profound impact, versus other alternative educational models like Reggio Emilia or Waldorf, is because young students get to persistently practice and hone the skills which we consider virtues in adults.

At Guidepost Montessori, for example, children can make their own choices and get to concentrate for long periods of time. This adds up to self-determination, intellectual independence, and a sense of responsibility—all of which are qualities we admire in adults.

And perhaps most importantly, children at Guidepost Montessori have the freedom to work, which helps each child develop a healthy mindset towards the concept of work in general. This could be the main reason our students are able to enter the workforce as adults, and lead happy, balanced lives.

Indeed, the founder of the Montessori Method, Maria Montessori, had a very conspicuous attitude towards work: that an occupation is one of the most dignified things a human being can own, that we create ourselves through our work, and that to deny children the freedom to work on meaningful tasks is to be prejudiced against them.

The study had some limitations, for example, it had no information on quality of Montessori implementation, but it was able to account for other variables, such as age, gender, race, and childhood socioeconomic status, which (along with results from lottery control studies and other factors) led the group of researchers to argue that attending Montessori as a child might plausibly cause higher adult wellbeing.

However, while there are many published studies which support the positive impact of Montessori education, if you are thinking about Montessori education as an option for your family, you might want to consider visiting a school in-person so that you can see the magic happen with your own eyes.

Read the original research article here, written by Angeline S. Lillard, M. Joseph Meyer, Dermina Vasc and Eren Fukuda.

The research has also been featured in Forbes, Psychology Today, and the Wall Street Journal.

Fill out the form below to learn more about our school programs, tuition, or to schedule a school tour.

Meet the Author

Melissa McElhill

Melissa is an AMI-certified educator who has taught children aged 10 weeks to 18 years old in the UK, US and China. She is also a qualified positive discipline parent coach, helping families integrate Montessori principles into their lives.

Sign up for our newsletter

Get started with our community today! Sign up for resources.