But American research suggests that this is counter-productive: far from trading happiness for success, parents and professionals need to ensure their children's happiness so that success can follow.
Children who don't form secure attachments at an early age are much more likely to have difficulties in their first days in nursery and school. Chances are they will then lack the confidence and friendliness that helps them adjust to the tough challenges of forming new relationships.
The consequences of these early difficulties tend to persist right through school and into work.
Robin Peth-Pierce has summarised the latest findings in early-childhood psychology for a report to the US Child Mental Health Foundations and Agencies Network. The full text, with recommendations for good practice in the early years is on-line at:
The homepage of the Child and Adolescent Research Consortium, where the report can be found is
ADULT voices dominate the debate about the 11-plus. But what d children think about the selection process?
A study that contributed to the recent report on selection in Northern Ireland (TES, September 29) provides some insights.
Its author, Anne Sutherland of Queen's University, Belfast, questioned children at six grammar schools and 10 secondary high (ie secondary modern) schools one year after their transfer tests.
None of them wanted to change schools, having settled in and found new friends. But they all remembered the stress that the tests created.
Whether they had passed or not, none supported the tests. Some believed their primary teacher should have a say in the decision - - if one had to be made.
The pupils' testimony also suggests that their lessons were distorted by the tests for months beforehand - and that the remaining months of primary school were not used to correct the curriculum imbalance.
"Interviews with groups of Year 8 pupils" is among the research reports on selection listed by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland at www.deni.gov.ukparstuselectionresearchindex.htm
Readers can email suggestions on future Internet Insights to Sam Saunders at J.P.Saunders@leeds.ac.uk