Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 757–771 | Cite as

Academic Characteristics of Early Adolescents with Higher Levels of Life Satisfaction

  • Michael D. LyonsEmail author
  • E. Scott Huebner


Research related to students’ global life satisfaction and their academic and behavioral functioning has yielded varying findings. Some researchers have suggested the possibility that very high levels of life satisfaction may yield decrements in productivity (Oishi et al. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 346–360 2007). Middle school students (N = 917) were surveyed regarding their global life satisfaction, school engagement, and academic performance. We evaluated whether the associations were best characterized linearly or non-linearly (i.e., quadratic) to clarify the associations between life satisfaction and the various academic performance variables. Differing from the findings of Oishi et al., our findings failed to reveal support for the hypothesis of a negative quadratic relation between life satisfaction and most of the academic or student engagement outcomes we examined. To the contrary, statistically significant, positive linear relations were observed between life satisfaction and GPA, math standardized test scores as well as cognitive, emotional and behavioral engagement. A linear relation was not observed between life satisfaction and English Language Arts standardized test scores. Consistent with previous research, these findings provide further support that higher levels of life satisfaction are related to higher levels of student engagement and academic performance in early adolescents. Furthermore, the results are consistent with efforts to expand education reforms to incorporate goals related to increasing students’ well-being as well as their academic success.


Life satisfaction Academic performance Student engagement Adolescence 


  1. Antaramian, S. P., Huebner, E. S., Hills, K. J., & Valois, R. F. (2010). A dual-factor model of mental health: toward a more comprehensive understanding of youth functioning. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80, 462–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Appleton, J. J., Christenson, S. L., Kim, D., & Reschly, A. L. (2006). Measuring cognitive and psychological engagement: validation of the student engagement instrument. Journal of School Psychology, 44, 427–445. doi: 10.1016/j.jsp.2006.04.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ben-Arieh, A. (2008). The child indicators movement: past, present, and future. Child Indicators Research, 1, 3–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bender, T. A. (1997). Assessment of subjective well-being during childhood and adolescence. In G. D. Phye (Ed.), Handbook of classroom assessment: Learning, achievement, and adjustment (pp. 199–225). San Diego: Academic.Google Scholar
  5. Buckendahl, C. W., Nebelsick-Gullett, L., Bandalos, D., Benson, J., & Irwin, P. (2003). South Carolina department of education palmetto achievement challenge tests and end-of-course examination program standard setting workshops. Retrieved from
  6. Busseri, M. A., & Sadava, S. W. (2011). A review of the tripartite structure of subjective well-being: implications for conceptualization, operationalization, analysis, and synthesis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 15, 290–314. doi: 10.1177/1088868310391271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cheng, H., & Furnham, A. (2002). Personality, peer relations, and self-confidence as predictors of happiness and loneliness. Journal of Adolescence, 25, 327–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen, J. (2006). Social, emotional, ethical, and academic education. Harvard Educational Review, 76, 201–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd ed.). Mahwaw: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. Diener, E. (1994). Assessing subjective well-being: progress and opportunities. Social Indicators Research, 31, 103–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diener, E., & Diener, C. (1996). Most people are happy. Psychological Science, 7, 181–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 81–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., & Oishi, S. (2002). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and life satisfaction. In C. R. Snyder & S. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 463–473). London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Diener, E., Scollon, C. N., & Lucas, R. E. (2004). The evolving concept of subjective well-being: The multifaceted nature of happiness. In P. T. Costa & I. C. Siegler (Eds.), Advances in cell aging and gerontology (Vol. 15, pp. 187–220). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  15. Diener, E., Kahneman, D., Tov, W., & Aora, R. (2010). Income’s association with judgments of life versus feelings. In E. Diener, J. F. Helliwell, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), International differences in well-being (pp. 3–15). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diener, E., Fujita, F., Tay, L., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2012). Purpose, mood, and pleasure in predicting life satisfaction judgments. Social Indicators Research, 105, 333–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Enders, C. K. (2010). Applied missing data analysis. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  18. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., & Paris, A. H. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept, state of the evidence. Review of educational research, 74, 59–109.Google Scholar
  19. Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., Friedel, J., & Paris, A. J. (2005). School engagement. In K. A. Anderson & L. H. Lippman (Eds.), What do children need to flourish?: Conceptualizing and measuring positive indicators of development (pp. 289–304). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  20. Fredrickson, B. J. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fredrickson, B. J., & Losado, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60, 678–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Friedman, E., Schwartz, F., & Haaga, D. (2000). Are the very happy too happy? Journal of Happiness Studies, 3, 355–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frisch, M. B., Clark, M. P., Rouse, S. V., Rudd, M. D., Paweleck, J. K., Greenstone, A., & Kopplin, D. A. (2005). Predictive and treatment validity of life satisfaction and the quality of life inventory. Assessment, 12(1), 66–78. doi: 10.1177/1073191104268006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Furlong, M. J., Whipple, A. D., St. Jean, G., Simental, J., Soliz, A., & Punthuna, S. (2003). Multiple contexts of school engagement: moving toward a unifying framework for educational research and practice. The California School Psychologist, 8, 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gilman, R., & Huebner, E. S. (2006). Characteristics of adolescents who report very high life satisfaction. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 311–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hirschfield, P. J., & Gasper, J. (2011). The relationship between school engagement and delinquency in late childhood and early adolescence. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(1), 3–22. doi: 10.1007/s10964-010-9579-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huebner, E. S. (1991a). Correlates of life satisfaction in children. School Psychology Quarterly, 6, 103–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Huebner, E. S. (1991b). Initial development of the Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale. School Psychology International, 12, 231–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Huebner, E. S. (1994). Preliminary development and validation of a multidimensional life satisfaction scale for children. Psychological Assessment, 6, 149–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Huebner, E. S. (2004). Research and assessment of life satisfaction of children and adolescents. Social Indicators Research, 66, 3–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Huebner, E. S., & Alderman, G. L. (1993). Convergent and discriminant validation of a children’s life satisfaction scale: its relationship to self- and teacher-reported psychological problems and school functioning. Social Indicators Research, 30, 71–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Huebner, E. S., & Dew, T. (1996). The interrelationships among positive affect, negative affect, and life satisfaction in an adolescent sample. Social Indicators Research, 38, 129–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Huebner, E. S., Zullig, K. J., & Saha, R. (2012). Reliability and construct validity of an abbreviated version of the Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale. Child Indicators Research, 5, 651–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Huebner, E. S., Hills, K. J., Siddall, J., & Gilman, R. (2014). Life satisfaction and schooling. In M. J. Furlong, R. Gilman, & E. S. Huebner (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology in schools (2nd ed., pp. 192–208). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Lewis, A. D., Huebner, E. S., Malone, P. S., & Valois, R. F. (2011). Life satisfaction and student engagement in adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40, 249–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lippman, L. H., Moore, K. A., Guzman, L., Ryberg, R., McIntosh, H., Ramos, M. F., Caal, S., Carle, A., & Kuhfeld, M. (2014). Flourishing children: Defining and testing indicators or positive development. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.131.6.803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Marsh, H. W., & Craven, R. G. (2006). Reciprocal effects of self-concept and performance from a multidimensional perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 133–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Martin, K., Huebner, E. S., & Valois, R. F. (2008). Does life satisfaction predict adolescent victimization experiences? Psychology in the Schools, 45, 705–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (2003). Reflections on self-fulfilling effects of positive illusions. Psychological Inquiry, 14, 289–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nickerson, C., Diener, E., & Schwartz, N. (2010). Positive affect and college success. Journal of Happiness Studies, 12, 717–746. doi: 10.1007/s10902-010-9224-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Noddings, N. (2003). Happiness and education. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Oishi, S., Diener, E., & Lucas, R. E. (2007). The optimum level of well-being: can people be too happy? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 346–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Perry, J. C., Liu, X., & Pabian, Y. (2009). School engagement as a mediator of academic performance among urban youth: the role of career preparation, parental career support, and teacher support. The Counseling Psychologist, 38, 269–295. doi: 10.1177/0011000009349272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Proctor, C. L., Linley, P. A., & Maltby, J. (2009a). Youth life satisfaction: a review of the literature. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 583–630. doi: 10.1007/s10902-008-9110-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Proctor, C., Linley, P. A., & Maltby, J. (2009b). Youth life satisfaction measures: a review. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 128–144. doi: 10.1080/17439760802650816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Proctor, C., Linley, P. A., & Maltby, J. (2010). Very happy youths: benefits of very high life satisfaction among adolescents. Social Indicators Research, 98, 519–532. doi: 10.1007/s11205-009-9562-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Quinn, P. D., & Duckworth, A. L. (2007). Happiness and academic achievement: Evidence for reciprocal causality. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  49. R Development Core Team. (2008). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, Scholar
  50. Reschly, A. L., Huebner, E. S., Appleton, J. J., & Antaramian, S. (2008). Engagement as flourishing: the contribution of positive emotions and coping to adolescents’ engagement at school and with learning. Psychology in the Schools, 45, 419–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rosseel, Y. (2012). lavaan: an R package for structural equation modeling. Journal of Statistical Software, 48(2), 1–36. Scholar
  52. Saha, R., Huebner, E. S., Suldo, S. M., & Valois, R. F. (2010). A longitudinal study of adolescent life satisfaction and parenting. Child Indicators Research, 3, 149–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Salmela-Aro, K., & Tynkkynen, L. (2010). Trajectories of life satisfaction across the transition to post-compulsory education: do adolescents follow different pathways? Journal of Youth Adolescence, 39, 870–881. doi: 10.1007/s10964-009-9464-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Schwartz, R. M. (1997). Consider the simple screw: cognitive science, quality improvement, and psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 970–983.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Suldo, S. M., & Huebner, E. S. (2004). The role of life satisfaction in the relationship between parenting styles and adolescent problem behavior. Social Indicators Research, 66, 165–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Suldo, S. M., & Huebner, E. S. (2006). Is extremely high life satisfaction during adolescence advantageous? Social Indicators Research, 78, 179–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations