The valid measurement of children’s life satisfaction is key for subsequent analysis and policy recommendations. It has been demonstrated that individuals use different scales in (self-)reports which leads to misleading results. In this study we focus on the analysis of life satisfaction self-reports among children with differences in the following characteristics: family, school, and free-time activities. Using the anchoring vignette method, we analyze differences in response scale usage among the groups and the impact of these differences on the comparison of life satisfaction among the groups. Our sample (N = 3737) is a representative sample of 5th graders (11 year-olds) in the Czech Republic. After adjustment for differential scale usage, children’s life satisfaction is significantly positively related to being female, having a father at home, having good school grades, spending time with friends and the level of education they expect to attain. It is significantly negatively linked to preparing for hard admission exams and time spent playing computer games. The adjustment for response scale differences substantially changes the comparison of different groups. The most significant change is for gender – after correction girls’ life satisfaction is significantly higher while before correction it is the opposite. Before adjustment the differences between some groups are underestimated – children with excellent grades, living with their father and spending at least some time with friends have a higher level of life satisfaction after adjustment in comparison to other children. We recommend examining the differences in scale usage among different cultures, countries and groups in children’s life satisfaction research.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
The scale for Czech grades is a 5-point scale where 1 refers to the best grade and 5 to the worst grade. The Czech scale also uses labels for each grade: 1 = excellent, 2 = very good, 3 = good, 4 = sufficient, and 5 = insufficient. In general, children attending primary schools often get the grades 1 (excellent) or 2 (very good) on their report cards in the middle and at the end of the school year. At the end of high school all children must take a comprehensive exam in (a) Czech language and (b) either a foreign language (from a choice of English, French, German, Spanish, and Russian) or mathematics. Czech language is, in fact, the only subject in the comprehensive state exam that is compulsory for all students. All schools prepare their students for the exam and we chose the grades of Czech language as an important variable in our analysis for this reason.
All children in the Czech Republic complete their primary education (ISCED 1) at the end of the first stage of basic school (Základní škola). During this first stage, children are typically aged from 6 to 10 years. At ages 11 and 13 children may be selected to study their lower secondary education (ISCED 2) in elite multi-year gymnasia or conservatories. Note that the first age of selection in other OECD countries is 14 years old and therefore the Czech Republic system ranks among the most horizontally stratified in the OECD (Shewbridge et al. 2016). In 2012 about 8% of students aged 11 were accepted to an 8-year gymnasium or a conservatory. Approx. 2% of students aged 13 were accepted to 6-year gymnasia (The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports 2013). The rest continue their obligatory ISCED 2 education via the second stage of basic school. By age 15, students can choose from different upper secondary schools (the main types are vocational schools, professional schools, and gymnasia). For a thorough description of the Czech education system see, for example, Shewbridge et al. (2016).
We also checked whether our results change if we replace Czech language grades with math grades. The estimated parameters of our model and their significance levels are similar in both cases.
Al-Attiyah, A., & Nasser, R. (2016). Gender and age differences in life satisfaction within a sex-segregated society: Sampling youth in Qatar. International Journal of Adolecence and Youth, 21(1), 84–95.
Angelini, V., Cavapozzi, D., & Paccagnella, O. (2011). Dynamics of reporting work disability in Europe. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society – Series A, 174(3), 621–638.
Angelini, V., Cavapozzi, D., Corazzini, L., & Paccagnella, O. (2012). Age, health and life satisfaction among older Europeans. Social Indicators Research, 105(2), 293–308.
Angelini, V., Cavapozzi, D., Corazzini, L., & Paccagnella, O. (2014). Do Danes and Italians rate life satisfaction in the same way? Using vignettes to correct for individual-specific scale biases. Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 76(5), 643–666.
Arango, C. M., Páez, D. C., Lema, L., Sarmiento, O. L., & Parra, D. C. (2014). Television viewing and its association with health-related quality of life in school-age children from Montería, Colombia. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, 12(2), 68–72.
Au, N., & Lorgelly, P. K. (2014). Anchoring vignettes for health comparisons: An analysis of response consistency. Quality of Life Research, 23(6), 1721–1731.
Bago d’Uva, T., O’Donnell, O., & van Doorslaer, E. (2008). Differential health reporting by education level and its impact on the measurement of health inequalities among older Europeans. International Journal of Epidemiology, 37(6), 1375–1383.
Bjarnason, T., Bendtsen, P., Arnarsson, A. M., Borup, I., Iannotti, R. J., Löfstedt, P., Haapasalo, I., & Niclasen, B. (2012). Life satisfaction among children in different family structures: A comparative study of 36 Western societies. Children & Society, 26(1), 51–62.
Bonsang, E., & Van Soest, A. (2012). Satisfaction with social contacts of older Europeans. Social Indicators Research, 105(2), 273–292.
Bradshaw, J., Martorano, L. N., Natali, L., & de Neubourgh, C. (2013). Children’s subjective well-being in rich countries. Child Indicators Research, 6(4), 619–635.
Crede, J., Wirthwein, L., McElvany, N., & Steinmayr, R. (2015). Adolescents’ academic achievement and life satisfaction: The role of parents’ education. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 52. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00052.
Czech Longitudinal Study in Education (2018). Retrieved from http://czechlongitudinal.blogspot.com/
D’Agostino, A., Giusti, C., & Potsi, A. (2018). Gender and Children’s wellbeing: Four Mediterranean countries in perspective. Child Indicators Research, 11(5), 1649–1676.
Deaton, A. S. (2011). The financial crisis and the well-being of Americans. NBER working paper no. 17128. http://www.nber.org/papers/w17128.pdf
Dolan, P., Kudrna, L., & Stone, A. (2017). The measure matters: An investigation of evaluative and experience-based measures of wellbeing in time use data. Social Indicators Research, 134(1), 57–73.
Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness. Economic Journal, 114(497), 641–659.
Frey, B. S., Benesch, C., & Stutzer, A. (2007). Doest watching TV make us happy? Journal of Economic Psychology, 28, 283–313.
Gadermann, A. M., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Zumbo, B. D. (2010). Investigating validity evidence of the satisfaction with life scale adapted for children. Social Indicators Research, 96, 229–247.
Gaetan, S., Bonnet, A., & Pedinielli, J. L. (2012). Self-perception and life satisfaction in video game addiction in young adolescents (11-14 years old). Encephale, 38(6), 512–518.
Grol-Prokopczyk, H. (2014). Age and sex effects in anchoring vignette studies: Methodological and empirical contributions. Survey Research Methods, 8(1), 1–17.
Gross-Manos, D., Shimoni, E., & Ben-Arieh, A. (2015). Subjective well-being measures tested with 12-year-olds in Israel. Child Indicators Research, 8(1), 71–92.
He, J., & van de Vijver, F. J. R. (2016). The motivation-achievement paradox in international educational achievement tests: Toward a better understanding. In R. B. King & A. B. I. Bernardo (Eds.), The psychology of Asian learners: A Festschrift in honor of David Watkins (pp. 253–268). Singapore: Springer Science.
Huebner, E. S. (1991). Correlates of life satisfaction in children. School Psychology Quarterly, 6, 103–111.
Huebner, E. S. (1994). Preliminary development and validation of a multidimensional life scale for children. Psychological Assessment, 6(2), 149–158.
Huebner, E. S. (2004). Research on assessment of life satisfaction of children and adolescents. Social Indicators Research, 66, 3–33.
Husser, J. A., & Fernandez, K. E. (2018). We are happier than we realize: Underestimation and conflation in measuring happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19, 587–606.
Kapteyn, A., Smith, J. P., & van Soest, A. (2007). Vignettes and self-reports of work disability in the US and the Netherlands. American Economic Review, 97(1), 461–473.
Kapteyn, A., Smith, J. P., van Soest, A., & Vonkova, H. (2011). Anchoring vignettes and response consistency (RAND Working paper NO WR-840). Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/working_papers/WR840.html
Kapteyn, A., Lee, J., Tassot, C., Vonkova, H., & Zamarro, G. (2015). Dimensions of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 123(3), 625–660.
King, G., Murray, C., Salomon, J., & Tandon, A. (2004). Enhancing the validity and cross-cultural comparability of measurement in survey research. American Political Science Review, 98(1), 567–583.
Knott, R. J., Lorgelly, P. K., Black, N., & Hollingsworth, B. (2017). Differential item functioning in quality of life measurement: An analysis using anchoring vignettes. Social Science & Medicine, 190, 247–255.
Kristensen, N., & Johansson, E. (2008). New evidence on cross-country differences in job satisfaction using anchoring vignettes. Labour Economics, 15(1), 96–117.
Kyllonen, P. C., & Bertling, J. P. (2013). Innovative questionnaire assessment methods to increase cross-country comparability. In L. Rutkowski von Davier & D. Rutkowski (Eds.), A handbook of international large-scale assessment data analysis (pp. 277–285). Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis.
Levin, K. A., & Currie, C. (2010). Family structure, mother-child communication, father-child communication, and adolescent life satisfaction: A cross-sectional multilevel analysis. Health Education, 110(3), 152–168.
Løhre, A., Moksnes, U. K., & Lillefjell, M. (2014). Gender differences in predictors of school wellbeing. Health Education Journal, 73(1), 90–100.
Ma, C. Q., & Huebner, E. S. (2008). Attachment relationships and adolescents’ life satisfaction: Some relationships matter more to girls than boys. Psychology in the Schools, 45(2), 177–190.
Masteju, P., & Strakova, J. (2005). The role of the family and the school in reproduction of educational inequalities in the post-communist Czech Republic. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 26(1), 17–40.
Moksnes, U. K., & Espnes, G. A. (2013). Self-esteem and life satisfaction in adolescents—Gender and age as potential moderators. Quality of Life Research, 22(10), 2921–2928.
National Research Council. (2013). Subjective well-being: Measuring happiness, suffering, and other dimensions of experience. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Ng, Z. J., Huebner, S. E., & Hills, K. J. (2015). Life satisfaction and academic performance in early adolescents: Evidence for reciprocal association. Journal of School Psychology, 53, 479–491.
Nikolova, E., & Sanfey, P. (2015). How much should we trust life satisfaction data? Evidence from the life in transition survey. Working paper no. 174. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
OECD. (2017). PISA 2015 Results (Volume III): Students’Well-Being, PISA. OECD Publishing, Paris. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264273856-en.
Primi, R., Zanon, C., Santos, D., de Druyt, F., & John, O. P. (2016). Anchoring vignettes: Can they make adolescent self-reports of social-emocional skills more reliable, discriminant, and criterion-valid? European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 32(1), 39–51.
Rees, G. & Main, G. (2015). Children’s views on their lives and well-being in 15 countries: An initial report on the Children’s worlds survey, 2013-14. York, UK: Children’s worlds project (ISCWeB).
Salomon, J. A., Tandon, A., & Murray, C. J. L. (2004). Comparability of self rated health: Cross sectional multi-country survey using anchoring vignettes. British Medical Journal, 328(7434), 258–260.
Schwarz, B., Mayer, B., Trommsdorff, G., Ben-Arieh, A., Friedlmeier, M., Lubiewska, K., Mishra, R., & Peltzer, K. (2011). Does the importance of parent and peer relationships for adolescents’ life satisfaction vary across cultures? The Journal of Early Adolescence, 32(1), 55–80.
Seligson, J. L., Huebner, S., & Valois, R. F. (2003). Preliminary validation of the brief multidimensional students' life satisfaction scale (BMSLSS). Social Indicators Research, 61(2), 121–145.
Shek, D. T. L., & Li, X. (2016). Perceived school performance, life satisfaction, and hopelessness: A 4-year longitudinal study of adolescents in Hong Kong. Social Indicators Research, 126, 921–934.
Shewbridge, C., Herczynski, J., Radinger, T., & Sonnemann, J. (2016). OECD reviews of school resources: Czech Republic 2016. Paris: OECD Publishing.
Sirven, N., Santos-Eggimann, B., & Spagnoli, J. (2012). Comparability of health care responsiveness in Europe. Social Indicators Research, 105(2), 255–271.
Straková, J., & Greger, D. (2013). Faktory ovlivňující přechod žáků 5. ročníků na osmileté gymnázium – Transition of 5-graders to multi-year grammar school. Orbis Scholae, 7(3), 73–85.
Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe, Questionnaire Wave 2 (2018). Retrieved from http://www.share-project.org/data-documentation/questionnaires/questionnaire-wave-2.html
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. (2013). Výroční zpráva o stavu a rozvoji vzdělávání v České republice v roce 2012: Vzdělávání v roce 2012 v datech. [Annual Report on the Status and Development of Education in the Czech Republic in 2012: Education in 2012]. http://www.msmt.cz/file/32885/download/
Tobia, V., Greco, A., Steca, P., & Marzocci, G. M. (2018). Children’s well-being at school: A multidimensional and multi-dimensional approach. Journal of Happiness Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-9974-2.
Tov, W. (2018). Well-being concepts and components. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of well-being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers.
Van Petegem, K., Creemers, B., Aelterman, A., & Rosseel, Y. (2008). The importance of pre-measurements of wellbeing and achievement for students’ current well-being. South African Journal of Education, 28, 451–468.
Van Soest, A., & Voňková, H. (2014). Testing the specification of parametric models using anchoring vignettes. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A., 177(1), 115–133.
Van Soest, A., Delaney, L., Harmon, C., Kapteyn, A., & Smith, J. P. (2011). Validating the use of anchoring vignettes for the correction of response scale differences in subjective questions. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A, 174(3), 575–595.
Vonkova, H., & Hrabak, J. (2015). The (in) comparability of ICT knowledge and skill self-assessments among upper secondary school students: The use of the anchoring vignette method. Computers & Education, 85, 191–202.
Vonkova, H., & Hullegie, P. (2011). Is the anchoring vignette method sensitive to the domain and choice of the vignette? Journal of the Royal Statistical Society – Series A, 174(3), 597–620.
Vonkova, H., Bendl, S., & Papajoanu, O. (2017). How students report dishonest behavior in school: Self-assessment and anchoring vignettes. Journal of Experimental Education, 85(1), 36–53.
Vonkova, H., Zamarro, G., & Hitt, C. (2018). Cross-country heterogeneity in students’ reporting behavior: The use of the anchoring vignette method. Journal of Educational Measurement, 55(1), 3–31.
Xu, H., & Xie, Y. (2016). Assessing the effectiveness of anchoring vignettes in Bias reduction for socioeconomic disparities in self-rated health among Chinese adults. Sociological Methodology, 46(1), 84–120.
This study was supported by a grant by the Czech Science Foundation through the project “The relationships between skills, schooling and labor market outcomes: a longitudinal study” (P402/12/G130).
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic supplementary material
About this article
Cite this article
Vonkova, H. Life Satisfaction among Different Groups of Children: Self-Reports, Differential Scale Usage and Anchoring Vignettes. Child Ind Res 12, 2111–2136 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-019-09629-3
- Life satisfaction
- School results
- Free-time activities
- Anchoring vignette method