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Adolescents’ Life Satisfaction During the Transition to Post-Comprehensive Education: Antecedents and Consequences

Abstract

The present four-wave longitudinal study, conducted in Finland, investigated the extent to which life satisfaction changed among adolescents during the transition from comprehensive school to an academic or a vocational track. The participants were 15-year-old adolescents (Time 1: N = 687, Time 2: N = 642, Time 3: N = 818, Time 4: N = 749) who filled in the Diener et al. (J Pers Assess 49: 71–75, 1985). Satisfaction With Life Scale twice during their final term of comprehensive school and twice after the transition either to upper secondary or vocational education. At comprehensive school they reported their academic achievement, expected educational track, educational aspirations, self-esteem, and background information, while at the last measurement point they reported their school engagement and attained educational track. Latent Growth Modeling showed, first, that life satisfaction increased during the educational transition. Second, the higher the adolescents’ academic achievement and self-esteem, the higher the level of their life satisfaction during the transition. Third, among girls, the lower their self-esteem, the more their life satisfaction increased during the educational transition. Fourth, among both boys and girls, a high level of life satisfaction during the transition predicted academic track and school engagement at the last measurement point. Finally, among girls, an increase in life satisfaction during the transition predicted school engagement and an academic track. The results support the stage-environment fit theory according to which the nature of the educational environment is more important than the transition per se for changes in adolescents’ life satisfaction (see Eccles and Midgley in Research on motivation in education. Academic Press, New York, pp. 139–186, 1989).

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a grant from the Finnish Academy (1210319) and the Jacobs Foundation. The second author is a doctoral student at the Finnish Graduate School of Education and Learning.

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Salmela-Aro, K., Tuominen-Soini, H. Adolescents’ Life Satisfaction During the Transition to Post-Comprehensive Education: Antecedents and Consequences. J Happiness Stud 11, 683–701 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-009-9156-3

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Keywords

  • Life satisfaction
  • Longitudinal study
  • Adolescence
  • Educational tracks
  • School engagement