Life Satisfaction in Early Adolescence: Personal, Neighborhood, School, Family, and Peer Influences

Abstract

Drawing from an ecological assets framework as well as research and theory on positive youth development, this study examined the relationship of early adolescents’ satisfaction with life to trait optimism and assets representing the social contexts in which early adolescents spend most of their time. Self-reports of satisfaction with life, optimism, and ecological assets in the school (school connectedness), neighborhood (perceived neighborhood support), family (perceived parental support), and peer group (positive peer relationships) were assessed in a sample of 1,402 4th to 7th graders (47% female) from 25 public elementary schools. Multilevel modeling (MLM) was conducted to analyze the variability in life satisfaction both at the individual and the school level. As hypothesized, adding optimism and the dimensions representing the ecology of early adolescence to the model significantly reduced the variability in life satisfaction at both levels of analysis. Both personal (optimism) and all of the ecological assets significantly and positively predicted early adolescents’ life satisfaction. The results suggest the theoretical and practical utility of an assets approach for understanding life satisfaction in early adolescence.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In the school districts in which data collection took place, students are by default expected to attend a public school within their so-called catchment area (“neighborhood school”). Catchment areas are geographical boundaries that define neighborhoods; the rationale for students to register in a school in their catchment area is to ensure that students are able to attend a school in their proximate living environment. If students wish to consider a school outside the boundaries of their neighborhood catchment area, they need to undergo an application process; their request to attend a school in a different catchment area can only be met if the particular school the student wishes to attend has the additional resources and space to accept a student from outside the catchment.

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Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K.A. & Zumbo, B.D. Life Satisfaction in Early Adolescence: Personal, Neighborhood, School, Family, and Peer Influences. J Youth Adolescence 40, 889–901 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-010-9599-1

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Keywords

  • Early adolescence
  • Life satisfaction
  • Ecological context
  • Assets
  • Multilevel modeling