Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 46, Issue 1, pp 78–90 | Cite as

The Role of Perceived Stress and Self-Efficacy in Young People’s Life Satisfaction: A Longitudinal Study

  • Kaspar BurgerEmail author
  • Robin Samuel
Empirical Research


Life satisfaction is an important indicator of successful development. However, adolescents’ life satisfaction tends to be relatively unsteady, and environmental influences play a critical role in shaping life satisfaction among adolescents in the transition to young adulthood. Given the paramount importance that education plays in adolescents’ lives, adolescents’ life satisfaction may vary as a function of school-related stress experience. At the same time, coping resources may help reduce adverse effects of stress on life satisfaction. With this in mind, we examined whether, and to what extent, perceived stress in education and general self-efficacy (a resource that facilitates coping) affect the life satisfaction of adolescents in transition to young adulthood. We distinguished between baseline levels of stress and self-efficacy and within-person change in stress and self-efficacy to determine whether life satisfaction is sensitive to fluctuations in stress and self-efficacy when person-specific levels of stress and self-efficacy are taken into account. Estimating growth curve models on data from a panel study on the life trajectories of compulsory-school leavers (n = 5126, 55.3 % female), we found that baseline levels of stress and self-efficacy, as well as within-person change in stress and self-efficacy, affected adolescents’ life satisfaction. Moreover, our results showed that baseline self-efficacy mitigated the negative effect of baseline stress on life satisfaction. These findings improve our understanding of two major psychological determinants of adolescents’ life satisfaction and extend our knowledge of life satisfaction trajectories during the transition to young adulthood.


Life satisfaction Perceived stress Self-efficacy Education Multilevel Longitudinal 



The research drew on data collected by the Transition from Education to Employment project (TREE). The Swiss youth panel study TREE has been running since 2000 and has since been funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the University of Basel, the Swiss Federal Office of Statistics, the Federal Office of Professional Education and Technology, and the cantons of Berne, Geneva and Ticino.

Both authors would like to thank Anita C. Keller and Karoline Lohse for comments on previous versions of this manuscript and Samuel Ian Quigg for proofreading the manuscript.


This research received no grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Authors’ Contributions

KB conceived of the study, guided the data analysis and interpretation, and coordinated and drafted the manuscript. RS participated in and extended the data analysis and interpretation and drafted the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All data analyses in the present study were performed on anonymous and secondary data. All procedures performed in the original study, which involved human participants, were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutions involved in data collection.

Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


  1. Adams, R., Wu, M. (Eds.) (2002). PISA 2000 technical report. Paris: OECD/PISA.Google Scholar
  2. Ainscough, L., Foulis, E., Colthorpe, K., Zimbardi, K., Robertson-Dean, M., Chunduri, P., & Lluka, L. (2016). Changes in biology self-efficacy during a first-year university course. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 15, 1–12.Google Scholar
  3. Antaramian, S. P., Huebner, E. S., & Valois, R. F. (2008). Adolescent life satisfaction. Applied Psychology, 57, 112–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ash, C., & Huebner, E. S. (2001). Environmental events and life satisfaction reports of adolescents: A test of cognitive mediation. School Psychology International, 22(3), 320–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baird, B. M., Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2010). Life satisfaction across the lifespan: Findings from two nationally representative panel studies. Social Indicators Research, 99(2), 183–203.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H. Freeman and Company.Google Scholar
  7. Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Education & Behavior, 31(2), 143–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bandura, A. (2006). Toward a psychology of human agency. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1(2), 164–180.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Finkenauer, C., & Vohs, K. D. (2001). Bad is stronger than good. Review of General Psychology, 5(4), 323–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bergman, M. M., Hupka-Brunner, S., Keller, A., Meyer, T., & Stalder, B. E. (2011). Transitionen im Jugendalter: Ergebnisse der schweizer länggschnittstudie TREE. Zürich: Seismo.Google Scholar
  11. Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. F. (2004). Life satisfaction among European American, African American, Chinese American, Mexican American, and Dominican American adolescents. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28(5), 385–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buchanan, C., & Hughes, J. L. (2011). Storm and stress. In R. J. R. Levesque (Ed.), Encyclopedia of adolescence (pp. 2877–2885). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burger, K., & Walk, M. (2016). Can children break the cycle of disadvantage? Structure and agency in the transmission of education across generations. Social Psychology of Education. doi: 10.1007/s11218-016-9361-y.
  14. Caprara, G. V., Pastorelli, C., Regalia, C., Scabini, E., & Bandura, A. (2005). Impact of adolescents’ filial self-efficacy on quality of family functioning and satisfaction. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 15(1), 71–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Caprara, G. V., & Steca, P. (2005). Self-efficacy beliefs as determinants of prosocial behavior conducive to life satisfaction across ages. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(2), 191–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Caprara, G. V., Vecchione, M., Alessandri, G., Gerbino, M., & Barbaranelli, C. (2011). The contribution of personality traits and self-efficacy beliefs to academic achievement: A longitudinal study. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(1), 78–96.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chamberlain, K., & Zika, S. (1990). The minor events approach to stress: Support for the use of daily hassles. British Journal of Psychology, 81(4), 469–481.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chang, E. C. (1998). Does dispositional optimism moderate the relation between perceived stress and psychological well-being? A preliminary investigation. Personality and Individual Differences, 25(2), 233–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cockx, B., & Picchio, M. (2013). Scarring effects of remaining unemployed for long-term unemployed school-leavers. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A, 176(4), 951–980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Compas, B. E., Connor-Smith, J. K., Saltzman, H., Thomsen, A. H., & Wadsworth, M. E. (2001). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence: Problems, progress, and potential in theory and research. Psychological Bulletin, 127(1), 87–127.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Curran, P. J., Obeidat, K., & Losardo, D. (2010). Twelve frequently asked questions about growth curve modeling. Journal of Cognition and Development, 11(2), 121–136.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Damon, W. (2004). What is positive youth development? The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591(1), 13–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dempster, A. P., Laird, N. M., & Rubin, D. B. (1977). Maximum likelihood from incomplete data via the EM algorithm. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B, 39(1), 1–38.Google Scholar
  24. DeNeve, K. M., & Cooper, H. (1998). The happy personality: A meta-analysis of 137 personality traits and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 197–229.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Diener, E. (2009). The science of well-being: The collected works of Ed Diener. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Diener, E., & Chan, M. Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: Subjective well-being contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(1), 1–43.Google Scholar
  27. Do, C. B., & Batzoglou, S. (2008). What is the expectation maximization algorithm? Nature Biotechnology, 26(8), 897–899.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Eicher, V., Staerklé, C., & Clémence, A. (2014). I want to quit education: A longitudinal study of stress and optimism as predictors of school dropout intention. Journal of Adolescence, 37(7), 1021–1030.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ganzeboom, H. B. G., De Graaf, P. M., & Treiman, D. J. (1992). A standard international socio-economic index of occupational status. Social Science Research, 21(1), 1–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gilman, R., & Huebner, S. (2003). A review of life satisfaction research with children and adolescents. School Psychology Quarterly, 18(2), 192–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gist, M. E., & Mitchell, T. R. (1992). Self-efficacy: A theoretical analysis of its determinants and malleability. Academy of Management Review, 17(2), 183–211.Google Scholar
  32. Grant, K. E., Compas, B. E., Thurm, A. E., McMahon, S. D., Gipson, P. Y., Campbell, A. J., et al. (2006). Stressors and child and adolescent psychopathology: Evidence of moderating and mediating effects. Clinical Psychology Review, 26(3), 257–283.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Grob, A., Lüthi, R., Kaiser, F. G., Flammer, A., Mackinnon, A., & Wearing, A. J. (1991). Berner Fragebogen zum Wohlbefinden Jugendlicher (BFW). Diagnostica, 37(1), 66–75.Google Scholar
  34. Hamarat, E., Thompson, D., Zabrucky, K. M., Steele, D., Matheny, K. B., & Aysan, F. (2001). Perceived stress and coping resource availability as predictors of life satisfaction in young, middle-aged, and older adults. Experimental Aging Research, 27(2), 181–196.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hampel, P., & Petermann, F. (2006). Perceived stress, coping, and adjustment in adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(4), 409–415.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Heller, D., Watson, D., & Ilies, R. (2006). The dynamic process of life satisfaction. Journal of Personality, 74(5), 1421–1450.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Herringer, L. G. (1998). Facets of extraversion related to life satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences, 24(5), 731–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hobfoll, S. E. (2002). Social and psychological resources and adaptation. Review of General Psychology, 6(4), 307–324.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Holder, M. D. (2012). Happiness in children. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Huber, P. J. (1967). The behavior of maximum likelihood estimates under nonstandard conditions. In Proceedings of the Fifth Berkeley Symposium on Mathematical Statistics and Probability (Vol. 1, pp. 221–233).Google Scholar
  41. Huebner, E. S., Gilman, R., & Ma, C. (2012). Perceived quality of life of children and youth. In K. C. Land, A. C. Michalos, & M. J. Sirgy (Eds.), Handbook of social indicators and quality of life research (pp. 355–372). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Huebner, E. S., Suldo, S. M., & Gilman, R. (2006). Life satisfaction. In G. G. Bear, & K. M. Minke (Eds.), Children’s needs III: Development, prevention, and intervention (pp. 357–368). Washington, DC: National Association of School Psychologists.Google Scholar
  43. Jerusalem, M., & Mittag, W. (1995). Self-efficacy in stressful life transitions. In A. Bandura (Ed.), Self-efficacy in changing societies (pp. 177–201). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Judge, T. A., Locke, E. A., Durham, C. C., & Kluger, A. N. (1998). Dispositional effects on job and life satisfaction: The role of core evaluations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(1), 17–34.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Keller, A. C., Samuel, R., Semmer, N. K., Bergman, M. M. (Eds.) (2014). Psychological, educational and sociological perspectives on success and well-being in career development. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  46. Keyes, C. L. M., & Waterman, M. B. (2003). Dimensions of well-being and mental health in adulthood. In M. H. Bornstein, L. Davidson, C. L. M. Keyes, & K. A. Moore (Eds.), Well-being: Positive development across the life course (pp. 477–497). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.Google Scholar
  47. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  48. Lerner, R. M., & Galambos, N. L. (1998). Adolescent development: Challenges and opportunities for research, programs, and policies. Annual Review of Psychology, 49(1), 413–446.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 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(3), 249–262.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2004). Unemployment alters the set point for life satisfaction. Psychological Science, 15(1), 8–13.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2007). How stable is happiness? Using the STARTS model to estimate the stability of life satisfaction. Journal of Research in Personality, 41(5), 1091–1098.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Luhmann, M., Hofmann, W., Eid, M., & Lucas, R. E. (2012). Subjective well-being and adaptation to life events: A meta-analysis on differences between cognitive and affective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 592–615.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Luhmann, M., Lucas, R. E., Eid, M., & Diener, E. (2013). The prospective effect of life satisfaction on life events. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(1), 39–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Luszczynska, A., Gutiérrez-Doña, B., & Schwarzer, R. (2005). General self-efficacy in various domains of human functioning: Evidence from five countries. International Journal of Psychology, 40(2), 80–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131(6), 803–855.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. McCullough, G., Huebner, E. S., & Laughlin, J. E. (2000). Life events, self-concept, and adolescents’ positive subjective well-being. Psychology in the Schools, 37(3), 281–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. McKnight, C. G., Huebner, E. S., & Suldo, S. (2002). Relationships among stressful life events, temperament, problem behavior, and global life satisfaction in adolescents. Psychology in the Schools, 39(6), 677–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. McNamara, S. (2000). Stress in young people: What’s new and what to do. London, New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  59. Moksnes, U. K., Løhre, A., Lillefjell, M., Byrne, D. G., & Haugan, G. (2014). The association between school stress, life satisfaction and depressive symptoms in adolescents: Life satisfaction as a potential mediator. Social Indicators Research, 125(1), 339–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Mroczek, D. K., & Almeida, D. M. (2004). The effect of daily stress, personality, and age on daily negative affect. Journal of Personality, 72(2), 355–378.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Muthén, B., & Shedden, K. (1999). Finite mixture modeling with mixture outcomes using the EM algorithm. Biometrics, 55(2), 463–469.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Nie, Y., Lau, S., & Liau, A. K. (2011). Role of academic self-efficacy in moderating the relation between task importance and test anxiety. Learning and Individual Differences, 21(6), 736–741.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Zumbo, B. D. (2011). Life satisfaction in early adolescence: Personal, neighborhood, school, family, and peer influences. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 40(7), 889–901.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. O’Sullivan, G. (2010). The relationship between hope, eustress, self-efficacy, and life satisfaction among undergraduates. Social Indicators Research, 101(1), 155–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Ouweneel, E., Schaufeli, W. B., & Le Blanc, P. M. (2013). Believe, and you will achieve: Changes over time in self-efficacy, engagement, and performance. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 5(2), 225–247.Google Scholar
  66. Pajares, F., & Urdan, T. C. (2006). Self-efficacy beliefs of adolescents. Charlotte: IAP.Google Scholar
  67. Park, N. (2005). Life satisfaction among Korean children and youth. A developmental perspective. School Psychology International, 26(2), 209–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Peng, A. C., Schaubroeck, J. M., & Xie, J. L. (2015). When confidence comes and goes: How variation in self-efficacy moderates stressor–strain relationships. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 20(3), 359–376.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Persike, M., & Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2012). Competence in coping with stress in adolescents from three regions of the world. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(7), 863–879.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Peterson, C., Seligman, M. E., Yurko, K. H., Martin, L. R., & Friedman, H. S. (1998). Catastrophizing and untimely death. Psychological Science, 9(2), 127–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Pinquart, M., Juang, L. P., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2003). Self-efficacy and successful school-to-work transition: A longitudinal study. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 63(3), 329–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2012). Sources of method bias in social science research and recommendations on how to control it. Annual Review of Psychology, 63(1), 539–569.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Proctor, C., Linley, P., & Maltby, J. (2009). Youth life satisfaction: A review of the literature. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(5), 583–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Prümper, J., Hartmannsgruber, K., & Frese, M. (1995). Kurz-Fragebogen zur Arbeitsanalyse (KFZA). Zeitschrift für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie, 39(3), 125–131.Google Scholar
  75. Raudenbush, S. W., & Bryk, A. S. (2002). Hierarchical linear models: Applications and data analysis methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage. (Vol. 1).Google Scholar
  76. Rogers, W. (1994). Regression standard errors in clustered samples. Stata Technical Bulletin, 3(13), 19–23.Google Scholar
  77. Rosenberg, E. L. (1998). Levels of analysis and the organization of affect. Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 247–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. 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 and Adolescence, 39(8), 870–881.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Samuel, R., Bergman, M. M., & Hupka-Brunner, S. (2013). The interplay between educational achievement, occupational success, and well-being. Social Indicators Research, 111(1), 75–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Sánchez-Álvarez, N., Extremera, N., & Fernández-Berrocal, P. (2015). Maintaining life satisfaction in adolescence: Affective mediators of the influence of perceived emotional intelligence on overall life satisfaction judgments in a two-year longitudinal study. Frontiers in Psychology, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01892.
  81. Schafer, J. L., & Graham, J. W. (2002). Missing data: Our view of the state of the art. Psychological Methods, 7(2), 147–177.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Schimmack, U., Diener, E., & Oishi, S. (2009). Life-satisfaction is a momentary judgment and a stable personality characteristic: The use of chronically accessible and stable sources. In P. E. Diener (Ed.), Assessing well-being (pp. 181–212). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Schmeelk-Cone, K. H., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2003). A longitudinal analysis of stress in African-American youth: Predictors and outcomes of stress trajectories. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 32(6), 419–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Scholz, U., Gutiérrez Doña, B., Sud, S., & Schwarzer, R. (2002). Is general self-efficacy a universal construct? European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 18(3), 242–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Schwarzer, R. (2000). General perceived self-efficacy in 14 cultures. Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin. Accessed 18 Aug 2016.Google Scholar
  86. Schwarzer, R., & Jerusalem, M. (1999). Skalen zur Erfassung von Lehrer- und Schülermerkmalen. Dokumentation der psychometrischen Verfahren im Rahmen der Wissenschaftlichen Begleitung des Modellversuchs Selbstwirksame Schulen. Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin und Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.Google Scholar
  87. Schwarzer, R., Mueller, J., & Greenglass, E. (1999). Assessment of perceived general self-efficacy on the internet: Data collection in cyberspace. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 12(2), 145–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Schwoerer, C. E., May, D. R., Hollensbe, E. C., & Mencl, J. (2005). General and specific self-efficacy in the context of a training intervention to enhance performance expectancy. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16(1), 111–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Sitzmann, T., & Yeo, G. (2013). A meta-analytic investigation of the within-person self-efficacy domain: Is self-efficacy a product of past performance or a driver of future performance? Personnel Psychology, 66(3), 531–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Snijders, T. A., & Bosker, R. J. (2012). Multilevel analysis: An introduction to basic and advanced multilevel modeling. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  91. Suldo, S. M., & Huebner, E. S. (2006). Is extremely high life satisfaction during adolescence advantageous? Social Indicators Research, 78(2), 179–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Suldo, S. M., Riley, K. N., & Shaffer, E. J. (2006). Academic correlates of children and adolescents’ life satisfaction. School Psychology International, 27(5), 567–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Tolan, P. H., & Larsen, R. (2014). Trajectories of life satisfaction during middle school: Relations to developmental-ecological microsystems and student functioning. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 24(3), 497–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. TREE. (2013). TREE project documentation 2000-2012. Basel: TREE.Google Scholar
  95. Watson, D. (1990). On the dispositional nature of stress measures: Stable and nonspecific influences on self-reported hassles. Psychological Inquiry, 1(1), 34–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Yeo, G. B., & Neal, A. (2006). An examination of the dynamic relationship between self-efficacy and performance across levels of analysis and levels of specificity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(5), 1088–1101.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre interfacultaire en droits de l’enfantUniversité de Genève (Valais Campus)1950 Sion 4Suisse
  2. 2.Unité de recherche INSIDEUniversité du Luxembourg4366 Esch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg

Personalised recommendations