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A population-based analysis of life satisfaction and social support among children of diverse backgrounds in British Columbia, Canada



The Satisfaction With Life Scale adapted for Children (SWLS-C) is a self-report measure of children’s quality of life and has exhibited sound psychometric properties. In light of increasing ethno-cultural diversity, it is important to understand child life satisfaction across diverse subgroups. Employing children’s language background as a proxy for cultural background among children in British Columbia, Canada, we examined (a) the cross-cultural measurement equivalence of the SWLS-C; and (b) cross-cultural relations of peer support and adult support with SWLS-C.


Participants were 20,119 children (Mage 9.2; 50.2% boys) who provided data as part of a self-report child health survey (the Middle-years Development Instrument). Measurement equivalence across eight language/cultural background groups was tested via multi-group confirmatory factor analysis. Multi-level analyses were used to compare: a) SWLS-C means; and b) associations of peer support and adult support with SWLS-C scores, by language/cultural background.


Findings supported strict measurement equivalence between the English language/cultural background group and all other language/cultural background groups for the SWLS-C. Relative to the English language background group, SWLS-C means differed for several language/cultural background groups. Within every language/cultural background group, however, peer and adult support scale scores were significant positive correlates of SWLS-C scores.


This study provided evidence for measurement equivalence of a life satisfaction measure across children from diverse language/cultural backgrounds and identified between-group differences in the level of child life satisfaction that were generally consistent with prior theory and findings. Moreover, results provided evidence of promotive associations of adult support and peer support with life satisfaction among diverse groups of children.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Here we used English as the reference group; pairwise MG-CFA comparisons of all possible pairs of cultural backgrounds for the SWLS-C are presented in Online Appendix.

  2. 2.

    As this study focused on the SWLS-C and its cross-cultural measurement properties, we did not examine cross-cultural measurement of the peer support or adult support variables. Hence, cross-group comparison of regression coefficients is not discussed and we focus on associations within each language/cultural background group.


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This research was supported by a Tri-Council Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded to SDE. MG received research funding from the Lawson Foundation, Canada. LCM received salary support from the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. We thank Dr. Ara Norenzayan for feedback on earlier versions of this research. A preliminary version of this study was presented at the 2017 Canadian Public Health Association conference.

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Correspondence to Scott D. Emerson.

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Data collection with study participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Access to and analyses of data were approved by the University of British Columbia Behavioural Research Ethics Board.

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Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.

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Emerson, S.D., Mâsse, L.C., Ark, T.K. et al. A population-based analysis of life satisfaction and social support among children of diverse backgrounds in British Columbia, Canada. Qual Life Res 27, 2595–2607 (2018).

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  • Life satisfaction
  • Children
  • Measurement invariance
  • Culture
  • Language
  • Canada