Child Indicators Research

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 177–198 | Cite as

Predictors of Children’s Subjective Well-Being in Rural Communities of the United States

  • Lisa A. Newland
  • Michael J. Lawler
  • Jarod T. Giger
  • Soonhee Roh
  • Eliann R. Carr


This study examined children’s subjective well-being in a rural Midwestern United States sample of children (N = 1,286). Fifth grade (M age = 10.66, SD = .55, range 10–12 years) and 7th grade (M age = 12.63, SD = .55, range 12–14 years) children completed an adapted version of the previously tested Children’s Worlds survey, measuring children’s subjective well-being. Surveys included individual factors (age, gender, number of residences), contextual factors of home and family (home environment, family relationships, parent involvement), life and neighborhood (financial resources, life stress, neighborhood quality), school (teacher relationships, school climate, school satisfaction), and peers (peer relationships), and subjective well-being measures for life satisfaction, mental health, and self-image. Though children’s subjective well-being was predicted by a number of individual, home and family, life and neighborhood, school, and peer variables, the strongest predictors of child well-being were relationships, school, and gender (males had higher scores). The reliability of the regression models were assessed by bootstrap resampling. Results are discussed in the context of an ecological, relationship-based framework of child well-being.


Childhood Well-being Ecological context Rural Relationships 



The authors acknowledge contributions to the research project from Rick Melmer, Rita Humphrey, and Tamara Olson.


  1. Antaramian, S. P., Huebner, E., & Valois, R. F. (2008). Adolescent life satisfaction. Applied Psychology An International Review, 57(Suppl 1), 112–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ben-Arieh, A. (2010). Developing indicators for child well-being in a changing context. In C. McAuley & W. Rose (Eds.), Child well-being: Understanding children’s lives (pp. 129–142). London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  3. Ben-Arieh, A. (2012a). How do we measure and monitor the “state of our children”? Revisiting the topic in honor of Sheila B. Kamerman. Children and Youth Services Review, 34, 569–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ben-Arieh, A. (2012b). Findings from the up-to-date pilots. In A. Ben-Arieh (Ed.), International Survey of Children’s Well-Being (ISCWeB)- UNICEF meeting. Florence: Symposium conducted at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Center.Google Scholar
  5. Bendayan, R., Blanca, M. J., Fernández-Baena, J. F., Escobar, M., & Trianes, V. M. (2013). New empirical evidence on the validity of the satisfaction with life scale in early adolescents. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 29(1), 36–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bokhorst, C. L., Sumter, S. R., & Westenberg, P. (2010). Social support from parents, friends, classmates, and teachers in children and adolescents aged 9 to 18 years: who is perceived as most supportive? Social Development, 19(2), 417–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Booth, A., Granger, D. A., & Shirtcliff, E. A. (2008). Gender- and age-related differences in the association between social relationship quality and trait levels of salivary Cortisol. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 18(2), 239–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 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
  9. Broberg, M. (2012). Young children’s well-being in Finnish stepfamilies. Early Child Development and Care, 182(3/4), 401–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1989). Ecological systems theory. Annals of Child Development, 6, 187–249.Google Scholar
  11. Casas, F., Sarriera, J. C., Alfaro, J., González, M., Malo, S., Bertran, I., & Valdenegro, B. (2012). Testing the personal wellbeing index on 12-16 year-old adolescents in 3 different countries with 2 new items. Social Indicators Research, 105(3), 461–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Casas, F., Bălţătescu, S., Bertran, I., González, S., & Hatos, A. (2013). School satisfaction among adolescents: testing different indicators for its measurement and its relationship with overall life satisfaction and subjective well-being in Romania and Spain. Social Indicators Research, 111(3), 665–681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chu, P., Saucier, D. A., & Hafner, E. (2010). Meta-analysis of the relationships between social support and well-being in children and adolescents. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 29(6), 624–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Corsano, P., Majorano, M., & Champretavy, L. (2006). Psychological well-being in adolescence: the contribution of interpersonal relations and experience of being alone. Adolescence, 41(162), 341–353.Google Scholar
  15. Coyl, D. D., Roggman, L. A., & Newland, L. A. (2002). Stress, maternal depression and negative mother-infant interactions in relation to infant attachment. Infant Mental Health Journal, 23(1–2), 145–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coyl, D. D., Newland, L. A., & Freeman, H. S. (2010). Predicting preschoolers’ attachment security from parenting behaviors, parents’ attachment relationships and their use of social support. Early Child Development and Care, 180(4), 499–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Coyl-Shepherd, D. D., & Newland, L. A. (2013). Mothers’ and fathers’ couple and family contextual influences, parent involvement, and school-age child attachment. Early Child Development and Care., 183(3–4), 553–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Crespo, C., Kielpikowski, M., Pryor, J., & Jose, P. E. (2011). Family rituals in New Zealand families: links to family cohesion and adolescents’ well-being. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(2), 184–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cummins, R. A., & Lau, A. D. L. (2005). Personal Wellbeing Index-School Children (PWI-SC) (3rd ed.). Melbourne: Deakin University.Google Scholar
  20. Diener, E., Suh, E., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dinisman, T., Montserrat, C., & Casas, F. (2012). The subjective well-being of Spanish adolescents: variations according to different living arrangements. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(12), 2374–2380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dinisman, T., Zeira, Z., Sulimani-Aidan, Y., & Benbenishty, R. (2013). The subjective well-being of young people aging out of care. Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 1705–1711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Edwards, B. (2006). Views of the village: parents’ perceptions of their neighbourhoods. Family Matters, 74, 26–33.Google Scholar
  24. Efron, B., & Tibshirani, R. (1993). An introduction to the bootstrap. New York: Chapman & Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Erceg-Hurn, D. M., & Mirosevich, V. M. (2008). Modern robust statistical methods: an easy way to maximize the accuracy and power of your research. American Psychologist, 63(7), 591–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Eriksson, U., Hochwalder, J., & Sellstrom, E. (2011). Perceptions of community trust and safety. Acta Paediatrica, 100, 1373–1378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS statistics (4th ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  28. Formby, P., & Cherlin, A. (2007). Family instability and child well-being. American Sociological Review, 72, 181–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Giger, J. T., Newland, L. A., Roh, S., & Lawler, M. J. (2013, May). Predicting subjective well-being among rural adolescents: Children speaking for themselves. Presentation at the 4th International Society for Child Indicators Conference, Seoul, Korea, May 29, 2013.Google 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. Gilman, R., & Huebner, E. (2006). Characteristics of adolescents who report very high life satisfaction. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35(3), 311–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Glendinning, A., Nuttall, M., Hendry, L., Kloep, M., & Wood, S. (2003). Rural communities and well-being: a good place to grow up? The Sociological Review, 51(1), 129–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gorrese, A., & Ruggieri, R. (2012). Peer attachment: a meta-analytic review of gender and age differences and associations with parent attachment. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(5), 650–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Goswami, H. (2012). Social relationships and children’s subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 107, 575–588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Goudena, P. P., & Vermande, M. M. (2002). A review of cross-cultural studies of observed peer interaction. Early Child Development and Care, 172(2), 141–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Ho, M., Cheung, F. M., & Cheung, S. (2008). Personality and life events as predictors of adolescents’ life satisfaction: do life events mediate the link between personality and life satisfaction? Social Indicators Research, 89(3), 457–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Huebner, E. S. (1991). Initial development of the student’s life satisfaction scale. School Psychology International, 12, 231–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Jutras, S., & Lepage, G. (2006). Parental perceptions of contributions of school and neighborhood to children’s psychological wellness. Journal of Community Psychology, 34(3), 305–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kamerman, S. B., Phipps, S., & Ben-Arieh, A. (Eds.). (2009). From child welfare to children well-being: an international perspective on knowledge in the service of making policy. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  40. Kelly, B. J., Lewin, T. J., Stain, H. J., Coleman, C., Fitzgerald, M., Perkins, D., & Beard, J. R. (2011). Determinants of mental health and well-being within rural and remote communities. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 46(12), 1331–1342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lagacé-Séguin, D. G., & Case, E. (2010). Extracurricular activity and parental involvement predict positive outcomes in elementary school children. Early Child Development and Care, 180(4), 453–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Langton, C. E., & Berger, L. M. (2011). Family structure and adolescent physical health, behavior, and emotional well-being. Social Service Review, 85(3), 323–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lawler, M. J., Goodman, G. S., Cordon, I. M., & O’Brien, S. (2011). Inter-agency data sharing and protection: Measuring child well-being in the United States. Proceedings of the 3 rd International Conference of the International Society for Child Indicators, York, UK, 3, 51-52.Google Scholar
  44. Lawler, M. J., Shaver, P. R., & Goodman, G. S. (2011b). Toward relationship-based child welfare services. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 473–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Leon, A. M. (1999). Family support model: integrating service delivery in the twenty-first century. Families in Society The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 80(1), 14–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Li, J., & Julian, M. M. (2012). Developmental relationships as the active ingredient: a unifying working hypothesis of “what works” across interventions. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82, 157–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. McDougall, T. (2011). Mental health problems in childhood and adolescence. Nursing Standard, 26(14), 48–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Menanteau-Horta, D., & Yigzaw, M. (2002). Indicators of social well-being and elements of child welfare in Minnesota rural counties. Child Welfare, 81, 709–729.Google Scholar
  49. Merritt, D. H., & Franke, T. M. (2010). Should I stay or should I go? Children’s placement preferences longitudinally. Journal of Social Service Research, 36(1), 46–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. 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, 2921–2928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mrug, S., & Windle, M. (2009). Mediators of neighborhood influences on externalizing behavior in preadolescent children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 37(2), 265–280.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Newland, L. A., Coyl, D. D., & Chen, H.-H. (2010). Fathering and attachment in the U.S. and Taiwan: contextual predictors and child outcomes. Early Child Development and Care, 180(1&2), 173–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Newland, L. A., Chen, H.-H., & Coyl-Shepherd, D. D. (2013a). Associations among father beliefs, perceptions, life context, involvement, child attachment and school outcomes in the U.S. and Taiwan. Fathering, 11(1), 3–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Newland, L. A., Chen, H.-H., Coyl-Shepherd, D. D., Liang, Y.-C., Carr, E., Dykstra, E., & Gapp, S. C. (2013b). Parent and child perspectives on mothering and fathering: the influence of ecocultural niches. Early Child Development and Care, 183(3&4), 534–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Newland, L.A., Giger, J. T., Lawler, M. J., Carr, E. R., Dykstra, E. A., & Roh, S. (2014). Subjective well-being for children in a rural community. Journal of Social Service Research, 40, 642–661.Google Scholar
  56. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Park, N. (2004). The role of subjective well-being in positive youth development. Annals, 591, 25–39.Google Scholar
  58. Proctor, C., Linley, P., & Maltby, J. (2010). Very happy youths: benefits of very high life satisfaction among adolescents. Social Indicators Research, 98(3), 519–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Puroila, A., Estola, E., & Syrjälä, L. (2012). Having, loving, and being: children’s narrated well-being in Finnish day care centres. Early Child Development and Care, 182(3/4), 345–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Resources, H., & Administration, S. (2011). The health and well-being of children in rural areas: a portrait of the nation 2007. Washington, DC: US DHHS.Google Scholar
  61. Seligson, J. L., Huebner, E., & Valois, R. F. (2003). Preliminary validation of the Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale (BMSLSS). Social Indicators Research, 61(2), 121–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Singh, S., & Lal, R. (2012). A study of subjective well-being of adolescents in relation to big five factors of personality. Journal of Psychosocial Research, 7(1), 33–42.Google Scholar
  63. Slovak, K., Sparks, A., & Hall, S. (2011). Attention to rural populations in social work’s scholarly journals. Journal of Social Service Research, 37(4), 428–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Stuart, J., & Jose, P. E. (2012). The influence of discrepancies between adolescent and parent ratings of family dynamics on the well-being of adolescents. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(6), 858–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Suldo, S. M., Shaffer, E. J., & Riley, K. N. (2008). A social-cognitive-behavioral model of academic predictors of adolescents’ life satisfaction. School Psychology Quarterly, 23(1), 56–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Suldo, S. M., Friedrich, A. A., White, T., Farmer, J., Minch, D., & Michalowski, J. (2009). Teacher support and adolescents’ subjective well-being: a mixed-methods investigation. School Psychology Review, 38(1), 67–85.Google Scholar
  67. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget. (2012). Defining the rural population. Retrieved from
  68. Tomyn, A., & Cummins, R. (2011). The subjective wellbeing of high-school students: validating the personal wellbeing index-school children. Social Indicators Research, 101(3), 405–418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Trends, C. (2013a). Measuring subjective well-being. The Child Indicator, 14(1), 1.Google Scholar
  70. Trends, C. (2013b). Systems science: a new frame for indicators. The Child Indicator, 14(1), 5–7.Google Scholar
  71. Children’s Worlds. (2011). International survey of children’s well-being. Retrieved from
  72. Zullig, K. J., Valois, R. F., Huebner, E., & Drane, J. (2005). Adolescent health-related quality of life and perceived satisfaction with life. Quality of Life Research An International Journal of Quality of Life Aspects of Treatment, Care and Rehabilitation, 14(6), 1573–1584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisa A. Newland
    • 1
  • Michael J. Lawler
    • 2
  • Jarod T. Giger
    • 3
  • Soonhee Roh
    • 3
  • Eliann R. Carr
    • 4
  1. 1.Human Development and Educational PsychologyUniversity of South DakotaVermillionUSA
  2. 2.School of Health SciencesUniversity of South DakotaVermillionUSA
  3. 3.Social WorkUniversity of South DakotaVermillionUSA
  4. 4.Human Development and Educational PsychologyUniversity of South DakotaVermillionUSA

Personalised recommendations