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Social Ecological Measures of Interpersonal Destructiveness Impacting Child Subjective Mental Well-Being: Perceptions of 12-Year-Old Children in 14 Countries

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explore multilevel risk factors that impact child mental well-being in social ecological theoretical framework. We set the following research questions: (1) How are individual characteristics, their immediate environmental settings, and larger social and cultural contexts (multilevel risk factors) related to children’s subjective mental well-being; and (2) How do the impacts of multilevel risk factors of children’s subjective mental well-being vary across countries? We apply the conceptual scheme of the Societal Index of Interpersonal Destructiveness (SIID) by Nahkur et al. (Social Indicators Research, 133(2), 431–454, 2017) - inspired by social ecological framework to operationalise the research problem. Primarily, data are drawn from International Survey of Children’s Well-being (the sample of 12 year old children in 14 countries from 2013/14), and (multilevel) regression analyses are used. We found that interpersonal destructiveness measures, such as low life satisfaction, prior experience with destructive interpersonal conflict and subjective economic insecurity as individual factors, and poor parenting, poor relationship climate, fragile community as immediate environmental factors affect children’s subjective mental well-being negatively, even after controlling for the larger social and cultural context factors. As a main finding these associations were universal across the observed countries, however, with subjective economic insecurity as a notable exception. The influence of societal factors on children’s mental well-being stayed unclear as we used adult-driven data that cannot represent children’s opinions. In sum, children’s assessments reflect their direct and indirect interactions with different levels of social ecological environmental settings that are merged in their opinions at the individual level.

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Notes

  1. This study was funded by the Jacobs Foundation.

  2. We switched from the adult to the child focus. For instance, we included poor parenting and economic insecurity assessed from the child’s perspective.

  3. We agree with other authors (see, e.g., Ben-Arieh et al. 2014) in that life satisfaction can be considered an outcome of good psychological conditions. However, proceeding from general principles borrowed from cognitive-behavioural therapy (see, e.g., McLeod (2015)), we assume it to be a cognitive measure of life conditions and thus can be dealt as a prerequisite of interpersonal destructiveness.

  4. Prior experience with destructive interpersonal conflict is considered as individual level factor determining child subjective mental well-being as the experience is based on the perception of one party, meaning that other party may not interpret the same situation as (destructive) conflict. For example, a situation can be regarded as destructive interpersonal conflict if one party is purposely avoiding contact.

  5. In Malta, data collection started in late 2014 and was completed by February 2015.

  6. Due to the study aim, we reversed the direction of the scale. The reversed version of RCAS-6 is used throughout the paper, although terms ‘reversed RCAS-6’ and ‘RCAS-6’ are both used.

  7. Due to the study aim, we reversed the direction of the original scales, except in the case of V5, V6 and V12.

  8. Gini, national average happiness and its standard deviation, based on adult data, are used due to the lack of geographically widespread and comparable society level data from children.

  9. We rounded the value of total mean (1.7) to 2 following the example of Crous (2017). The rounded total mean score corresponds to 20:80 ratio as a cut-off point splitting the 0 to 10 reversed RCAS-6 scale. It is in line with Crous (2017) that 12-years-old children may consider 8 as the midpoint on the 0 to 10 scale. On our reversed RCAS-6 scale, 8 corresponds to the value 2.

  10. We also decided to use 30:70 ratio as a cut-off point following the preliminary result of Crous (2017) that 12-years-old children may consider 7 as the midpoint on the 0 to 10 scale. On our reversed RCAS-6 scale, 7 corresponds to the value 3.

  11. It is the same measure used for objective societal economic insecurity variable. In Norway, Malta, Germany and Poland the Gini value is under 31, and they are considered as “low income inequality” societies. In South Korea, Romania, Estonia, Ethiopia, Spain, and Nepal the Gini value is between 31 to 35, considering them as “moderate income inequality” societies. In “high income inequality” societies, namely in Algeria, Turkey, Colombia and South Africa, the Gini value is 36 to 59, respectively. In the regression analysis only subjective individual economic insecurity as independent variable is used.

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Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Rein Murakas and Rein Taagepera who critically reviewed the manuscript and made useful comments. Article was written by Oliver Nahkur with the financial support from NORFACE Welfare State Futures Programme (Project HEALTHDOX 462-13-011) and the University of Tartu ASTRA Project PER ASPERA (European Regional Development Fund) and by Dagmar Kutsar with the financial support from Estonian Research Council personal research grant PUT 1530.

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Correspondence to Oliver Nahkur.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 9 Multilevel model results (OR – odds ratio; N = 10,904 in 13 countries) using 30:70 ratio as a cut-off to split the reversed RCAS-6 scale
Table 10 Multilevel model results (OR – odds ratio; N = 10,904 in 13 countries) using 12:88 ratio as a cut-off to split the reversed RCAS-6 scale

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Nahkur, O., Kutsar, D. Social Ecological Measures of Interpersonal Destructiveness Impacting Child Subjective Mental Well-Being: Perceptions of 12-Year-Old Children in 14 Countries. Child Ind Res 12, 353–378 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12187-018-9542-7

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Keywords

  • Subjective well-being
  • Child subjective mental well-being
  • Societal Index of Interpersonal Destructiveness (SIID)
  • Child social indicators