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The Satisfaction with Life Scale adapted for Children : investigating the structural, external, and substantive aspects of construct validity Gadermann, Anne Maria

Abstract

Measuring and monitoring children’s satisfaction with life is of great significance for improving children’s lives. In order to do this, validated measures to assess children’s satisfaction with life are necessary. This dissertation describes a program of research for the validation of the Satisfaction with Life Scale adapted for Children (SWLS-C). The introductory chapter provides a theoretical background for subjective well-being and validity/validation research and definitions of key terms. The first manuscript presents psychometric findings on the structural and external aspects of construct validity. A stratified random sample of 1233 students in grades 4 to 7 (48% girls, mean age of 11.7 years) provided data on the SWLS-C and measures of optimism, self-concept, self-efficacy, depression, empathic concern, and perspective taking. The SWLS-C demonstrated a unidimensional factor structure, high internal consistency, and evidence of convergent and discriminant validity. Furthermore, differential item functioning and differential scale functioning analyses indicated that the SWLS-C measures satisfaction with life in the same way for different groups of children. The second manuscript investigated the substantive aspect of construct validity for the SWLS-C by examining the cognitive processes of children when responding to the items. Think-aloud protocol interviews were conducted with 55 students in grades 4 to 7 (58 % girls, mean age of 11.0 years) and content analysis was used to analyze the data. In their responses, children mainly used an ‘absolute strategy’ (statements indicating the presence/absence of something they consider important for their satisfaction with life) or a ‘relative strategy’ (statements indicating comparative judgments). The absolute statements primarily referred to social relationships, personal characteristics, time use, and possessions. In the relative statements, children primarily compared what they have to what (a) they want, (b) they had in the past, (c) other people have, and (d) they feel they need. The results are in line with multiple discrepancies theory (Michalos, 1985) and previous empirical findings. These two studies provide evidence for the meaningfulness of the inferences of the SWLS-C scores. The concluding chapter highlights the contributions of the dissertation, discusses limitations of the presented research, and delineates a future validation program for the SWLS-C.

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