Academic Correlates of Taiwanese Senior High School Students' Happiness

Article excerpt

Throughout the past century, psychologists have focused mainly on depression, anxiety, and conduct disorders of adolescents while neglecting positive mental health. Only relatively recently has there been increasing interest in positive psychology, and more researchers are starting to examine adolescents' life satisfaction and its correlates and predictors (Gilman & Huebner, 2003). Similar to findings in studies of adults, most adolescents report positive levels of life satisfaction (Casas, Alsinet, Rossich, Huebmer, & Laughlin, 2001; Greenspoon & Saklofske, 1997; Huebner, Frane, & Valois, 2000; Leung & Zhang, 2000; Neto, 1993). In a review study, Suldo, Riley, and Shaffer (2006) indicated that most research on adolescents' life satisfaction has examined the roles of family functioning and intrapersonal variables, but few studies have researched life satisfaction in relation to schooling. Moreover, the existing literature regarding school-related variables and life satisfaction has investigated only one or a few academic factors in isolation. Therefore, the present study extends the previous literature and examines the relation between academic factors and high school students' general happiness more comprehensively using a nationally representative sample in Taiwan.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Since the linkage between academic factors and youngsters' happiness is relatively unexplored in the literature of Taiwan, the ensuing Western literature and studies on Chinese adolescent students contributed to our initial understanding of the relations among academic achievement, class-level and school-level academic-related factors, students' overall school satisfaction, and adolescents' general happiness.

Academic Achievement and Happiness

Many studies have included objective academic achievement (e.g., test scores, school grades) and/or students' self-perceived academic achievement (e.g., self-concept of academic performance, self-evaluated academic competence, academic self-efficacy) as a variable when investigating correlates or predictors of adolescents' life satisfaction. While self-perceived academic achievement consistently has been found to play an important role in students' general happiness, findings on objective academic achievement and global life satisfaction have been inconclusive.

Kirkcaldy, Furnham, and Siefen (2004) investigated the relation between educational performance in reading, mathematical, and scientific literacy as assessed in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey and the health performance indicators of the World Health report with data from 30 nations. They found a positive relation between happiness, as measured by Veenhooven's happiness scale, and the three literacy scores, with the magnitude of the association being greatest for reading. However, Huebner (1991) found that grades from the most recent report card were not associated significantly with global life satisfaction of 79 students in grades 5-7 of a rural school district in the Midwest region of the United States.

Two studies have taken both objective and self-perceived academic achievement into consideration when examining adolescents' general happiness. Cheng and Furnham (2002) investigated the extent to which peer relations, self-confidence, and school performance correlated with happiness among 90 students aged 16 to 18 in the United Kingdom. A correlation analysis showed that both actual school grades and self-confidence in terms of academic performance were significantly related to general happiness, but the relation with the latter was stronger. In addition, a series of hierarchical regression analyses revealed that self-confidence in terms of academic performance was a significant predictor of happiness, but school grades were not. Chang, McBride-Chang, Stewart, and Au (2003) explored both developmentally invariant and variable predictors of life satisfaction among 115 second-graders and 74 eighth-graders from Hong Kong. …