Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Adolescents' Core Self-Evaluations as Mediators of the Effect of Mindfulness on Life Satisfaction

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Adolescents' Core Self-Evaluations as Mediators of the Effect of Mindfulness on Life Satisfaction

Article excerpt

Adolescence is an important developmental phase when individuals need to face new challenges (Antaramian, Huebner, & Valois, 2008). Adolescence is a period that is distinct from childhood and adulthood, and individuals at this stage of development are vulnerable to mental health problems (see e.g., Johnstone, Rooney, Hassan, & Kane, 2014) and risk-taking behaviors (see e.g., Lambert et al., 2013). Most importantly, negative life-experience outcomes that occur in the adolescent period are associated with lower levels of life satisfaction. Life satisfaction refers to one's subjective appraisal of the quality of one's life (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999) and is important for strengthening adolescents' adaptive development (Antaramian et al., 2008).

One prominent finding in regard to adolescent life satisfaction that has been made in recent years is that mindfulness-that is, the state of being attentive to, and aware of, what is taking place in the present (Brown & Ryan, 2003; Wang & Kong, 2014)-exerts a significantly positive effect on their satisfaction (Schonert-Reichl & Lawlor, 2010). For example, it has been found that adolescents with a higher level of mindfulness reported greater life satisfaction than did their counterparts who had a lower level of mindfulness (Brown, West, Loverich, & Biegel, 2011). Wang and Kong (2014) suggested that mindfulness is conducive to emotional intelligence, which helps individuals regulate their emotions more effectively, thereby promoting life satisfaction. As a result, it is plausible to infer that adolescents' life satisfaction will be enhanced through mindful-awareness practices (e.g., meditation).

In addition to mindfulness, another variable that has consistently been shown to have a positive association with life satisfaction is core self-evaluations. Core self-evaluations are conceptualized as a broad personality construct that is constituted by self-esteem, locus of control, neuroticism, and general self-efficacy (Judge, Van Vianen, & De Pater, 2004). Individuals with positive core self-evaluations hold the view that they control the events that happen in their life, and these people generally report high self-esteem and self-efficacy, and they also tend to be more emotionally stable than those with less positive core self-evaluations (Judge et al., 2004). This being so, it is not surprising that researchers have reported findings that core self-evaluations are strongly correlated with life satisfaction (see e.g., Song, Kong, & Jin, 2013).

Core self-evaluations are related to how an individual views himself or herself (Song et al., 2013), and should be correlated with mindfulness. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that core self-evaluations might be one of the mechanisms by which mindfulness exerts a positive effect on the individual's life satisfaction. In support of this assumption, in a recent study, Kong, Wang, and Zhao (2014) suggested that core self-evaluations fully mediated the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction. That is, once core self-evaluations are controlled, the positive association between mindfulness and life satisfaction becomes insignificant. This research finding seems to suggest that the self-evaluative process of people with high mindful awareness is more positive than is the self-evaluative process of people with lower mindful awareness, which would finally translate into greater life satisfaction for those with high mindful awareness.

According to Kong et al. (2014), mindfulness may enhance one's self-compassion, which, thus, exerts a positive influence on the view that an individual has of himself or herself. Consequently, an individual's higher level of mindfulness will result in more positive core self-evaluations, thereby improving that person's satisfaction with his or her life. Although some researchers have investigated the association between mindfulness and life satisfaction (e.g., Schonert-Reichl & Lawlor, 2010; Wang & Kong, 2014) and the mediating role of core self-evaluations in the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction (Kong et al., 2014), the samples tested consisted only of adult populations. In other words, no research has yet been conducted in which that study has been replicated with a larger sample of individuals in early or mid adolescence. We believed that this was an important limitation that needed to be addressed.

Core self-evaluations are made up of four important personality traits, but personality traits are essentially fixed and unchanged in adulthood (Damon, Lerner, & Eisenberg, 2006), which implies that it is not easy to change core self-evaluations for adult populations. However, as adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood, this is an important period for the development of the individual's personality, such as the four personality traits that constitute core self-evaluations. In some studies the researchers have shown that adolescence is a critical period for shaping individuals' self-esteem (Zimmerman, Copeland, Shope, & Dielman, 1997), locus of control (Kulas, 1996), neuroticism, and other personality traits (McCullough, Tsang, & Brion, 2003). Accordingly, it would be helpful to implement intervention programs that aim at helping adolescents to develop skills that could result in positive self-evaluations and could benefit the adolescents' core self-evaluations during this period thus promoting individuals' life satisfaction.

Mindfulness practices are also acceptable and feasible for use with adolescents (Rutter & Taylor, 2002), suggesting that it is plausible to enhance adolescents' core self-evaluations through mindfulness practices. Therefore, if the mediating effect of core self-evaluations on the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction can be verified among adolescent populations, it will provide practitioners with a new perspective on how to promote adolescents' positive self-evaluations and life satisfaction, which might exert far-reaching influences on adolescents' future life. Thus, according to the empirical evidence regarding the associations between mindfulness, core self-evaluations, and life satisfaction of adult populations (Kong et al., 2014), we hypothesized that:

Hypothesis 1: Mindfulness will be positively associated with core self-evaluations and life satisfaction of adolescents.

Hypothesis 2: Core self-evaluations will be positively correlated with life satisfaction of adolescents.

Hypothesis 3: Core self-evaluations will mediate the association between mindfulness and life satisfaction of adolescents.

Method

Participants

Participants were 200 boys (45.9%) and 236 girls (54.1%). The age range of the sample was 15 to 17 years (M = 16.86, SD = 1.09). The Institutional Review Board of Guangdong Medical University approved the research protocol. Informed consent was obtained from each participant.

Measures

Mindful Attention Awareness Scale. (MAAS; Brown & Ryan, 2003). We used the Chinese version of the MAAS (Deng et al., 2012). The MAAS consists of 15 items (e.g., "I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later.") that are rated on a 6-point scale (1 = almost always to 6 = almost never). The MAAS has a reported Cronbach's a = .86 (Kong et al., 2014) and the internal reliability of the MAAS was .87 in the present research.

Core Self-Evaluations Scale. (CSES; Judge, Erez, Bono, & Thoresen, 2003). We used the Chinese version of the CSES (Ren & Ye, 2009). The CSES consists of 10 items (e.g., "I complete tasks successfully.") and each item is rated on a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree ). The CSES has a reported Cronbach's a of .81 (Kong et al., 2014) and it was .82 in the current study.

Satisfaction With Life Scale. (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). We used the Chinese version of the SWLS (Wu & Yao, 2006). The SWLS consists of five items (e.g., "In most ways my life is close to my ideal.") that are rated on a 7-point scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree). Reported Cronbach's a for the SWLS have ranged from .79 to .89 (Pavot & Diener, 1993) and in the present study Cronbach's a was .82.

Procedure

Participants were selected randomly from two middle schools on the Chinese mainland. The two schools granted study approval, and the adolescents took part in this research on a voluntary basis. To ensure the identity of the participants in the survey remained anonymous, no personal information of the participants was requested. Participants completed the scales without any time limit and they were allowed to withdraw from this study at any time without giving a reason.

Data Analysis

We analyzed the relationships between the variables by calculating Pearson correlations. Mediation analysis was conducted according to the method recommended by Baron and Kenny (1986), and the bootstrap method was employed for assessing the significance of the mediating effect (Preacher & Hayes, 2008). We used 5,000 bootstrapped samples to construct the bias-corrected 95% confidence interval (CI) to assess the mediating effect (Preacher & Hayes, 2008). We performed the analyses using SPSS 19.0 and Mplus 7.

Results

The means, standard deviations, and correlation coefficients for mindfulness, core self-evaluations, and life satisfaction are presented in Table 1. The relationships between the variables were significant, hence supporting Hypotheses 1 and 2.

Results of mediation analysis showed that mindfulness positively predicted life satisfaction in the absence of core self-evaluations (b = .43, t = 9.85, p < .001). Moreover, mindfulness also positively predicted core self-evaluations (b = .54, t = 13.44, p < .001), and there was a positive relationship between core self-evaluations and life satisfaction (b = .47, t = 10.19, p < .001) when adjusting for mindfulness. The direct association between mindfulness and life satisfaction remained significant when core self-evaluations were accounted for (b = 17, t = 3.68, p < .001). Accordingly, core self-evaluations partially mediated the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction (Baron & Kenny, 1986). The bootstrap analysis further indicated that the partially mediating effect was significantly different from zero at p < .05; unstandardized mediating effect = 0.20, 95% CI [= 0.16, 0.25] (Preacher & Hayes, 2008). Therefore, Hypothesis 3 was supported.

Discussion

This study was designed to test the mediating role of core self-evaluations in the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction among a group of Chinese adolescents. In accordance with our expectations, life satisfaction was positively and significantly associated with mindfulness and core self-evaluations among adolescents. These findings are consistent with those reported in previous studies conducted with Chinese populations (Song et al., 2013; Wang & Kong, 2014). We found it interesting that the strength of the positive correlation between life satisfaction and mindfulness for Chinese adolescents (r = .43) was greater than that previously reported among Chinese adults (r = .28, Wang & Kong, 2014). However, as no previous researcher has investigated the different age groups (e.g., children, adolescents, and adults) in terms of the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction, we can only speculate on the possibility that adolescents can perceive their emotions more accurately than adults can, which may result in a stronger sense of well-being (Wang & Kong, 2014).

The most encouraging finding in our research is that core self-evaluations partially mediated the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction among adolescents. In other words, adolescents with a higher level of mindfulness engaged in more positive core self-evaluations, which, in turn, were associated with an increased level of life satisfaction. Kong et al. (2014) suggested that individuals with high mindfulness are more willing to accept who they are rather than deny what has already happened to them. Accordingly, adolescents with a higher level of mindfulness tend to view themselves more positively than do those with a lower level, as they are more likely to accept things that cannot be changed (e.g., appearance, thoughts, or feelings), which thus enhances their life satisfaction.

However, it is worth noting that our finding of the partially mediating effect of core self-evaluations in the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction contradicts the fully mediating effect reported by Kong et al. (2014). One possible explanation is that adolescence is a critical period for personality development (Kulas, 1996; McCullough et al., 2003; Zimmerman et al., 1997). In this regard, personality traits of adolescents are not as stable and mature as are those of adults, so that adolescents' core self-evaluations can only partially account for the effect of mindfulness on their life satisfaction. Accordingly, future researchers should investigate other underlying mechanisms that play mediating roles in the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction among adolescents.

A major limitation in our study was that only self-report instruments were used. The use of multiple methods for data collection (e.g., teacher reports, peer reports) should be a priority in future studies. Most importantly, future researchers also need to consider conducting longitudinal studies to provide additional evidence for confirming the findings of our cross-sectional study. Despite the limitations, in this study we have provided evidence of the external validity of higher levels of mindfulness and more positive core self-evaluations as important factors that are associated with greater life satisfaction in adolescents. On one hand, instruction aimed at enhancing adolescents' mindfulness and core self-evaluations could be included in adolescent well-being promotion programs. On the other hand, the partial mediation effect that we have reported for core self-evaluations in the relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction provides practitioners with some important implications in their determination of the intervening variables that help explain the positive association between mindfulness and life satisfaction in adolescents.

[Reference]

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[Author Affiliation]

JIANFENG TAN

Guangdong Medical University

WU YANG AND HONGWEI MA

City University of Macau

YULAN YU

Guangdong Medical University

Jianfeng Tan, Department of Psychology, Guangdong Medical University; Wu Yang and Hongwei Ma, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, City University of Macau; Yulan Yu, Department of Psychology, Guangdong Medical University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Yulan Yu: Department of Psychology, Guangdong Medical University, No. 1 Xincheng Dadao, Songshan Lake Science and Technology Industrial Park, Dongguan, 523808, People's Republic of China. Email: 1815@gdmc.edu.cn

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