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How do Family Economic Contexts Affect Children’s Subjective Well-Being? A Study of South Korea

Joan P. Yoo_Department of Social Welfare, Seoul National University

Changyong Cho_Department of Social Welfare, Seoul National University


The aim of this research is to examine the relationship between family economic contexts and children’s subjective well-being using a child-centric per- spective and to examine the mediation effects of basic psychological needs (peer relatedness and academic competence) based on self-determination theory. To investigate children’s real life experiences, family economic contexts are measured by two indicators, income-to-needs ratio and Child Material Deprivation Index (CMDI). Subjective well-being is measured by Student’s Life Satisfaction Scale (SLSS) and positive affect. A subsample of the South Korean data from the International Survey of Children’s Well-being project (ISCWeB) is used for statis- tical analysis. The sample consists of 4403 10- and 12-year-old children. Structural equation modeling with bootstrapping is utilized to examine the direct and indirect effects of the analytic model. The results show that CMDI is significantly related to SLSS and positive affect. However, the coefficients between family income-to-need ratio and subjective well-being indicators are not statistically significant. The basic psychological needs (peer relatedness and academic competence) have significant effects on SLSS and positive affect. The indirect effects of CMDI and income-to- needs on subjective well-being, mediated by peer relatedness and academic com- petence, are statistically significant. The results suggest that CMDI may be a better indicator than family income when investigating children’s subjective well-being, and that self-determination theory is applicable to studies on South Korean chil- dren’s well-being. Based on the results, implications and recommendations are discussed.


Subjectivewell-being.Familyincome.Materialdeprivation.Self-determination theory

Child Ind Res (2016) 9:949–970 DOI 10.1007/s12187-015-9358-7

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