Paper type: Essay Pages: 15 (3716 words)
Satisfaction with life is a concept highly valued in today’s society. In an effort to understand mechanisms behind the life satisfaction, present study investigated the relationships between social network size, optimism and conscientiousness and the outcome variable, satisfaction with life. The four variables were measured through the use of a survey. Participants were students from California State University, Fullerton.
A correlational analysis of the data showed a significant positive relationship between optimism, and conscientiousness and satisfaction with life. It was also found that individuals with large social network size were more satisfied than those with small social network size.
These findings imply that improving levels of optimism and conscientiousness and increasing one’s social network can insure greater life satisfaction.
Relationships between Satisfaction with Life, Social Network Size,
Optimism, and Conscientiousness
Satisfaction with life is most often one of the greatest concerns of an individual’s life. There is a general belief that an inability to achieve satisfaction with one’s life indicates an unsuccessful life.
Because of this socially generated drive for satisfaction with life, one is made to wonder. What factors are related to the experience of life satisfaction? What variables are good predictors of life satisfaction?
One suspected variable that would act as a good predictor of satisfaction with life is social network size. A social network refers to an individual’s link or relationship with other individuals. This link can cause certain social behavior to be explained (Mitchell, 1969). Quinn, Gavigan, and Franklin (1980) defined social networks to be the social units an individual is placed in contact with. Quinn et al. (1980) studied the effects of social network interaction on life satisfaction in older adults. The findings indicated that social network interaction was not a good predictor of satisfaction with life.
Another study conducted by Bowling, Farquhar, ands Browne (1991) indicated that social network size is a poor indicator of life satisfaction. The study involved the participation of two types of individuals – those who lived in rural neighborhoods and those who lived in urban neighborhoods. Bowling et al. (1991) noted larger reported social network sizes for individuals in the urban areas as opposed to those in the rural areas.
Despite this difference in reported social network sizes, life satisfaction between the two groups was not found to be different. This may, however, have been a result of difference in the levels of interaction available to individuals residing in the two areas. The insignificant findings may have been a result of the inherent differences between neighborhoods and therefore not representative of the social network size of a given individual.
Optimism is a second variable deemed to be related to feelings of satisfaction with life. A greater sense of optimism allows one to maintain an outlook on life that allows for the consideration of the world as a generally positive place. Research exploring the life satisfaction felt by retired physicians showed that greater optimism resulted in a greater satisfaction with their life. (Austrom, Perkins, Damush, and Hendrie, 2003)
In retired individuals, especially, optimism may be an essential variable for achieving life satisfaction as it may also be a coping mechanism to the sudden change in lifestyle for the said individuals. The retired physicians felt that the greatest challenge going against their satisfaction with life was in the loss of their professional roles, thus, optimism might have served as a form of mediation between the two stages of the transition. Having a positive outlook on the way their lives was going allowed these physicians to better accept the end of their professional careers and to look forward to the beginning of their retired life.
The probable importance of optimism as a mediator was also evidenced by the fact that in the same study by Austrom et al. (2003) it was found that optimism didn’t play as significant a role in determining life satisfaction when it came to the physician’s wives. This may have been due to the fact that they did not need to maintain a positive outlook to boost a sudden change in life roles.
Optimism and not pessimism, which involves having a negative outlook on life, is found to be a greater predictor of life satisfaction. This was specifically found by a study conducted by Chang & Sanna (2003). Thus in the present study, only the variable of optimism will be taken into consideration and not its counterpart, pessimism.
Another variable that may show a relationship with an individual’s satisfaction with life is the personality trait of conscientiousness. Conscientiousness has been investigated by many researchers in terms of how well it predicts an individual’s life satisfaction. This trait refers to an individual’s tendency to be organized, diligent and reliable in their behavior. (Chapman, Duberstein, and Lyness, 2007)
Conscientiousness may have a role to play in satisfaction because conscientious individuals are able to have more mature defenses and are also able to have a quality of life that is considered by most to be above par as they are able to have more responsibility and control over their health, their social interactions, and their general well-being (Chapman et al, 2007). It may well be that the same link can be found between conscientiousness and life satisfaction. If higher levels of conscientiousness indicate higher quality of life, it may also indicate greater degree of satisfaction with life as a result of the same mechanisms.
A study by Lounsbury, Saudarga, Gibson, and Leong (2005) examined just this relationship. Through an inspection of the personality characteristics accounted for in the Big Five, it was found that conscientiousness along with extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to experience account for 45% of total perceived life satisfaction. Is conscientiousness, then, as a variable independent of the other personality traits in the Big Five, significantly related to satisfaction with life?
The present study aims to investigate the relationships that exist between satisfaction with life and the three variables stated above: social network size, optimism, and conscientiousness. Based on the empirical evidence provided by past literature, it is predicted that satisfaction with life will be significantly correlated to optimism and conscientiousness. A greater level of optimism and conscientiousness in an individual will indicate a greater satisfaction with life.
Also, social network size is hypothesized to have no significant difference on satisfaction with life. The last hypothesis is based on the findings of past literature. However, due to the questionable nature of past studies and how these measured social network against life satisfaction, the present study’s hypothesis may turn out to be negated. It is hypothesized, then, that the variables of optimism and conscientiousness will have a significant and direct relationship with satisfaction with life while that of social network size will have no significant difference on satisfaction with life.
The participants of the study totaled 91 students, 23 (25.3%) of whom were male and 68(74.7%) of whom were female. (See Table 1 in Appendix for tabulated figures) All the participants were enrolled in Research Method in Psychology classes at the California State University, Fullerton.
The ethnicity break down of the participants is the following: African American – 1.1%, Asian (Pacific Islander) – 3.3%, Caucasian – 49.5%, Hispanic – 27.5%, Middle Eastern – 2.2%, Southeast Asian – 2.2%, multiethnic – 11%. 3.3% of the participants reported to having other types of ethnicity. (See Table 2 in Appendix for tabulated figures) The range in ages of the participants was from 19 years to 46 years. The mean age was 23 years old. (See Table 3 in Appendix for tabulated figures) None of the participants received incentive for their participation. There were no extra credits or monetary compensations given in exchange for their contribution to the study.
Materials or Measures
Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS; Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). The PANAS measures trait negative affect or the affective well being of the participants. It is composed of a 10-item scale designed to measure typical experiences of negative affect. Participants are able to rate the extent to which they experience certain mood states such as distressed, upset, scared, and irritable. They are able to do this through the indicators of a 5-point scale (very slightly or not at all, a little, moderately, quite a bit, extremely). The participants were asked to indicate to what extent they felt each feeling or emotion listed during the past two weeks from the time of the survey.
Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen & Griffin, 1985) The SWLS is a global measure for subjective well-being and life satisfaction. Diener et al (1985) defined life satisfaction as a conscious cognitive judgment life. This entails an individual’s comparison of their own life experiences with a self-set standard. The scale is composed of 5 items and utilizes a 7-point Likert-type scale (1-strongly disagree to 7-strongly agree). The items of the test included statements such as “The conditions of my life are excellent” and “If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.” Possible total scores range from 5 to 35. A resulting score ranging from 5 to 19 signifies dissatisfaction while scores between 21-31 signify satisfaction.
Life Orientation Test (LOT-R; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994) The LOT-R measures generalized optimism. The test is made up of 10 items. Participants will indicate the extent to which they agree with the 10 statements in the test through a 5-point Likert-type scale (0-strongly disagree to 4-strongly agree). The statements involved sentiments like “in uncertain times, I usually expect the best”. A participant can achieve a score from 0 to 24 with a higher score indicating greater levels of optimism.
Big Five Inventory (BFI; John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1994) The BFI was used to assess the personalities of the participants with regards to the five aspects included in the big five namely extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. The BFI consists of 44 items that ask the participants to rank themselves on a 5-point Likert-type scale (1-disagree strongly to 5-agree strongly). The 44 items deal with different types of behavior related to the Big Five. For the present study, the BFI will be used to measure the variable of conscientiousness. BFI items related to conscientiousness included “perseveres until the task is finished”, “is a reliable worker”, and “does things efficiently”.
Lubben Social Network Scale (LSNS-6; Lubben &Gironda, 2003) The LSNS-6 is a test of a set of questions establishing ties with relatives and ties with non-relatives. Examples of these questions include “How many relatives do you see or hear from at least once a month?” and “How many friends do you see or hear from at least once a month? The participant chooses one of the options available for each question. These answers have corresponding points. Total scores of the participants may range from 0 to 30. A higher score indicates a higher level of social network. For this research, the LSNS-6 was used to measure social network size. A high score in the LSNS-6 was taken to signify a larger social network size while a low score meant a smaller social network size.
Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES; Rosenberg, 1989) The RSES measures global self-esteem. The test is composed of 10 items. Responses are given on a 5-point Likert-type scale (1-strongly disagree to 5-strongly agree). A sample question is “At times I feel like I am no good at all.”
Subjective Happiness Scale (SHS; Lyubominsky, and Lepper , 1999) The SHS measures global subjective happiness. The test consists of four items. Responses are given on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1-7). A sample question is “Some people are generally very happy. They enjoy life regardless of what is going on, getting the most out of everything. To what extent does this characterization describe you?”
Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ; McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang, 2002) The gratitude questionnaire is a self-report test measuring global gratitude. The test consists of six items. Responses are given on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1-stronlgy disagree to 7-strongly agree). A sample item is “If I had to list everything that I was grateful for, it would be a very long list.”
Tendency to Forgive Scale (TTF; Brown, 2002) The TTF is a test measuring global forgiveness tendencies. The test consists of four items. Responses are given on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1-strongly disagree to 7-strongly agree). A sample item is “I tend to get over it quickly when someone hurts my feelings.”
Questionnaires were handed out to all participants in their respective classrooms of Research Method in Psychology at the California State University, Fullerton. Participants were given instructions as a group and were told that participation in this study would be anonymous. It was also stated that they may voluntarily choose to participate and could withdraw at anytime. The whole session took about 15-30 minutes. Participants were provided informed consent prior to the administration of the test and were debriefed after they finished.
The results showed that individuals’ with a smaller social network size (mean=4.10) were significantly less satisfied compared to those with life larger social network size (mean=5.05; t(89)= -3.79, p.001). There was a noted positive correlation between optimism and satisfaction with life (r = 0.543, p = 0.01). A positive correlation was also found between conscientiousness and satisfaction with life (r = 0.222, p = 0.05)
The main purpose of this research was to establish whether a relationship existed between satisfaction with life and optimism, and satisfaction with life and conscientiousness. Another purpose was to establish whether social network size made a difference to satisfaction with life. The original hypothesis of the study stated that a significant positive relationship would be found between satisfaction with life and optimism as well as between satisfaction with life and conscientiousness. It was also hypothesized that social network size would not have a significant difference on satisfaction with life. The hypotheses of the present study were based on the findings of past researches. (Quinn et al, 1980; Bowling et al, 1991; Austrom et al, 2003; Chang and Sanna, 2003; Chapman et al, 2007; Lounsbury et al, 2005)
The results of the current study show that there is a significantly positive relationship between satisfaction with life and two variables it was compared against, namely, optimism and conscientiousness. Results also showed a significant difference with social network size and satisfaction with life. The initial hypotheses for optimism and conscientiousness were supported. The hypothesis regarding social network size, however, was rejected by the statistical results. The findings on optimism and conscientiousness validate past research findings. These showed that greater optimism in life contributed to greater satisfaction with life (Austrom et al., 2003).
Optimism was also found to be a good predictor of life satisfaction (Chang and Sanna, 2003). Past findings established conscientiousness to be a contributing factor to life satisfaction (Lounsbury et al, 2005) as well as a variable directly related to higher quality of life ratings (Chapman et al., 2007). The findings on social network size, on the other hand, disagree with past research findings where social network interaction was not found to be related to life satisfaction (Quinn et al., 1980) and where the size of the individual’s social network was determined to be a bad predictor of life satisfaction (Bowling et al., 1991).
Optimism may be able to affect life satisfaction positively due to the fact that a positive outlook on life can also cause a better assessment of past experiences not just of present circumstances. If one is able to achieve a better disposition towards life, the tendency to overlook the negativity that will detract from satisfaction felt towards life will be greater. This shows that the statistical significance of optimism (r=0.543, p=0.01) with satisfaction with life is warranted.
Conscientiousness, on the other hand, was also positively correlated to (r=0.035, p=0.05) with satisfaction with life. This may be due to the fact that conscientiousness indicates a better ability to handle life experiences. Conscientiousness, as defined in the Big Five Inventory (Donahue et al., 2001), entails caution, dependability, organization and responsibility. These characteristics when applied to the everyday behavior and experiences of an individual are most likely to indicate an individual who achieves success.
People who are more cautious, more dependable, more organized, and more responsible are the ones who are achievers in human society. It may be that the success and achievement linked with conscientious people is also the link that sustains their satisfaction with life. This is not to say that individuals deemed to have low conscientiousness are not likely to feel satisfaction with life. The findings only suggest that a high level of conscientiousness predicts life satisfaction to great extent.
The discussion of how social network size is related to satisfaction with life should be done with care. The fact that previous research found no significant difference between social network and life satisfaction may have been due to the inadequacy of measurement with the past research. Quinn et al. (1980), for example, concentrated on the interaction that occurred in social network and not size. This meant that Quinn et al. (1980) focused on the quality of the individual’s social network and not on the quantity.
Bowling et al. (1991), on the other hand, compared two different localities and this is what might have caused the inconsistencies in their findings concerning social network size and life satisfaction. Inherent characteristics of urban and rural locations could have played into action and caused the insignificant findings. For the present study, however, the significant difference between social network size and life satisfaction makes sense especially because social network size is also an indicator of an individual’s degree of social interaction as well as sources of social support; both of which are essential in an individual’s development.
The findings of this study are limited because of the small sample size used. A bigger sample that is more representative of the general population should be used in future research. In addition, only a few variables concerning satisfaction with life were investigated. Future research should incorporate more variables that may affect life satisfaction into the study. The variables of social support, social interaction, and pessimism are a few of the factors that should be investigated. The significant relationship between social network size and life satisfaction should also be validated by future studies as the results in this study are not in agreement with previous works.
The implications of the study are far-reaching. Establishing the relationships existing between life satisfaction, optimism, and conscientiousness allows different clinicians and practitioners in the healthcare system a chance to improve their handling of clients with low satisfaction with life.
This may most likely involve older adults. Because satisfaction with life in itself is a concept that health-care workers find hard to deal with, finding other personality traits and variables that are related to it enables these workers an alternative in aiding these types of patients. Increasing optimism and improving conscientiousness in an individual can help to increase their satisfaction with life. In addition, increasing the size of the client’s social network will improve their satisfaction with life.
The present study’s findings can also be expanded to teachers in the field of education. Satisfaction of their students can be increased by allowing them to feel more optimistic about their activities also by guiding them to be more conscientious in their behavior. Also, increasing opportunities for students to enlarge their social networks can also help these students improve their feelings of satisfaction with life.
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Relationships between Satisfaction with Life. (2017, Mar 24). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/relationships-between-satisfaction-with-life-essay