Publication - Research and analysis

Growing up in Scotland: life at age 12

Published: 4 Jul 2019
Directorate:
Children and Families Directorate
Part of:
Children and families
ISBN:
9781787818576

Some initial findings about the lives of 12-year-old children living in Scotland, using data collected from the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS).

Growing up in Scotland: life at age 12
Life satisfaction

Life satisfaction

Life satisfaction was measured using selected items from the Students' Life Satisfaction Scale (Huebner, 1991). Children were asked the following four questions:

  • Do you feel that your life is going well?
  • Do you wish your life was different?
  • Do you feel that your life is just right?
  • Do you feel you have what you want in life?
  • Do you feel you have a good life?

Each question had four possible responses: never, sometimes, often or always. Responses to each of these questions were added together to represent their overall life satisfaction. The scale has a minimum score of 5 and a maximum of 20 with a higher number indicating higher life satisfaction. Differences in levels of life satisfaction were explored in relation to a range of children's characteristics and experiences including: gender, BMI and perceptions of body weight, enjoyment of school, peer relationships and experience of bullying, and parent- child relationship.

On average, children scored 16.9 on the scale, indicating a generally high level of life satisfaction[6]. There was no statistically significant difference in the average score for boys and girls.

On average, children scored 16.9 on the life satisfaction scale

On average, children scored 16.9 on the life satisfaction scale

Life satisfaction did not differ notably according to BMI classification - children who were of healthy weight had a relatively similar life satisfaction score as those who were overweight and obese. However, levels of life satisfaction did vary according to the child's perception of their own weight. Children who considered themselves to be the right size reported higher life satisfaction than other children. Those who described themselves as about the right size had an average score of 17.4 compared with a score of 14.8 amongst children who believed they were much too fat.

Children who considered themselves of about the right size reported higher life satisfaction than other children

Life satisfaction Mean
Much too thin 14.7
A bit too thin 16.5
About the right size 17.4
A bit too fat 15.8
Much too fat 14.8

Levels of life satisfaction were also related to children's enjoyment of school, with children who always looked forward to going to school reporting higher life satisfaction than those who never looked forward to school (18.2 compared with 14.8). In addition, life satisfaction was lower than average amongst children with lower educational aspirations. Those who wanted to leave education when they turned 16 scored 15.5 on average, compared with 17.1 for children who wanted to stay on when they turned 16 and 16.9 for all children.

Children who looked forward to school reported a higher than average life satisfaction whilst those who wanted to leave school at age 16 reported a lower than average life satisfaction

Children who looked forward to school reported a higher than average life satisfaction whilst those who wanted to leave school at age 16 reported a lower than average life satisfaction

Children who spent less time on social media or messaging tended to have higher life satisfaction than either those who spent a lot of time or those who spent no time on social media. Those who spent between 30 minutes and 1 hour or 1 to 2 hours on social media or messaging people on an average school day reported the highest life satisfaction scores (averages of 17.3 and 17.2 respectively). In contrast, children who spent 7 or more hours daily reported the lowest average score (15.3) and those who spent no time at all on social media on an average school day had lower than average life satisfaction (16.6).

Children who spent a limited amount of time on social media on an average school day had higher average life satisfaction than those who spent no time or excessive periods of time on social media

None 16.6
Less than half an hour 17.1
Half an hour to less than 1 hour 17.3
1 hour to less than 2 hours 17.2
2 hours to less than 3 hours 17.0
3 hours to less than 5 hours 16.9
5 hours to less than 7 hours 16.4
7 hours or more 15.3

Having positive or negative peer relationships was associated with children's life satisfaction. Children who reported regular experience of any form of bullying tended to have lower life satisfaction than those who did not experience any bullying. For example, children who had been picked on most days had a lower mean life satisfaction (14.6) compared with children who never experienced it (17.5).

Children who experienced the following behaviours most days tended to have lower life satisfaction than those who never experienced that behaviour

Children who experienced the following behaviours most days tended to have lower life satisfaction than those who never experienced that behaviour

Being able to easily make new friends at secondary school was also associated with higher life satisfaction. Children who said making new friends was very easy had an average score of 17.4 compared with a score of 14.9 amongst children who found making new friends very hard. Similarly, children who felt that they could always count on their friends to help them when they had a problem reported higher life satisfaction than those who felt that they could never do so (17.6 compared with 15.2).

Positive parent-child relationships were also associated with higher life satisfaction. Children who were always able to count on their resident mother to help them with a problem reported a higher life satisfaction score than those who were never able to (17.4 compared with 14.6). Similarly, children who could always count on their resident father for assistance with a problem also reported a higher mean than those who never could (17.8 compared with 14.0).

Children who could always count on their resident mother, resident father and friends reported higher life satisfaction scores

Children who could always count on their resident mother, resident father and friends reported higher life satisfaction scores


Contact

Email: GUS@gov.scot