Methods: The data were derived from the third wave of The International Survey of Children’s Well-Being, a worldwide survey of children’s SWB that gathered data from over 128,788 children aged 8, 10, and 12 from 35 states or countries. This study focused on students aged 12 (N= 46,149), as they are entering the period of transition between childhood and adulthood, and facing some big changes in life. Multilevel analyses were conducted. The level-1 model represented the association between personal, family, school, and community factors and SWB, and the level-2 model represented the association between country-level factors and SWB.
Results: The Intraclass Correlation Coefficient was 0.07, suggesting there are differences in early adolescents’ SWB between countries and the majority of variance was in the level-1 model. The results showed that gender, level of social participation, perception of safety, family-child relationships, material deprivation, and family satisfaction, peer relations, teacher-child relations, school victimization, school satisfaction, community quality, and community satisfaction are significant predictors of early adolescents’ SWB. Only the perception of country support fails to be a significant predictor. Among country-level factors, early adolescents’ SWB was negatively associated with GDP per capital, while GINI coefficients and level of democracy were not found to be significant in predicting early adolescents’ SWB.
Conclusions and implications: Our findings provide empirical support for joint influences of individual and country-level factors on early adolescents’ SWB. Specifically, early adolescents who are males, endorse high level of social participation, perceive high level of personal safety, enjoy social relationships with family, peers and teachers, are satisfied with family, school and neighborhood, experience less school bullying and material deprivation, perceive respect from their own country, and reside in countries with lower GDP per capital are more likely to report good SWB. The negative relationship between GDP per capital and early adolescents’ SWB echoed the debate of the relation between material situation in the state level and children’s SWB. Country economic status does not seem to matter much to children’s SWB, so living in wealthier countries cannot warrant the SWB of children. These findings have implications for child social policies locally and internationally. Social policy should invest more in improving important areas and dimensions in children's daily lives, such as families, schools, and communities.