Problem Behavior and Life Satisfaction in Early Adolescence: Longitudinal Findings in a Chinese Context

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This study tested the reciprocal relationships between problem behavior (PB) and life satisfaction (LS) as well as the relationships between their trajectories of change. Using a three-wave dataset collected from 3,328 Chinese junior secondary school students in Hong Kong, this study identified bidirectional associations between PB and LS. For PB, while externalizing behavior was indexed by ″delinquent behavior″ and ″problem behavioral intention″, internalizing behavior was indexed by ″deliberate self-harm″ and ″suicidal behavior″. As expected, both types of PB negatively predicted future LS. Besides, changes in PB also negatively predicted changes in LS. While the predictions of externalizing behavior on LS were similar among boys and girls and declined over time, the prediction of internalizing behavior appeared to be stronger and more persistent for boys than for girls. A novel finding was that while earlier LS positively predicted later PB, changes in LS negatively predicted changes in PB over time. The present findings underscore the dynamic relationships between problem behavior and life satisfaction over time and across genders in early adolescent years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2889-2914
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number7
Early online date9 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2021


  • Bidirectional relationship
  • Chinese adolescents
  • Gender difference
  • Life satisfaction
  • Problem behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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