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The Relationships Among Gratitude, Self-esteem, Social Support and Life Satisfaction Among Undergraduate Students

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Gratitude is a positive psychological characteristic that is connected to well-being. The aim of this study is to examine the effects of both social support and self-esteem in the association between gratitude and life satisfaction among undergraduate students. Four hundred and twenty-seven Chinese undergraduate participants were asked to complete the Gratitude Questionnaire, the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale, the Multi-Dimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Path analysis indicated that social support acted as a full mediator of the association between gratitude and life satisfaction. The identified model also revealed a significant path from gratitude through social support and self-esteem to life satisfaction. Furthermore, a multi-group analysis indicated that males with high gratitude scores are more likely to get greater social support than females, while females with high social support scores tended to report greater life satisfaction than males. The present findings provide valuable guidance for how to implement psychological interventions aimed at enhancing undergraduates’ well-being.
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Journal of Happiness Studies
An Interdisciplinary Forum on
Subjective Well-Being
ISSN 1389-4978
J Happiness Stud
DOI 10.1007/s10902-014-9519-2
The Relationships Among Gratitude, Self-
esteem, Social Support and Life Satisfaction
Among Undergraduate Students
Feng Kong, Ke Ding & Jingjing Zhao
1 23
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RESEARCH PAPER
The Relationships Among Gratitude, Self-esteem, Social
Support and Life Satisfaction Among Undergraduate
Students
Feng Kong Ke Ding Jingjing Zhao
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014
Abstract Gratitude is a positive psychological characteristic that is connected to well-
being. The aim of this study is to examine the effects of both social support and self-
esteem in the association between gratitude and life satisfaction among undergraduate
students. Four hundred and twenty-seven Chinese undergraduate participants were asked
to complete the Gratitude Questionnaire, the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale, the Multi-
Dimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Path
analysis indicated that social support acted as a full mediator of the association between
gratitude and life satisfaction. The identified model also revealed a significant path from
gratitude through social support and self-esteem to life satisfaction. Furthermore, a multi-
group analysis indicated that males with high gratitude scores are more likely to get
greater social support than females, while females with high social support scores tended
to report greater life satisfaction than males. The present findings provide valuable
guidance for how to implement psychological interventions aimed at enhancing under-
graduates’ well-being.
Keywords Gratitude Social support Self-esteem
Satisfaction with life
F. Kong (&)K. Ding
State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing,
China
e-mail: kongfeng87@126.com
J. Zhao (&)
School of Psychology, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China
e-mail: zhaojingjing_31@126.com
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J Happiness Stud
DOI 10.1007/s10902-014-9519-2
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1 Introduction
With the advent of the positive psychology movement, gratitude has drawn much attention
among psychologists from personality, social, clinical, developmental perspectives (e.g.,
Emmons and McCullough 2003; Froh et al. 2008). Gratitude has been defined as a state
and a trait in the literature (e.g. Chen and Kee 2008; Emmons et al. 2003; Watkins et al.
2003). As a state, gratitude can be conceptualized as a subjective feeling of wonder,
thankfulness, and appreciation for life (Emmons and Shelton 2002). It has also been
considered as a complex, higher-level emotion since it requires cognitive sophistication
(Emmons and Shelton 2002). As a dispositional trait, gratitude is understood as a ‘‘virtue’
or characteristic of people, and can vary in intensity, frequency, and span (McCullough
et al. 2002; Wood et al. 2008). People high in dispositional gratitude feel more grateful
following a positive emotion, and experience gratitude more times per day and across a
wider array of life circumstances than those low in dispositional gratitude. Previous studies
have demonstrated that higher levels of trait gratitude are highly related to more intense
experiences of state gratitude in daily life (McCullough et al. 2002). The purposes of the
current study were to replicate the relation between gratitude and life satisfaction and to
expand previous literature by investigating the self-esteem and social support in this
relationship.
1.1 Gratitude and Life Satisfaction
There is a great body of research investigating the relationship between gratitude and life
satisfaction that refers to is defined as a global evaluation of the quality of one’s life and is
regarded as an important component of subjective well-being (Diener et al. 2003). Grat-
itude is thought to have a positive emotional valence, which may be prone to well-being
(McCullough et al. 2002). Numerous empirical studies have shown positive correlations
between gratitude and life satisfaction (e.g., Froh et al. 2009; McCullough et al. 2002; Sun
and Kong 2013; Toussaint and Friedman 2009; Watkins et al. 2003). Moreover, the
positive relationships between gratitude and life satisfaction remain significant after con-
trolling for personality characteristics such as social desirability and affectivity (McCul-
lough et al. 2002). Using two-step hierarchical multiple regression analyses, Wood et al.
(2009) found that gratitude explained an additional 9 % of the variance in life satisfaction
after controlling for the Big Five personality traits. These results support the notion that
gratitude is uniquely important to well-being, above and beyond the effects of personality
characteristics alone. Further, gratitude interventions have been developed to increase
gratitude (e.g., Emmons and McCullough 2003). For example, to induce gratitude, par-
ticipants were instructed to engage in self-guided exercises involving counting their
blessings on a weekly basis for 10 weeks (Emmons and McCullough 2003). Numerous
studies suggest that with an increase in gratitude through interventions, individuals’ life
satisfaction also tended to increase (e.g., Emmons and McCullough 2003; Froh et al. 2008).
1.2 Gratitude, Social Support, Self-esteem and Life Satisfaction
The previous literature is clear that gratitude is associated with life satisfaction, but the
extent to which intervening variables mediate their relationship is relatively less studied
(e.g., Wood et al. 2010).
A review of the literature has identified one promising mediator between gratitude and
life satisfaction is social support. Like other positive emotions, gratitude is believed to
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reflect, motivate, and reinforce social actions in both the giver and gift recipient (Fred-
rickson 2004). Thus, gratitude can build social resources, especially social support from
others. Some theorists have further asserted that individuals with high levels of gratitude
are more likely to perceive, receive, and appreciate social support from others and thus to
experience greater well-being (e.g., McCullough et al. 2002; Wood et al. 2008). This is
supported by a series of empirical studies. On the one hand, grateful people are likely to
perceive greater social support (Froh et al. 2009; Wood et al. 2008). On the other hand,
those who receive more social support from family and friends report greater life satis-
faction (e.g., Kong and You 2013; Kong et al. 2012a,b). Several studies have found that
social support acted as a mediator between gratitude and depression in undergraduate
students, as well as between gratitude and well-being in adolescent athletes (Chen et al.
2012; Wood et al. 2008). Thus, gratitude might be associated with higher levels of life
satisfaction by more social support from others.
Similarly, self-esteem, one’s general sense of his or her value or worth (Rosenberg
1979), may be hypothesized to act as a mediator of the relationship. According to Fred-
rickson’s (2001) ‘‘broaden and build’’ model of positive emotions, positive emotions
broaden people’s momentary repertoires of cognition and behavior, and build their
enduring personal resources. Thus, gratitude could possibly enhance their levels of self-
esteem. Some theorists have claimed that grateful people are more likely to have higher
self-evaluations and thus to experience greater well-being (e.g., McCullough et al. 2002).
Numerous empirical studies have shown that grateful people have a propensity to have
higher levels of self-esteem (Li et al. 2012; Kashdan et al. 2006; Strelan 2007). Moreover,
self-esteem theoretically (e.g., Hermans 1992; Mack 1983) and empirically (e.g., Kong and
You 2013; Kong et al. 2012b; Sedikides et al. 2004) contributes to life satisfaction. Thus,
gratitude is likely to be associated with higher levels of life satisfaction by greater sense of
self-esteem.
In addition, there is a long history in psychological research which has examined the
relationship between social support and self-esteem. Theoretical work has emphasized the
importance of social support as determinants of self-esteem (Mruk 1995; Rosenberg 1979).
Numerous empirical studies have shown that social support significantly predicted one’s
level of self-esteem (e.g., Hoffman et al. 1988; Kong and You 2013; Kong et al. 2012a).
Furthermore, past studies have demonstrated that social support seems to exert an influence
on life satisfaction both directly and indirectly through self-esteem (i.e., Kong and You
2013; Kong et al. 2012a; Yarcheski, Mahon, & Yarcheski, 2001). Therefore, we expected
that in this study self-esteem should mediate the association between social support and life
satisfaction.
1.3 The Current Study
The goal of this study is to test the concurrent mediation effects of social support and
self-esteem on the relationship between gratitude and life satisfaction within personal
and interpersonal frameworks. Considering the link of life satisfaction to social support
(e.g., Kong and You 2013; Kong et al. 2012a,b), and to self-esteem (e.g., Kong and
You 2013; Kong et al. 2012a; Sedikides et al. 2004), and the important role of grat-
itude in life satisfaction (e.g., Emmons and McCullough 2003; Froh et al. 2009;
McCullough et al. 2002; Toussaint and Friedman 2009; Watkins et al. 2003), we
predicted that social support and self-esteem might act as mediators of the relationship.
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Further, previous research has shown that a multi-mediator model may be more
meaningful than a single-mediator model, because it may provide our relative impor-
tance of these mediators. For instance, Park et al. (2010) found that only maladaptive
coping might directly mediate between perfectionism and psychological distress, even
though the mediating effects of maladaptive coping and self-esteem have been exam-
ined separately in the previous literature (Dunn et al. 2006; Rice et al. 1998).
In summary, the current study tested the mediation effects of social support and self-
esteem on the relationship between gratitude and life satisfaction among university stu-
dents. Based on the previous studies, we proposed the following hypotheses: (1) Gratitude
predicted significantly life satisfaction. (2) Social support and self-esteem mediated the
association between gratitude and life satisfaction. (3) Social support mediated the asso-
ciation between gratitude and self-esteem. (4) Self-esteem mediated the association
between gratitude and life satisfaction.
2 Method
2.1 Participants and Procedure
Four hundred and twenty-seven Chinese undergraduates from Shaanxi Normal University
in Mainland China volunteered to participate in the study (mean age =21.01 years,
SD =1.42 years, age range =18–27 years). In the sample, 267 were females, 159 were
males and 1 did not report his/her gender; 225 majored in literal arts, and 196 in science
and 6 did not report his/her major.
A multi-section questionnaire was administered to the participants in a quiet classroom
environment. All the questionnaires administrated in this study were in Chinese language.
The entire study project was completed from mid-November 2012 to mid-December 2012.
We used the cluster sampling method to select the participants from grade one to grade
three in college. Researchers instructed the students who took part in the study, and then
gave the students a set of questionnaires containing the items of the scales. The participants
did not place their names on the measures and the confidentiality of their responses were
assured. It took approximately 15 min for the students to complete all the instruments.
2.2 Measures
2.2.1 Gratitude
Gratitude was measured by the Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ-6, McCullough et al. 2002). It
includes 6 items such as, ‘‘I feel thankful for what I have received in life’’, ‘‘Long amounts
of time can go by before I feel grateful to something or someone’’, and ‘‘I sometimes feel
grateful for the smallest things’’. Each item is answered on a 7-point Likert type scale
ranging from 1 =strongly disagree to 7 =strongly agree. Scale scores are the sum of
items with reverse coding of relevant items. Scores can range from 6–42, with higher
scores indicating higher levels of gratitude. The GQ-6 exhibits excellent psychometric
properties and has been shown to explain unique associations with relevant constructs even
after controlling for Big Five domains and social desirability (McCullough et al. 2002).
The Chinese version of the GQ-6 has been demonstrated to be a reliable and valid mea-
surement in assessing trait gratitude in Chinese populations (e.g., Chen and Kee 2008). In
the present study, the Cronbach alpha coefficient for the GQ-6 was .71.
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2.2.2 Social Support
Social support was measured by the Multi-Dimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support
(MSPSS: Zimet et al. 1988). The MSPSS consists of 12 items, for example ‘‘My family
really tries to help me’’, and ‘‘There is a special person who is around when I am in need’’.
Each item is answered on a 7-point Likert type scale ranging from 1 =strongly disagree to
7=strongly agree. The scale scores for the MSPSS can range from 12 to 84, with higher
scores indicating higher perceived levels of social support. Three separate scores can be
calculated for the sources of support; Significant Other, Family and Friends. In addition,
the total of all items indicates total perceived social support grades. The Chinese version of
the MSPSS has been demonstrated to be a reliable and valid measurement in assessing
social support in Chinese populations (e.g., Kong and You 2013; Kong and Zhao 2013;
Kong et al. 2012a). In the present study, the Cronbach alpha coefficients for the internal
consistency of MSPSS were calculated as .88 for the overall scale, .73 for family, .75 for
friends and .81 for significant other.
2.2.3 Self-esteem
Self-esteem was measured by the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (RSES; Rosenberg 1965),
which is a 10-item self-report measure of global self-esteem. Each item is answered on a
7-point Likert type scale ranging from 1 =strongly disagree to 4 =strongly agree. It
includes items such as, ‘‘I am able to do things as well as most other people.’’ and ‘‘I take a
positive attitude toward myself’’. Scale scores are the sum of items with reverse coding of
relevant items. The scores can range from 10 (low level of self-esteem) to 40 (high level of
self-esteem). A meta-analysis of the scale by Schmitt and Allik (2005) found that the scale
was a very popular test whose validity and reliability tests are used in 53 countries. The
Chinese version of the RSES has been found to be a reliable and valid measurement in
assessing self-esteem in Chinese populations (Kong and You 2013; Zhao et al. 2012,
2013). In the present study, the Cronbach alpha coefficient for the RSES was .83.
2.2.4 Life Satisfaction
Life satisfaction (the cognitive component of subjective well-being) was assessed by the
Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS, Diener et al. 1985) consisting of five items. Each item
is answered on a 7-point Likert type scale ranging from 1 =strongly disagree to
7=strongly agree. It includes items such as, ‘‘I am satisfied with my life’’ and ‘‘In most
ways my life is close to my ideal’’. A total score was obtained by adding up participants’
responses. Scores can range from 5–35, with higher scores indicating more satisfaction
with life. The scale has been proved to exhibit excellent psychometric properties in Chi-
nese populations (e.g., Kong and You 2013; Kong and Zhao 2013; Kong et al. 2014). In the
present study, the Cronbach alpha coefficient for the SWLS was .79.
2.3 Data Analysis
The two-step procedure recommended by Anderson and Gerbing (1988) was adopted to
analyze the mediation effects. The measurement model was first tested to assess the extent
to which each of the latent variables was represented by its indicators. If the measurement
model was accepted, then test the structural model via the maximum likelihood estimation
in AMOS 17.0 program. In order to control for inflated measurement errors due to multiple
Gratitude, Self-esteem, Social Support and Life Satisfaction
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items for the latent variable, we divided the items for each of each of the gratitude, the self-
esteem and life satisfaction factors into three parcels to serve as indicators of the factors
using an item-to-construct balance approach (i.e., successively assigning highest and
lowest loading items across parcels; Little et al. 2002).
The following four indices were used to evaluate the goodness of fit of the model (Hu
and Bentler 1999): Chi square statistics, standardized root-mean-square residual (SRMR)
of .08 or less, root-mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA) of .06 or less, and
comparative fit index (CFI) above .95. Two indices that are proposed to measure the
parsimony of the model are also reported: parsimony goodness of fit index (PGFI) and
parsimony normed fit index (PNFI). Values of PGFI and PNFI range from 0 to 1.00 with a
value above .70 indicating a good fit (a parsimonious model) (Jo
¨reskog and Sorbom 1989).
To compare two or more models, we additionally examined Akaike Information Criterion
(AIC: Akaike 1987) with smaller values representing a better fit of the hypothesized model
and expected cross-validation index (ECVI: Browne and Cudeck 1993) with the smallest
values exhibiting the greatest potential for replication.
3 Results
3.1 Measurement Model
The measurement model consisted of four latent factors (gratitude, social support, self-
esteem, and life satisfaction) and 12 observed variables. An initial test of the measurement
model revealed a satisfactory fit to the data: v
2
(48, N =427) =65.11, p[.05;
v
2
/df =1.36; RMSEA =.029 [90 CI: .002–.046]; SRMR =.029; and CFI =.99. All the
factor loadings for the indicators on the latent variables were significant (p\.001),
indicating that all the latent factors were well represented by their respective indicators.
Means, standard deviations, and correlations between gratitude, social support, self-
esteem, and life satisfaction are presented in Table 1. As Table 1indicated, higher levels
of gratitude were positively associated with more perceived social support, greater self-
esteem and greater life satisfaction, which is consistent with previous studies (e.g., Em-
mons and McCullough 2003; Froh et al. 2009; Kashdan et al. 2006; Li et al. 2012;
McCullough et al. 2002; Toussaint and Friedman 2009; Watkins et al. 2003; Wood et al.
2008). Higher levels of life satisfaction were associated with and more social support and
greater self-esteem which is in line with previous studies (e.g., Kong et al. 2012a,b; Kong
and You 2013; Sedikides et al. 2004).
3.2 Test of the Mediation Model
The direct path coefficient from the predictor (gratitude) to the criterion (life satisfaction,
b=.23, p\.01) in the absence of mediators was significant. A partially-mediated model
(Model 1) with two mediators and a direct path from gratitude to life satisfaction revealed a
good fit to the data (Table 2). However, the standardized path coefficient from gratitude to
life satisfaction became non-significant (b=-.14, p[.05). Thus, a fully-mediated model
(Model 2) was tested subsequently with this path constrained to zero, which revealed a
satisfactory fit to the data: v
2
(50, N =427) =112.96, p\.001; v
2
/df =2.26;
RMSEA =.054 [90 CI: .039–.066]; SRMR =.074; and CFI =.96. No significant Chi
square difference existed when comparing Model 1 to Model 2, Dv2 (1, N =427) =3.20,
p[.05. Although there was no great difference between both the models according to the
F. Kong et al.
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fit indices, the parsimony of Model 2 suggested that the fit of Model 2 was more
satisfactory.
To find the best model, a path from social support to self-esteem was added to the fully-
mediated model (Model 3) based on the previous studies reporting self-esteem acted as a
mediator between social support and well-being (Kong and You 2013; Kong et al. 2012, b)
and the results showed a very good fit to the data (Table 2). The significant Chi square
difference was obtained when comparing Model 2 to Model 3, Dv
2
(1, N =427) =45.77,
p\.001, as well as the smaller AIC and ECVI, indicated that this additional path sig-
nificantly contributed to the model. However, the standardized path coefficient from
gratitude to self-esteem became non-significant (b=.12, p[.05). Thus, the path was
removed and Model 4 was tested. No significant Chi square difference was found when
comparing Model 3 to Model 4, Dv
2
(1, N =427) =3.01, p[.05. Although there was no
great difference between Model 3 and Model 4 according to the fit indices, the parsimony
of Model 4 suggested that Model 4 was more satisfactory. The significant Chi square
difference was obtained when comparing Model 4 to Model 2, Dv
2
(1, N =427) =42.76,
p\.001, as well as the smaller AIC and ECVI, indicated that Model 4 was more satis-
factory. Taken together, Model 4 was selected as the best model (Fig. 1).
Bootstrapping procedures were used to test the significance of the partially-mediated
model. Bootstrapping has the advantage that it does not impose distributional assumptions,
since the assumption that the indirect effect is normally distributed is often violated (e.g.,
Shrout and Bolger 2002). Bootstrapping is a procedure in which a number of samples (e.g.
1,000) are taken from the original data by random sampling with replacement. The indirect
effect in each of these bootstrap samples is computed. We generated 1,000 bootstrapping
samples from the original data set (N =427) by random sampling. Table 3displays the
indirect effects and their associated 95 % confidence intervals. As shown in Table 3,grat-
itude exerted significant indirect effect on life satisfaction via social support and self-esteem.
Self-esteem exerted significant indirect effect on life satisfaction via social support.
3.3 Gender Differences
We found no statistically significant gender differences in life satisfaction, social support
and self-esteem but females significantly scored higher than males on gratitude.
Multi-group analysis was used to identify whether the path coefficients differ signifi-
cantly between females and males. As Byrne (2001) recommended, we first tested for
Table 1 Descriptive statistics and zero-order correlations for all measures
Measure M SD Range 1 2 3 4 5 6
Gender
a
1
Major -.26** 1
Gratitude 33.02 5.27 6–42 -.12* -.09 1
RSES 30.21 4.45 10–40 -.01 -.11* .33** 1
MSPSS 62.33 12.44 12–84 .07 -.16** .47** .50** 1
SWLS 18.03 5.85 5–35 -.08 -.09 .19** .44** .52** 1
MSPSS Multi-dimensional scale of perceived social support, RSES Rosenberg self-esteem scale, SWLS Satisfaction
with life scale
a
Gender is coded 1 =male, 2 =female. Major is coded 1 =arts, 2 =science
*p\.05; ** p\.001
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invariance of the measurement models across gender before constraining path coefficients,
and found non-significant Chi square differences between the two models, Dv
2
(8,
N=427) =15.06, p[.05. Further, we compared the first model, which allows the
Table 2 Fit Indices among competing models
v
2
df RMSEA SRMR CFI PGFI PNFI AIC ECVI
Model 1 109.76 49 .054 .071 .97 .72 .70 191.76 .45
Model 2 112.96 50 .054 .074 .96 .73 .70 192.96 .45
Model 3 67.19 49 .030 .031 .99 .74 .71 149.19 .35
Model 4 70.20 50 .031 .034 .99 .74 .71 150.20 .35
N=351. RMSEA root-mean-square error of approximation, SRMR, standardized root-mean-square resid-
ual, CFI comparative fit index, PGFI parsimony goodness of fit index, PNFI parsimony normed fit index,
AIC Akaike information criterion, ECVI expected cross-validation index
Fig. 1 The mediation model (N =351) Note. Factor loadings are standardized. GQ1–GQ3 are three
parcels of gratitude; SE1–SE3 = three parcels of self-esteem; LS1–LS3 are three indices of life satisfaction;
SS_F,SS_O and SS_FA are the subscales of the Multi-Dimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. All
the path coefficients are significant at the .001 level
Table 3 Standardized indirect effects and 95 % confidence intervals
Model pathways Estimated 95 % CI
Lower Upper
Gratitude?Social support?life satisfaction .17
a
.07 .31
Gratitude?Social support?Self-esteem .18
a
.07 .32
Social support?Self-esteem?life satisfaction .10
a
.02 .23
a
Empirical 95 % confidence interval does not overlap with zero
F. Kong et al.
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structural paths to vary across sexes, with the second model, which constrains the structural
paths between females and males to be equal to examine the gender differences. All the
other paths (i.e., factor loadings, error variances and structure covariances) were con-
strained to be equal. We found non-significant Chi square differences between the two
models, Dv
2
(4, N =427) =8.65, p[.05, indicating that the final model was not found
to differ by gender. We also calculated the critical ratios of differences (CRD) by dividing
the difference between two estimates by an estimate of the standard error of the difference
(Arbuckle 2003). A CRD greater than 1.96 indicates that there is a significant difference
between the two parameter estimates at p\.05. The structural path from gratitude to
social support was identified to be significantly different; CRD =1.99, p\.05. The path
coefficient for males (b=.59, p\.001) was greater than the coefficient for females
(b=.41, p\.001), indicating that males with high gratitude scores are more likely to get
greater social support than females. The structural path from social support to life satis-
faction was identified to be significantly different; CRD =-2.25, p\.05. The path
coefficient for females (b=.49, p\.001) was greater than the coefficient for females
(b=.26, p\.05), indicating that females with high social support scores are more likely
to get greater life satisfaction than males.
3.4 Major Differences
We found no statistically significant major differences in gratitude but males significantly
scored higher than females on social support and self-esteem. Multi-group analysis was
also used to identify whether the path coefficients differ significantly between students
majoring in the arts and science. We found non-significant Chi square differences between
the two models, Dv
2
(4, N =427) =4.70, p[.05. Further CRD analysis indicated that no
structural path was identified to be significantly different.
4 Discussion
The present study aimed at testing the important role of social support and self-esteem in
the association between gratitude and life satisfaction during emerging adulthood. In line
with our expectations, the specific indirect effect of gratitude on life satisfaction via social
support was significant in emerging adults. That is, emerging adults with higher levels of
gratitude had a propensity to perceive greater social support from others, which may
contribute to an increase in their life satisfaction. This is in line with the previously
reported mediating model of social support. For example, Wood et al. (2008) found social
support mediated the association between gratitude and depression in undergraduate stu-
dents. Chen et al. (2012) found that gratitude might enhance athletes’ well-being by getting
more social support from their coaches and teammates. Fredrickson (2001) ‘‘broaden and
build’’ model of positive emotions provides a framework for understanding how gratitude
might have beneficial effects on well-being. This model hypothesizes that positive emo-
tions broaden people’s momentary repertoires of cognition and behavior, build their
enduring social and personal resources, and ‘‘undo’’ the adverse physiological effects of
negative emotions.
The best model from the current study did not support the mediating effect of self-
esteem between gratitude and life satisfaction. One clue that might help to explain this
result is the significant path of gratitude?social support?self-esteem?life satisfaction.
This path indicates that grateful people are prone to perceive high levels of social support
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from others, which may enhance their self-esteem and in turn, may result in a satisfactory
life. In other words, self-esteem is a mediator between social support and life satisfaction
rather than a mediator between gratitude and life satisfaction, and social support is a
mediator between gratitude and self-esteem. The mediating effect of social support is in
line with the previously reported findings. Numerous studies have shown that grateful
people are likely to perceive greater social support from others (e.g., Wood et al. 2008);
those who perceive more social support tend to have higher levels of self-esteem (Kong
and You 2013; Kong et al. 2012a,b). The mediating effect of self-esteem is consistent with
recently reported self-esteem as a mediator of the association between social support and
life satisfaction in Chinese university students (Kong and You 2013; Kong et al. 2012 b).
We also indicated that females were more grateful than males. This is in accordance
with the previous studies that report females had higher scores than males on tests of
gratitude (Chen 2013; Froh et al. 2009; Kashdan et al. 2009). This is probably because
males consider the experience and expression of gratitude as evidence of vulnerability and
weakness, which may threaten their masculinity and social status (Levant and Kopecky
1995). In addition, the final model did not differ by gender, indicating that males and
females have the same mechanism underlying the relationship between gratitude and life
satisfaction. However, we found males with high gratitude scores were more apt to get
more social support than females. This is consistent with the study by Froh et al. (2009).
This may be partially account for by the androgyny hypothesis. According to the
hypothesis, psychologically androgynous individuals who possess both masculine and
feminine characteristics are optimally healthy than sex-typed individuals who possess
mainly masculine or feminine characteristics (Lefkowitz and Zeldow 2006). Thus, males
might get more benefit from the experience and expression of gratitude that is viewed as a
feminine characteristic. In addition, females with high levels of social support are more
likely to perceive greater life satisfaction than males. This is consistent with the findings of
Cheng and Chan (2006). They found that the effect of social support on self-rated health
was stronger for females than for males. The gender difference may reflect cultural dif-
ferences. According to Chinese general traditional ideas, because of social role expecta-
tions and practice, men pay more attention to and spend more time on their career
development whereas women pay more attention to and spend more time on their family
and interpersonal relations.
Several important limitations of the present study must be mentioned. The first limi-
tation is that the study was a cross-sectional design such that the temporal sequence of the
independent variables, mediator, and dependent variables cannot be verified (Maxwell and
Cole 2007; Maxwell et al. 2011). Longitudinal studies should be needed in order to draw
any conclusions about the causality or directionality of the relationships between gratitude,
self-esteem, social support and life satisfaction. The second limitation is that the data relied
exclusively on self-report measures. Although the measures were selected for their good
reliability and validity, self-report measures are subjective by nature and vulnerable to bias,
e.g., social desirability. The use of multiple methods for evaluation (e.g., peer reports) may
decrease the influence of subjectivity. The third limitation is that this sample was drawn
from a university population, which limits the extent to which these findings can be
generalized within the Chinese culture.
Despite these limitations, there are several important contributions in this study. The
current study substantially extended our insight into a complicated interplay among
gratitude, social support, self-esteem and life satisfaction among Chinese university stu-
dents (McCullough et al. 2002). The findings provide external validity for the social
support mediated model in China, underscoring the key role of social support. The
F. Kong et al.
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significant path from gratitude through social support and self-esteem to life satisfaction
shed light on the underlying mechanisms between gratitude and life satisfaction. The
present findings may reflect the cultural differences (i.e., collectivist and individualist), so
future research need use cross-cultural samples to confirm the findings. In consideration of
the probable mechanisms, these findings may provide valuable guidance for how to
implement positive psychological interventions aimed at enhancement of human well-
being. The cultivation of gratitude may work as a preventive therapy to help individuals
increase their well-being in the future. It may also function as an active therapy by helping
them gain social support from others and enhance their self-esteem. Moreover, although no
significant differences in the final model was obtained, the gender differences in some
structural paths suggest that distinct types of positive psychology interventions for grati-
tude among males or females may be considered for use in the psychological services.
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... This gives adolescents a reason to feel as if the situation is not that bad after bullying victimization, and therefore, they may not spend more time thinking about it, blaming themselves, or immersing in depression, greatly reducing the probability of NSSI. Third, grateful people have stronger social support, which are vital resources for victims looking for help [47,48]. Taken together, gratitude is regarded as a protective factor against negative experiences and psychological difficulties [49,50]. ...
... These findings suggest that gratitude and parental autonomy support can manifest in a compensatory interaction pa ern to prevent NSSI for adolescent victims. In agreement with previous research [42,43,47], adolescents with lower gratitude usually perceive less social support, more negative emotions, and poor coping skills. In this context, adolescents with higher parental autonomy support take unfavorable conditions as a challenge, seek help from parents, and employ positive strategies to cope with the stress associated with victimization. ...
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Drawing on the resilience-oriented socioecological framework, the current study contributes to scarce scholarship by exploring intrapersonal (i.e., gratitude) and interpersonal (i.e., parental autonomy support) factors in the longitudinal association between bullying victimization and adolescent non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Participants were 238 Chinese adolescents (Mage at Time 1 (T1) = 13.45 years; 106 girls and 132 boys) based on a two-wave prospective design with data spanning one year. At T1, adolescents self-rated all study variables, and at Time 2 (T2), youth again reported their NSSI. The results showed a significant main effect (b = 0.12, SE = 0.05, p = 0.04), indicating that bullying victimization was positively related to T2 NSSI one year later, even controlling for T1 NSSI. Moderation analyses further indicated that parental autonomy support buffered against the positive association between bullying victimization and T2 NSSI, but only when adolescents experienced lower levels of gratitude. Specifically, for adolescents with lower levels of gratitude, high levels of parental autonomy support, in a compensatory way, prevented adolescents from NSSI after victimization occurred (b = −0.03, SE = 0.09, p = 0.78); by contrast, for those with higher levels of gratitude, bullying victimization was not significantly related to T2 NSSI, regardless of the levels of parental autonomy support (b = 0.07, SE = 0.04, p = 0.59 for higher parental autonomy support; b = 0.01, SE = 0.07, p = 0.93 for lower parental autonomy support). These findings suggest that gratitude and parental autonomy support, manifesting in a compensatory interaction pattern, could serve as targeted agents for breaking the vicious linkage between bullying victimization and NSSI.
... Several empirical studies have shown a relationship between gratitude and various psychological aspects such as higher mental health (McCullough, Tsang and Emmons, 2002;Unanue, et al, 2019). Gratitude has also been linked to life satisfaction in general (Kong et al, 2015;Fincham and May, 2020), satisfaction with family, satisfaction at school, optimism, and positive influence among high school students (Froh, Yurkewicz, and Kashdan, 2009). The research conducted by Fan, Emmons, Bono, Huebner and Watkins, (2011) in grades 9 to 12 showed that gratitude is a significant predictor of academic achievement, life satisfaction, social integration, and absorption and lower levels of malice and depression, even after the potential effects of participant's age, gender, ethnicity, and acceptance of special education services were statistically controlled (Froh, Emmons, et al., 2011). ...
... This coping mechanism is important in building a list of positive thoughts allowing one to show defense in the hard times (Watkins, 2004), such as infertility in a spouse. Gratitude is connected with the increasing satisfaction and encouraging positive behavior in relationships (Algoe, Gable, and Maisel, 2010;Barlette and DeSteno, 2006;Kong et al, 2015;Unanue et al, 2017;Algoe, 2019;Fincham and May, 2020). ...
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... In fact, the individual needs to be satisfied with what he/she has. Life satisfaction is influenced by gratitude and social support (Kong, Ding, and Zhao 2015;Wood, Joseph, and Maltby 2008). Surely, in this relationship there is a causal relationship and mutually beneficial to each other. ...
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... Benlik kavramı davranış bilimciler tarafından varoluşsal açıdan insanları farklı kılan ve onları birbirinden ayıran temel bir olgu şeklinde tanımlanmıştır (Arıcak, 1999). Bireyin kendisini bilinçli şekilde tanımlaması ve değerlendirmesi ile kendine ait olumlu veya olumsuz tüm unsurların farkındalığı benlik olarak ifade edilmiştir (Kong, Ding, Zhao, 2015). Benlik kavramının, çevresel ve bireysel etkileşimler neticesinde kişinin bireysel özelliklerinin farkına vardığı, yaşamsal deneyimler neticesinde elde ettiği özelliklerin algısal şeması olduğu belirtilmiştir (Rogers, 1951). ...
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... It is one of the positive psychology concepts that employees can apply in the workplace (Beck, 2016;Cortini et al., 2019). This concept is relevant to employee well-being and functioning as it has increased life satisfaction (Kong et al., 2015;Yildirim & Alanazi, 2018) and individual self-esteem (L. H. Chen & Wu, 2014;Lin, 2015). ...
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... The presence of perceived social support (PSS) has been shown to be associated with LS in neurotypical populations (Kong et al., 2015). Given its relationship with well-being, PSS has been examined in individuals with ASD. ...
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