Judgments of life satisfaction : the role of negativity and life events


Engel, Julia


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URL: https://ub-madoc.bib.uni-mannheim.de/43096
URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-430968
Document Type: Doctoral dissertation
Year of publication: 2017
Place of publication: Mannheim
University: Universität Mannheim
Evaluator: Stahlberg, Dagmar
Date of oral examination: 24 October 2017
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Social Sciences > Mikrosoziologie u. Sozialpsychologie (Bless)
Subject: 150 Psychology
Subject headings (SWD): Glück , Zufriedenheit , Life-event-Forschung , Sozioökonomisches Panel , Sozialpsychologie
Keywords (English): Subjective well-being, life satisfaction, accessibility, life events, SOEP
Abstract: The dissertation addresses the role of negativity and life events in life satisfaction judgments. Specifically, the reported research examined how domain negativity influences the relationship between domain satisfactions and life satisfaction and how the transition into parenthood alters the course of life satisfaction and domain satisfactions over time. The work, thereby, combines both a) nationally representative survey data to demonstrate strong and reliable effects and b) experimental data to examine the underlying psychological mechanism. Based on theorizing on a general negativity bias, Paper 1 investigated whether negative compared to positive domain satisfactions particularly influence life satisfaction judgments. Relying on a nationally representative sample of the German population (Socio-Economic Panel), the findings strongly supported that the more negative the satisfaction, the more pronounced was the relation between the respective domain satisfaction and overall life satisfaction. The pronounced impact emerged when negativity was assessed relative to other domains a) within and b) between participants as well as when negativity was assessed c) relative to prior satisfaction with the same domain. Building on the strong and reliable negativity effect demonstrated in Paper 1, Paper 2 specifically examined whether accessibility serves as an underlying mechanism of the pronounced impact of negative domain satisfactions on life satisfaction. Therefore, accessibility of a specific domain, here health satisfaction, was systematically manipulated in healthy and unhealthy individuals by varying the question order in a self-generated onlinesurvey in which the two satisfaction items (general and health) were assessed. Results demonstrated that accessibility can explain the pronounced impact of domain negativity in life satisfaction judgments. Beside the influence of negativity in specific life domains, life satisfaction can also be influenced by critical life events. Paper 3, therefore, examined the differential effects of transition into parenthood on domain satisfactions and life satisfaction. Using lag and lead regression models in the Socio-Economic Panel, evidence for differential and dynamic effects of childbirth on satisfaction variables appeared, such as reversed u-shaped anticipation and adaptation processes, as well as stable decreases and stable increases. Additionally, gender and women’s employment status strongly modified the satisfaction trajectories. More generally, the dissertation demonstrates that life satisfaction judgments do not necessarily reflect stable judgments, but that those judgments are influenced by domain negativity and by critical life events.

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