The Contributions of Self-Esteem, Loneliness, and Friendship to Children’s Happiness: The Roles of Gender and Age

  • Roberto BaioccoEmail author
  • Valeria Verrastro
  • Lilybeth Fontanesi
  • Matteo Pio Ferrara
  • Jessica Pistella


Although literature on happiness has focused largely on adults and adolescents, research interest on subjective well-being in children has increasingly grown in recent years. We investigated the contributions of the self-esteem, loneliness, and friendship variables to children’s happiness after taking into account the moderating effects of gender and age. The children responded to questionnaires evaluating their happiness, friendship variables, social self-efficacy, loneliness, and self-esteem whereas the parents reported the children’s behavioral problems and prosocial behavior. The participants were 1363 Italian children aged 7–14 (Mage = 11.12; 52% females) and at least one of their parents (74% mothers). A hierarchical multiple regression showed that higher scores of happiness were associated with younger age, higher socioeconomic status, having a mutual friend, lower levels of loneliness, and higher levels of self-esteem. We found two-way interactions between age and loneliness and between gender and social self-efficacy; simple slope analyses indicated that older children and females scored lower on happiness, compared to younger children and males, when they felt lonely or when they reported low social self-efficacy, respectively. The three-way interactions among age, gender, and self-esteem and among age, gender, and prosocial behavior suggested that older female children with lower self-esteem or those with lower levels of prosocial behavior were less happy than younger females and males were. These results point to the necessity of social policies and school programs that take gender and age differences into account to increase the knowledge of happiness in children. We discuss the research implications and limitations.


Happiness Children Subjective well-being Social relationship Self-esteem Prosocial behavior 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Faculty of Medicine and PsychologySapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Humanities, Social, and HealthUniversity of Cassino and Southern LazioCassinoItaly

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