Are the Lower Class Really Unhappy? Social Class and Subjective Well-Being in Chinese Adolescents: Moderating Role of Sense of Control and Mediating Role of Self-Esteem

Abstract

Empirical evidence indicates the links between social class and subjective well-being are numerous and varied, and Need Theory proposes that their relationship depends, in part, on whether people’s basic needs are being met. Given that sense of control is one of the fundamental social needs of human beings, the present research examined a mediated moderation model between the social class and subjective well-being by testing whether sense of control moderates this relationship, and whether this moderating effect is mediated through self-esteem. A sample of 536 Chinese adolescents (mean age = 13.79 years, SD = 0.95) completed anonymous questionnaires about their subjective and objective social class, sense of control, self-esteem, and subjective well-being. Consistent with the hypothesized mediated moderation model, the association between social class and subjective well-being was moderated by sense of control, with social class significantly influencing the subjective well-being of adolescents when their sense of control was low but not high. This moderation effect was then mediated by self-esteem. In addition, this model was found to be more suitable for adolescent boys than girls. The findings demonstrate that adolescents’ personal sense of control and self-esteem represent key mechanisms determining how social class is associated with subjective well-being.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 31371055), the Major Project for Key Research Institutes of Humanities and Social Science by the Ministry of Education (Grant No. 16JJD190007), and the Project Funds on the Planning of Social Sciences in Chongqing (Grant No. 2017BS69).

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Chen, B., Luo, L., Wu, X. et al. Are the Lower Class Really Unhappy? Social Class and Subjective Well-Being in Chinese Adolescents: Moderating Role of Sense of Control and Mediating Role of Self-Esteem. J Happiness Stud 22, 825–843 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00253-5

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Keywords

  • Subjective social class
  • Objective social class
  • Sense of control
  • Self-esteem
  • Subjective well-being
  • Mediated moderation