Life satisfaction

Scale: Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale – Peabody Treatment Progress Battery

What it measures:

  • A youth’s reported overall life satisfaction; it also provides a profile of feelings of satisfaction across five different life domains (family, friends, school, self, and living environment).

Intended age range: 8- to 18-year-olds.

Brief description: This measure consists of 6 items. Sample items include “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your family life?” and “How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your life overall?” Response choices are Very dissatisfied, Somewhat dissatisfied, Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, Somewhat satisfied, and Very satisfied.

Rationale: A number of developmentally-appropriate measures of life satisfaction exist for children and adolescents. The Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale, however, is unique because in addition to assessing global life satisfaction it provides a profile of feelings of satisfaction across different life domains. This information may be useful in mentoring programs for identifying areas in which a youth is most in need of additional encouragement or support. As an evaluation tool, the domain-specific satisfaction ratings also may enhance sensitivity to benefits of mentoring that otherwise could be missed (e.g., improved feelings of satisfaction with friends or school).

Cautions: Because levels of satisfaction with particular life domains are assessed based on answers to single items, these are likely to be less reliable than the total score on the measure. It should also be kept in mind that ratings on this and other measures of life satisfaction are susceptible to social desirability bias (i.e., a tendency to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others). For this reason, scores obtained may indicate a higher level of life satisfaction than is actually the case.

Special administration information: None.

How to score: Each item is scored from 1 (Very dissatisfied) to 5 (Very satisfied). The total score on the measure is obtained by averaging across all items.

How to interpret findings: According to the developers of the measure, a total score greater than 4.5 is considered high, while a score less than 3.3 is considered low. However, these guidelines are based on validation research with youth receiving mental health services and thus should be utilized with this caveat in mind.

Access and permissions: The measure is available for non-commercial use with no charge and can be accessed online here. A Spanish language version can be found here.

Alternatives: Those interested in a more robust assessment of feelings of life satisfaction may want to consider using the full Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale. This 40-item measure assesses life satisfaction in each domain based on answers to multiple questions rather than just one. Briefer measures of overall life satisfaction are also available. These include a 3-item measure for adolescents from Child Trends and a 1-item visual analogue measure from the Health Behaviors in School-Age Children Survey that has been used with youth ages 11 and older.

Citation: Athay, M. M., Douglas Kelley, S., & Dew-Reeves, S. E. (2012). Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale – PTPB Version (BMSLSS-PTPB): Psychometric properties and relationship with mental health symptom severity over time. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 39, 30–40.

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