The Psychological Record, 2007, 57, 233-240
saTisFaCTion WiTh liFE and hoPE: a looK aT aGE and maRiTal sTaTus Thomas C. BailEY C. R. snYdER
University of Maryland University College
University of Kansas, Lawrence
The adult Trait hope scale (snyder et al., 1991) typically has been administered to samples of college students, and previous researchers have not explored key demographic variables. in a large sample of community persons who were not in college (N = 215), significant differences were detected in hope scale scores across differing age groups and marital status. specifically, hope was lower for the older cohort (age 54-65) and for those who were separated, divorced, or widowed. Comparative results between hope and satisfaction with life measures indicate somewhat similar outcomes, except with age. These findings are discussed.
a myriad of factors can contribute to whether or not individuals perceive that they are satisfied with their lives. Pavot and diener (1993) identified two components, affective and cognitive. Bailey, Eng, Frisch, and snyder (2006) found that hope is a unique predictor of an individual’s life satisfaction. a number of researchers have also found significant relationships between subjective well-being (satisfaction with life) and marital status (see diener, Gohm, suh, & oishi, 2000). however, to date very little has been published on individual demographic characteristics and hope. Satisfaction with Life diener, Emmons, larsen, and Griffin (1985) proposed a cognitivejudgmental model to measure subjective well-being. Because of the numerous studies focusing on the affective component of subjective well-being, diener et al. designed the satisfaction with life scale (sWls) to measure an individual’s “overall judgment of their life” (pp. 71-72). additionally, the sWls was designed to measure an individual’s evaluation of their life in “comparison with a standard which each individual sets for him or herself; it is not externally imposed” (p. 71). arrindell, meeuwesen, and huyse (1991) reported that marital status was a factor in an individual’s perception of subjective well-being. age and sex were not related to satisfaction with life (arrindell et al., 1991; Pavot & diener, 1993; myers & diener, 1995).
Correspondence may be sent to Thomas C. Bailey, 3501 university Blvd., East; department of Psychology, university of maryland university College, adelphi, md 20783.
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Hope defining hope as a pattern of thinking in which a person has both the capacities to find routes to desired goals (called pathways thinking) and the motivation to use those routes (called agency thinking), snyder et al. (1991) developed and validated a trait self-report index called the hope scale. higher scores on the hope scale have related reliably to superior outcomes in academics, sports, health, and psychotherapy (see Cheavens, Gum, & snyder, 2000; snyder, 2002). no discernable hope scale score differences were found between sexes or ethnicities (snyder, 1994; snyder et al., 1991). as is the case with many studies in psychology, the majority of researchers administered the hope scale to college students. in this regard, several writers have noted that the use of convenience samples limits the generalization of research findings (see Curry, snyder, Cook, Ruby, & Rehm, 1997; magaletta & oliver, 1999; mertens, 2005). Therefore, the present study explored the hope scale and sWls responses of a heterogeneous community sample of people. despite the increase of research using the hope scale, very little attention has been paid to specific participant characteristics beyond the variables of sex and ethnicity (see snyder, 1995, 2000). in the present study, therefore, we examined two important demographic variables— age and marital status. First, we investigated the differences in the overall hope scale scores and differences specifically related to the agency and Pathways subscales as a function of age. although we had no a priori hypotheses regarding potential age difference as related to hope scores, researchers have generally found that older adults experience less hope (e.g., Benzein & Berg, 2005; Esbensen, Østerlind, Roer, & hallberg, 2004; Westburg, 2001). Ferraro and neisius (2002) noted that there was no significant difference with younger middle-aged participants, (M = 43.2, SD = 15.9), and hope scores. additionally, this is the first investigation of the agency and Pathways subscales and age. second, we compared the overall hope scores and agency and Pathways subscales of married people to people with other marital status’ (i.e., single, separated/ divorced/widowed). Borrowing from previous studies showing that married people appear to be happier than their nonmarried counterparts (see diener, 2000; Kahneman, diener, & schwartz, 1999; lykken, 1999), we predicted that analogous findings would emerge for self-reported hope (i.e., married people would have the highest hope). method Participants and Procedures Participants (N = 215) were solicited through direct approach, e-mail messages to listserv addresses, and fliers posted on bulletin boards in a mid-atlantic university. Eligibility to participate was limited to individuals who were not currently enrolled in college courses. Participants were predominantly female (58.6%), married (66%), Caucasian (70.2%) and
hoPE and saTsiFaCTion WiTh liFE Table 1 demographic Characteristics of Participants variable age (n = 214) 18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+ Gender (n = 211) male Female Ethnicity (n = 213) Caucasian african-american latino native american asian-american other marital status (N = 215) married or living as married single, never married separated/divorced/widowed N 16 38 51 56 34 19 85 126 151 41 7 6 5 3 142 44 29 %
7.5 17.7 23.7 26 15.8 8.8 39.5 58.6 70.2 19.1 3.3 2.8 2.3 1.4 66 20.5 13.5
generally older than populations in previous studies (i.e., 49.7% were between 35-54 years old). see Table 1 for demographic characteristics. The instruments took approximately 15 minutes to complete. no incentives were offered and informed consent complied with federal, state, and institutional regulations. Materials demographic questions were asked to determine age, education level, ethnicity, gender, and marital status. Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS). a 5-item instrument designed to measure overall life satisfaction based on individual perceptions of subjective well-being (diener et al., 1985). The sWls uses 7-point likerttype response scales, 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). The five items are summed for an overall satisfaction with life scale score. high scores indicate the individual is generally more satisfied with his or her life. Cronbach’s alphas ranged from .79 to .89 and 2-, 10-weeks, 1-, 2months, and 4-years test-retest reliabilities were .83, .50, .84, .64/.82, and .54, respectively (Pavot & diener, 1993). Adult Trait Hope Scale (AHS). The ahs (snyder et al., 1991) was designed to measure the reciprocal interaction between goal-directed thoughts (agency) and goal-directed actions (pathways). The scale comprises 12 items using likert-type response scales of 1 (definitely false) to 4 (definitely true). The two subscales (agency and pathways) use four items each; moreover, four additional items are used as distracters. The two subscales
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are summed to create an overall hope score. high scores on the overall hope scale and agency and Pathways subscales indicate individuals are more hopeful, more motivated to achieve their goals, and more capable of designing means to achieve their goals. across several studies internal reliability alphas for the overall hope scale have ranged from .74 to .84, agency subscale between .70 and .84, and Pathways subscale between .63 and .86. Test-retest reliabilities for 3-, 8-, and 10-weeks were .85, .73, and .76, respectively (Cheavens et al., 1991; snyder et al., 1991). Results internal reliability of the hope scale (.85), agency subscale (.77), Pathways subscale (.77), and sWls (.85) were well within the alpha ranges found in previous studies; moreover, the alphas all were over .70 and are acceptable for research purposes (see nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients (two-tailed) indicated significant (ps < .001) positive relationships with sWls and overall hope scores, r(212) = .51, and agency and Pathways subscale scores, rs(212) = .58 and .34, respectively. using an independent samples t test (two-tailed), no differences were found between men and women in hope scores, t(209) = .16, p = .87, and sWls scores, t(209) = .44, p = .66. using an independent samples t test (two-tailed), no differences were found between african-americans and Caucasians in hope scale scores, t(190) = 1.35, p = .18, and sWls scores, t(190) = -1.95, p = .08. latino, native american, asian-american, and other ethnic responses were excluded because of small sample size. using a one-way analysis of variance, significant differences were detected in the total hope scores across ages, F(5, 208) = 4.46, p = .001, η2 = .10. a Tukey’s hsd analysis revealed that three younger age groups (25-34, M = 26.39, SD = 3.80; 35-44, M = 25.94, SD = 3.02; and 45-54, M = 25.52, SD = 3.38) were more hopeful than participants between the ages of 55 to 64 (M = 23.00, SD = 5.29). The agency and Pathways subscale scores were mixed. although the results of agency subscale scores initially indicated a significant difference, F(5, 208) = 2.54, p = .03, analysis of a Tukey’s hsd did not reveal any differences between the groups. The Pathways subscale scores results indicated significant differences across ages, F(5, 208) = 5.26, p < .001, η2 = .11, a Tukey’s hsd analysis of the Pathways subscale scores revealed that the same three younger age groups (25-34, M = 13.29, SD = 2.32; 35-44, M = 13.24, SD = 1.58; and 45-54, M = 12.98, SD = 1.95), similar to the overall hope scale scores, reported a greater ability to identify ways to achieve their goals than the age 55 to 64 participants (M = 11.24, SD = 2.86). There were no significant differences between age groups and sWls scores, F(5, 208) = 1.07, p = .38. a one-way analysis of variance indicated significant differences between hope scale scores across marital status, F(2, 212) = 9.31, p < .001, η2 = .08. moreover, both the agency and Pathways subscale
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scores differed across marital status, F(2, 212) = 7.98, p < .001, η2 = .07 and F(2, 212) = 7.02, p = .001, η2 = .06, respectively. a Tukey’s hsd analysis revealed that participants who were married or living as married (M = 25.57, SD = 3.30) or who were single/never married (M = 25.29, SD = 4.65) were more hopeful than those participants who were separated/ divorced/widowed (M = 22.07, SD = 5.46). Results regarding the agency and Pathways subscales scores similarly indicated that married (M = 12.70, SD = 1.87; M = 12.87, SD = 1.89) and single (M = 12.40, SD = 2.64; M = 12.89, SD = 2.57) individuals were more motivated and capable of goal achievement than separated/divorced/widowed (M = 10.89, SD = 2.81; M = 11.18, SD = 3.14). additionally, significant differences between sWls scores were noted, F(2, 212) = 8.93, p < .001, η2 = .08. however, only those individuals who were married or living as married (M = 24.99, SD = 6.34) were more satisfied with life than those who were separated/ divorced/widowed (M = 19.54, SD = 6.72). Because the sample sizes of separated or divorced and widowed responses were small, these categories were collapsed (n = 29) into one group which reflected a loss of a significant other. no differences were noted between single/never married individuals and the two other groups. discussion Correlations between the sWls and overall hope scale scores indicated that people who are satisfied with their life are also hopeful. The differences between sWls and the agency and Pathways scores indicate that the will, “a sense of successful determination in meeting goals in the past, present, and future” (snyder et al., 1991, p. 570) appears to be more related. snyder et al. conceptualized that “hope in the present context is not a goal-related state that is objectively defined according to sources external to the person, but rather is an enduring disposition that is subjectively defined” (p. 571). This subjective comparison is similar in construct to the subjective well-being of diener et al. (1985). individuals can be currently satisfied with their lives according to their established standards without considering ways that they will further accomplish their life goals. sex and ethnicity findings in this study were similar to those previously reported. Future research should include a larger sample size of ethnicities to allow comparisons. similar to the findings of other researchers, we detected age-related differences of overall hope scale scores. individuals 55 to 64 were overall less hopeful; additionally, we found that they are less capable of determining how they would achieve their goals (pathways thinking) than younger age cohorts. Ferraro and neisius (2002) did not find any difference in hope scale scores with middle-aged individuals possibly due to their status as caregivers—which may be the mitigating factor. When someone has to care for another it may lessen hopeful traits. Participants who are approaching middle age or who are on the cusp
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of the baby boom generation reported being more hopeful than the baby boomers who are approaching retirement. The “psychological recession” may account for these differences, as people age they may become more concerned with health problems and availability of resources for retirement, and, therefore, their goal-directed thinking may be fading (snyder, 2000). The results did not indicate that one age group was less determined as reflected in their agency subscale scores, than another age group. as the baby boomers grow older their life goals may be changing. Their children may have finished college and have moved out of the house (i.e., empty nests). They may have attained previously set career goals or may be starting to question whether those goals are worth the continued efforts. additionally, personal health or that of a parent or significant other (see Westburg, 2001) and retirement concerns may preoccupy their thinking, thereby creating artificial or perhaps real barriers to the goals. another potential influence may be the realization that established goals and the perceived pathways to attain those goals may be blocked by external forces (e.g., economic trends, world events, etc.). although hope may be perceived to be stymied, similar to the findings of arrindell et al. (1991), no age group was found to be more satisfied with their life than another. an individual’s marital status also appears to be implicated in levels of reported hope. Two-thirds of the study participants were either married or living as married which is significantly larger sample size than previous hope studies included. although participants were not specifically asked how long they were in committed relationships, it is possible that many have been involved for a number of years. as snyder (1994) has noted, being in an enduring relationship with an important other may foster “hopeful thinking” (p. 297). married or living as married and single (never married) participants reported to be more hopeful than those who were separated, divorced, or widowed. additionally both groups reported higher scores on both subscales of the hope scale. There were no notable differences between those who were married and those who were single. snyder (1994, 2002) found that a loss of a partner, whether through death or unwanted separation, can result in diminished hope. When the support from the relationship has been removed the individual must face goal pursuits alone. Thus, the loss due to separation, divorce, or death may compromise a person’s determination of achieving a goal and the capacity to pursue a future-oriented goal. another rationale behind this apparent diminished hope could be the sudden increase of tasks associated with current living. Parenting and head of household responsibilities are no longer shared; thereby, resource demands, may increase upon the remaining person. Reduced income increases the potential need to attend to more immediate concerns. The shared determination (agency) and ability (pathways) is nonexistent. additional studies should include a sampling from each category to better understand the possible sense of loss and its effect on hope.
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Results associated with being married or in a long term relationship, single (never married), separated, divorced, or widowed and subjective well-being were different than previously found. married or living as married individuals were more satisfied with life than those who were separated, divorced, or widowed; however, no other notable differences were found. additionally, similar to findings by diener, suh, lucas, and smith (1999), married women in this study were more satisfied with life than those who were separated, divorced, or widowed, although, they did not indicate that they were more hopeful than any other group. however unlike matekaasa’s (1995) findings, married men were no more satisfied with life than any other group. Results of differences of hope were inconclusive due to sample sizes. “subjective well-being is a person’s evaluation of his or her life . . . (and) . . . that subjective well-being results from people having a feeling of mastery and making progress toward their goals” (diener, sapyta, & suh, 1998, p. 34). This evaluation of mastery and progress is somewhat analogous with agency, “a sense of successful determination in meeting goals in the past, present, and future” (snyder et al., 1991, p. 570) and pathways, “a sense of being able to generate successful plans to meet goals” (p. 570). Comparative results between the two measures indicate somewhat similar outcomes, except with age. one may be overall satisfied with his or her life and may lose hope for the future.
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