Envy, Gratitude, and Well-Being Among Guatemalan Adolescents With Scarce Economic Resources

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Abstract

Adolescents’ social and emotional lives reflect and inform their well-being. Yet, we know little about how social emotions, like gratitude and envy, are expressed in social relationships and shape well-being among adolescents living outside of wealthy, minority world settings. In many parts of the world, including Guatemala, poverty and economic hardship are among the most common challenges of adolescents. In an exploratory sequential mixed-methods design, Study 1 explored how Guatemalan youth living with scarce resources experience and respond to gratitude and envy. Interviews with 22 Guatemalan adolescents (Mean age = 14.55 years, SD = .74, 59% girls) about their experiences with envy and gratitude were coded based on Auerbach and Silverstein’s (2003) approach. Findings revealed that envy ignited anger and rifts in close relationships with friends and family. Conversely, gratitude was rooted in reciprocity and often motivated youth to act kindly on another’s behalf. In Study 2, adolescents (N = 64, Mean age = 14.15, SD = 1.05, 55% girls) completed locally adapted measures of envy, gratitude, and life satisfaction. A multiple regression analysis revealed that envy was associated with lower and gratitude with higher life satisfaction, consistent with studies in other cultural contexts. In sum, the use of locally developed measures of the social emotions envy and gratitude revealed the expected relations with well-being, negative for envy and positive for gratitude. For Guatemalan youth facing daily hardships, discouraging envy and fostering gratitude may help to boost well-being and nurture positive close relationships.

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