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Subjective well-being among first-year university students: A two-wave prospective study in Flanders, Belgium


In the transition from secondary to tertiary education, first-year students experience stress due to the academic, cultural, and social environment they must adapt to. This may negatively impact their subjective well-being, which in turn may negatively influence academic performance and increase the probability of dropping out. We report findings from a two-wave online study involving first-year students enrolled in a sociology course at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences at the University of Leuven (Belgium). Students completed self-report questionnaires on sociodemographic background, subjective well-being, parental relationship quality, and personality, at the start (Time 1) and end (Time 2) of the first semester. 194 students (35%) completed measures at both times. Results show that subjective well-being decreased from the beginning to the end of the first semester. Well-being at university was positively, and feelings of depression negatively, related to subjective well-being at Time 1 and Time 2. Female students reported lower well-being than male students at Time 2 but not Time 1. The quality of the mother–child, but not the father–child, relationship was positively related to subjective well-being at Time 1 and Time 2.

Pages:33 to 45
Section: Articles
3 citation(s) in Scopus
2 citation(s) in Web of Science


Total Abstract Views: 1151  Total PDF Downloads: 950  Total Appendix A PDF Downloads: 0

Author Biographies

KU Leuven
Belgium Belgium

David De Coninck is a PhD student at the research group Family and Population Studies (Center for Sociological Research) at KU Leuven (Belgium). His current research focuses on the relationship between news media consumption and migration attitudes in Europe. He is also involved in an innovative new project involving student well-being in a framework of motivational education. In the past, he also worked on projects concerning the academic achievements and integration of at-risk students at the University of Antwerp.

KU Leuven
Belgium Belgium

Koen Matthijsa (PhD) is Full Professor of Sociology and Demography (Center for Sociological Research) at KU Leuven (Belgium). He is head of the research group Family and Population Studies ( He has published widely on (historical) fertility, marriage, divorce, family forms, social mobility, migration, and mortality.

KU Leuven
Belgium Belgium

Patrick Luyten (PhD) is Full Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Leuven (Belgium) and at the Research Department of Clinical, Educational, and Health Psychology, University College London (UK). He has widely published on disorders from the affective spectrum (i.e., depression and stress- and pain-related disorders), and personality disorders. In both areas he is involved in basic research and in interventional research.

Clinical Psychology, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, UK.