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Dr. Katelyn Poelker, Psychology

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Gratitude is associated with subjective well-being in adolescents while hassles or everyday irritants likely detract from well-being. In Guatemala, a country with one of the highest rates of economic inequality in Latin America, adolescents’ experiences with gratitude and hassles may differ depending on socioeconomic status (World Bank, 2015). In the current qualitative study, we analyzed the within-country diversity of Guatemalan adolescents’ gratitude and hassles. The sample (N = 80) included data from two Guatemalan schools as part of a larger study. The first school served underprivileged youth (n = 37, Mage = 14.35, SD = 1.11, 48.6% girls), and the second served a middle-class population (n = 43, Mage = 15.77, SD = 1.15, 51.2% girls). Participants were randomly assigned to write about either their daily “gratitude” or “hassles” for 10 days. Journal responses were coded using thematic analysis (based on Braun & Clarke, 2006). Regarding gratitude, participants from both samples displayed appreciation for relationships with others and the support linked with those friendships, family members, and teachers, among others. However, hassles results showed distinct patterns between the samples. Students from the middle class school were often hassled by less severe hassles (e.g., waking up early) or by enduring the betrayal of false friends. Adolescents with few resources frequently mentioned feeling left out, ignored, and disrespected. Furthermore, distinct from the higher resource group, students with fewer resources mentioned feeling upset that close others experienced unkindness. Both groups shared negative experiences with peers, but the adolescents with more resources frequently reported indirect or relation aggression (e.g., gossiping, fakeness), versus the direct forms of unkindness (e.g., teasing) experienced by the adolescents with fewer resources. Such implications should be considered by school administrators to assess the needs of their students, and construct sample-specific interventions to foster gratitude and reduce hassles, thus promoting well-being.

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