Investigating a dynamic modular framework for subjective well-being
Busseri, Michael A.
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According to Diener (1984), the three primary components of subjective well-being (SWB) are high life satisfaction (LS), frequent positive affect (P A), and infrequent negative affect (NA). The present dissertation extends previous research and theorizing on SWB by testing an innovative framework developed by Shmotkin (2005) in which SWB is conceptualized as an agentic process that promotes and maintains positive functioning. Two key components ofShmotkin's framework were explored in a longitudinal study of university students. In Part 1, SWB was examined as an integrated system of components organized within individuals. Using cluster analysis, five distinct configurations of LS, P A, and NA were identified at each wave. Individuals' SWB configurations were moderately stable over time, with the highest and lowest stabilities observed among participants characterized by "high SWB" and "low SWB" configurations, respectively. Changes in SWB configurations in the direction of a high SWB pattern, and stability among participants already characterized by high SWB, coincided with better than expected mental, physical, and interpersonal functioning over time. More positive levels of functioning and improvements in functioning over time discriminated among SWB configurations. However, prospective effects of SWB configurations on subsequent functioning were not observed. In Part 2, subjective temporal perspective "trajectories" were examined based on individuals' ratings of their past, present, and anticipated future LS. Upward subjective LS trajectories were normative at each wave. Cross-sectional analyses revealed consistent associations between upward subjective trajectories and lower levels of LS, as well as less positive mental, physical, and interpersonal functioning. Upward subjective LS trajectories were biased both with respect to underestimation of past LS and overestimation of future LS, demonstrating their illusional nature. Further, whereas more negative retrospective bias was associated with greater current distress and dysfunction, more positive prospective bias was associated with less positive functioning in the future. Prospective relations, however, were not consistently observed. Thus, steep upward subjective LS trajectory appeared to be a form of wishful-thinking, rather than an adaptive form of selfenhancement. Major limitations and important directions for future research are considered. Implications for Shmotkin's (2005) framework, and for research on SWB more generally, also are discussed