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Two Concepts or Two Approaches? A Bifactor Analysis of Psychological and Subjective Well-Being


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  • Fang Chen


  • Yiming Jing


  • Adele Hayes


  • Jeong Lee


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    Researchers often debate about whether there is a meaningful differentiation between psychological well-being and subjective well-being. One view argues that psychological and subjective well-being are distinct dimensions, whereas another view proposes that they are different perspectives on the same general construct and thus are more similar than different. The purpose of this investigation was to examine these two competing views by using a statistical approach, the bifactor model, that allows for an examination of the common variance shared by the two types of well-being and the unique variance specific to each. In one college sample and one nationally representative sample, the bifactor model revealed a strong general factor, which captures the common ground shared by the measures of psychological well-being and subjective well-being. The bifactor model also revealed four specific factors of psychological well-being and three specific factors of subjective well-being, after partialling out the general well-being factor. We further examined the relations of the specific factors of psychological and subjective well-being to external measures. The specific factors demonstrated incremental predictive power, independent of the general well-being factor. These results suggest that psychological well-being and subjective well-being are strongly related at the general construct level, but their individual components are distinct once their overlap with the general construct of well-being is partialled out. The findings thus indicate that both perspectives have merit, depending on the level of analysis. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Happiness Studies.

    Volume (Year): 14 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 3 (June)
    Pages: 1033-1068

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:jhappi:v:14:y:2013:i:3:p:1033-1068

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    Keywords: Bifactor model; Second-order factor model; Psychological well-being; Subjective well-being; Positive and negative affect; Life satisfaction; Personality;


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    1. Maykel Werkuyten & Shervin Nekuee, 1999. "Subjective Well-Being, Discrimination and Cultural Conflict: Iranians Living in The Netherlands," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 47(3), pages 281-306, July.
    2. Marne Arthaud-day & Joseph Rode & Christine Mooney & Janet Near, 2005. "The Subjective Well-being Construct: A Test of its Convergent, Discriminant, and Factorial Validity," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 74(3), pages 445-476, December.
    3. Sarah E. Kirby & Peter G. Coleman & Dave Daley, 2004. "Spirituality and Well-Being in Frail and Nonfrail Older Adults," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 59(3), pages P123-P129.
    4. Carol Ryff & Burton Singer, 2008. "Know Thyself and Become What You Are: A Eudaimonic Approach to Psychological Well-Being," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 13-39, January.
    5. Richard M. Ryan & Veronika Huta & Edward Deci, 2008. "Living well: a self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 139-170, January.
    6. Richard Burns & M. Machin, 2009. "Investigating the Structural Validity of Ryff’s Psychological Well-Being Scales Across Two Samples," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 93(2), pages 359-375, September.
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