Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Psychological Well-Being: Reflections on an Elusive Construct and Its Assessment

Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Psychological Well-Being: Reflections on an Elusive Construct and Its Assessment

Article excerpt

The concept of wellbeing forms one of the popular foci of inquiry for theoreticians and researchers of multiple disciplines such as philosophy, economics, and psychology. Discussions, and debates notwithstanding, subjective wellbeing and psychological wellbeing have emerged as the two most popular conceptualizations of wellbeing in the history of psychology. Subjective wellbeing is defined in terms of an affective component (presence of positive affect and low negative affect) and a cognitive-evaluative component namely, sense of satisfaction in life (Diener, 1984). Often viewed as corresponding to the hedonic approach in philosophy, subjective wellbeing has a longer history of rigorous scientific examination in psychological research as compared to the construct of psychological wellbeing, which is seen as corresponding to the eudaimonic tradition (Waterman, 2008). Psychological wellbeing has been defined (Keyes, Shmotkin, & Ryff, 2002, p. 1007) as "engagement with existential challenges of life". Ryff (1989) and Ryff and Keyes (1995) proposed a six dimensional model of psychological wellbeing, based on extensive literature review. Self-acceptance, purpose in life, personal growth, environmental mastery, positive relations with others, and autonomy were theorized as the six dimensions. Although there is a broad consensus on the conceptualization and measurement of subjective wellbeing, the construct of psychological wellbeing and its measurement continues to generate an array of opinions and observations amongst scientists across the globe.

To the best of our knowledge, there is a dearth of appropriate tools to assess psychological wellbeing in the Indian socio-cultural context. Factor structure of Ryff's measures of psychological wellbeing in Indian samples is yet to be well determined and the other commonly used measures tend to tap features of emotional wellbeing, rather than psychological wellbeing/ positive functioning. Afew indigenous measures that capture psychological wellbeing to varying extent are the subjective wellbeing inventory (SUBI; Sell & Nagpal, 1992)., psychological wellbeing questionnaire (Bhogle, & Prakash, 1995), and PGI wellbeing scale (Verma., Dubey, & Gupta 1983). The SUBI has not emerged as a popular tool due to its length as well as high difficulty level/ambiguity of certain items. Bhogle and Jaiprakash (1995) mentioned more than 10 factors that are tapped through their questionnaire, which range from meaninglessness, somatic symptoms, positive affect, and personal-control to suicidal thoughts etc. Their measure appears to utilize a rather broad-based conceptualization of wellbeing that includes aspects pertaining to both emotional and psychological wellbeing (hedonic and eudaimonic aspects). The PGI wellbeing scale developed by Verma, Dubey, and Gupta (1983) consists of 20 items of low difficulty level. The utility of the PGI wellbeing scale and its factor structure in the context of work was examined by Singh and Singh (2003) who concluded that this measure would benefit from revisions.

On the whole, although the construct of psychological wellbeing is an extremely appealing variable in psychological research owing to the fact that it goes beyond the 'feeling good' notion of wellbeing and attempts to capture positive psychological functioning, its meaningful utilization in research and practice is hampered due to unresolved issues regarding its conceptualization and measurement.

A tryst with psychological well being: Present Study

In the above background, the present paper attempts to explore the psychometric properties of a measure of psychological wellbeing based on Ryff s model in the Indian context. The paper also aims to highlight observations and raise issues for further research on conceptualization and assessment of psychological wellbeing.

This paper is based on part of a larger study that aimed at examining character strengths in Indian youth. …

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