Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Goal Content, Well-Being, and Psychological Needs Satisfaction in Chinese Adolescents

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Goal Content, Well-Being, and Psychological Needs Satisfaction in Chinese Adolescents

Article excerpt

With the development of positive psychology, well-being has become an active research topic in psychology. Current research on well-being is founded on two perspectives: the psychological well-being perspective and the subjective well-being perspective (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Psychological well-being defines well-being in terms of fulfillment of human potential and a meaningful life, which includes six dimensions: self-acceptance, positive relationships with others, autonomy, the purpose of life, personal growth, and environment mastery (Ryff, 1989). Although research into psychological well-being has made great progress, its nature and structure are still in doubt (Chen, Jing, Hayes, & Lee, 2013). Compared to psychological well-being, there is a greater consensus among scholars concerning the structure of subjective well-being (SWB), which refers to the evaluation of one's own quality of life according to personal standards, and which contains three dimensions: satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect (Diener, 1994). As an important personal trait, SWB has a positive effect on physical health (Diener & Chan, 2011), political participation (Lorenzini, 2015), and posttraumatic growth (Hamama & Sharon, 2013). Factors that influence SWB have thus attracted more and more attention from researchers in recent decades. For example, Jeon, Lee, and Kwon (2016) found that a higher level of social support is associated with a higher level of SWB. Soto (2015) reported that individuals with more extraverted, agreeable, conscientious, and emotionally stable personalities than their peers have, tend to have higher SWB. Others have shown that students with an external locus of control had a lower SWB (Ye & Lin, 2015).

Many researchers have argued that SWB is related to personal goals. For example, Myers and Diener (1995) noted that having goals and making progress toward goals are predictors of happiness. Previous researchers have found that SWB is associated with several characteristics of personal goal systems, such as goal content (Lekes, Gingras, Philippe, Koestner, & Fang, 2010), goal progress (Klug & Maier, 2015), and goal regulation (Litalien, Lüdtke, Parker, & Trautwein, 2013). Furthermore, Kasser and Ryan (1996) suggested that life goals can be divided into intrinsic and extrinsic types according to their content. Intrinsic life goals, such as self-acceptance, affiliation, physical health, and a feeling of community, are thought to be inherently satisfying and to depend on internal rewards. By contrast, extrinsic life goals, such as financial success, attractive appearance, and popularity depend on external rewards and the evaluations of others. Perhaps because of these distinctions, it has been proposed that the two types of life goals have different relationships with SWB. For example, Guillen-Royo and Kasser (2015) reported that people who give priority to intrinsic rather than extrinsic life goals are happier than others are. Similarly, Lekes et al. (2010) found that intrinsic life goals were significantly and positively associated with well-being, whereas extrinsic life goals were unrelated to well-being.

In addition to personal goals, another variable that has consistently been shown to have a positive association with SWB is psychological needs satisfaction. Self-determination theorists have postulated that people are born with three basic psychological needs: a need for competence, for relatedness, and for autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 2000). The need for competence means the need to be effective in dealing with one's environment. The need for relatedness involves the need to experience a sense of belonging and attachment to other people. Finally, the need for autonomy reflects the need to experience activities as self-endorsed and volitionally enacted. According to self-determination theory, when these needs are satisfied, individuals feel more competent than they previously did, are more satisfied with their interpersonal relationships, and are more likely to take responsibility for their actions, which eventually enhances their mental health and well-being (Deci & Ryan, 2008). …

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