Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 293–308 | Cite as

Life Satisfaction and the Self: Structure, Content, and Function

  • Warren A. ReichEmail author
  • Ellen M. Kessel
  • Frank J. Bernieri
Research Paper


Seventy-nine participants rated their involvement and satisfaction with time spent in each of 14 roles (e.g., me as a student), as well as overall life satisfaction. They also described themselves in each of these roles, as well as five general self-conceptions (e.g., ideal self), by repeatedly selecting from a list of traits. Each participant’s set of self descriptions was idiographically modeled using hierarchical classes analysis, from which three indices were coded: trait overlap between actual, usual, ideal, ought, and future selves (self-ideal congruence), trait overlap between each of the 14 roles and actual and usual selves (self-role congruence), and dispersion of negative traits across self-aspects (negative elaboration). Within-person correlations were computed as a measure of satisfaction with time spent in self-congruent roles (TSR). Self-ideal congruence, negative elaboration, and TSR each independently accounted for variance in life satisfaction. For all 14 roles, self-role congruence was correlated with involvement in the target role. Self-ideal congruence and negative elaboration were not highly correlated with role involvement, and self-role congruence was not a robust predictor of life satisfaction. Role-based self-aspects might contribute to life satisfaction to the extent they are enacted according to one’s wishes and are congruent with the more general, actual self.


Life satisfaction Self congruence Negative elaboration HICLAS Self-complexity 



We wish to thank Rob Spengler for his assistance in data collection and Andrea Vial for her helpful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren A. Reich
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ellen M. Kessel
    • 1
  • Frank J. Bernieri
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHunter College, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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