Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 1085–1112 | Cite as

Subjective Well-Being as a Dynamic and Agentic System: Evidence from a Longitudinal Study

  • Michael A. BusseriEmail author
  • Stan W. Sadava
Research Paper


Subjective well-being (SWB) comprises individual differences in life satisfaction (LS), positive affect (PA), and negative affect (NA), and is typically conceptualized as an important life outcome. In contrast, Shmotkin (Rev Gen Psychol 9:291–325, 2005) proposed that SWB is a dynamic and agentic system that promotes optimal functioning, and is organized within individuals as configurations of LS, PA, and NA. We investigated three fundamental features of this novel framework. A 3-year, two-wave longitudinal study (N = 446 Canadian students; Mage = 18.67; 73 % female) was undertaken. The same set of five SWB configurations were observed at each time point, including congruous and incongruous profiles. Consistent with the hypothesized dynamic nature of the SWB system intraindividual stability in SWB configurations (operationalized in terms of categorical cluster membership and prototypicality scores) was moderate. In support of the proposed responsive nature of the SWB system, changes over time in individuals’ SWB configurations were predicted by changes in psychological, physical, and interpersonal functioning. Consonant with the proposed promotive role of the SWB system, positive functioning and changes in functioning over time were predicted by individuals’ SWB configurations and changes in configurations. The present work provides support for the proposed dynamic and agentic nature of SWB. Unique insights offered by a configural perspective on SWB are discussed.


Subjective well-being Life satisfaction Positive affect Negative affect Dynamic systems 



This research was supported by grants to the first and second authors from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada

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