Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 257–275 | Cite as

The Naturally Emerging Structure of Well-Being Among Young Adults: “Big Two” or Other Framework?

  • Carmel ProctorEmail author
  • Roger Tweed
  • Daniel Morris
Research Paper


This study explored common measures of well-being to assess whether the naturally emerging relationships are best explained by a “Big Two” (hedonic vs. eudaimonic) or another, yet to be discovered framework. A sample of young adult participants (n = 355) completed measures of life satisfaction, flourishing, positive and negative experience, meaning in life, basic psychological needs, and subjective happiness. Goldberg’s (2006) Bass-Ackward procedure of component analysis was used to determine the relationship between the variables. Results indicated that life satisfaction and flourishing loaded on both hedonic and eudaimonic variables at several levels of the analysis, suggesting that these constructs may be outcomes of both hedonia and eudaimonia. Results further indicated that searching for meaning was distinct from hedonia, but was not an effective indicator of eudaimonic well-being. Overall, the results justify the distinction between hedonia and eudaimonia; however, they also suggest that further distinctions between different measures of well-being are required. Moreover, life satisfaction may be a superordinate category that reflects outcomes of both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Thus, the “Big Three” of positive psychology (i.e., positive affect, negative affect, and life satisfaction) is neither purely hedonic, nor purely eudaimonic, nor a balanced combination of the two, and thus is deficient as an indicator of either type of well-being. Furthermore, the results suggests that further understanding the place of life satisfaction within hedonic and eudaimonic conceptualizations of happiness is important in enhancing our overall understanding of well-being.


Eudaimonia Hedonia Life satisfaction Subjective well-being Psychological well-being 


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1980). Diagnositic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, F. M., & Withey, S. B. (1976). Social indicators of well-being: Americans’ perceptions of life quality. New York, NY: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aristotle (1925). The Nicomachean Ethics (D. Ross, Trans.). New York, NY: Oxford.Google Scholar
  4. Arrindell, W. A., Heesink, J., & Feij, J. A. (1999). The Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS): Appraisal with 1700 healthy young adults in The Netherlands. Personality and Individual Differences, 26(5), 815–826.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ashton, M. C., Lee, K., Perugini, M., Szarota, P., de Vries, R. E., Di Blas, L., et al. (2004). A six-factor structure of personality-descriptive adjectives: Solutions from psycholexical studies in seven languages. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(2), 356–366. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.86.2.356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bagby, R. M., Sellbom, M., Ayearst, L. E., Chmielewski, M. S., Anderson, J. M., & Quilty, L. C. (2013). Exploring the hierarchical structure of the MMPI-2-RF personality psychopathology five in psychiatric patient and university student samples. Journal of Personality Assessment,. doi: 10.1080/00223891.2013.825623.Google Scholar
  7. Birnbaum, M. H. (2004). Human research and data collection via the Internet. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 803–832.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bradburn, N. M. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  9. Cattell, R. B. (1966). The scree test for number of factors. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 1(2), 245–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cattell, R. B., Eber, H. W., & Tatsuoka, M. M. (1970). Handbook for the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF). Champaign, IL: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing.Google Scholar
  11. Davis, C. G., & Morgan, M. S. (2008). Finding meaning, perceiving growth, and acceptance of tinnitus. Rehabilitation Psychology, 53(2), 128–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macro theory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology, 49(3), 182–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Delle Fave, A., Brdar, I., Freire, T., Vella-Brodrick, D., & Wissing, M. P. (2010). The eudaimonic and hedonic components of happiness: Qualitative and quantitative findings. Social Indicators Research, 100(2), 185–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 542–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diener, E. (1994). Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities. Social Indicators Research, 31(2), 103–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diener, E., Sapyta, J. J., & Suh, E. M. (1998). Subjective well-being is essential to well-being. Psychological Inquiry, 9(1), 33–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Diener, E., Wirtz, D., Tov, W., Kim-Prieto, C., Choi, D., Oishi, S., et al. (2010). New well-being measures: Short scales to assess flourishing and positive and negative feelings. Social Indicators Research, 97(2), 143–156. doi: 10.1007/s11205-009-9493-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Digman, J. M. (1990). Personality structure: Emergence of the five-factor model. Annual Review of Psychology, 41, 417–440. doi: 10.1146/ Scholar
  21. Frankl, V. E. (1963). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to logotherapy. New York: Pocket Books.Google Scholar
  22. Gagne, M. (2003). The role of autonomy support and autonomy orientation in prosocial engagement. Motivation and Emotion, 27(3), 199–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goldberg, L. R. (2006). Doing it all bass-ackwards: The development of hierarchical factor structures from the top down. Journal of Research in Personality, 40, 347–358. doi: 10.1016/j.jrp.2006.01.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gough, H. G. (1987). California psychological inventory administrator’s guide. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press Inc.Google Scholar
  25. Hart, K. E., & Sasso, T. (2011). Mapping the contours of contemporary positive psychology. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 82–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Henson, R. K., & Roberts, J. K. (2006). Use of exploratory factor analysis in published research. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 66(3), 393–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Huta, V. (2013). Eudaimonia. In S. A. David, I. Boniwell, & A. C. Ayers (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of happiness (pp. 201–213). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Ilardi, B. C., Leone, D., Kasser, T., & Ryan, R. M. (1993). Employee and supervisor ratings of motivation: Main effects and discrepancies associated with job satisfaction and adjustment in a factory setting. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 23(21), 1789–1805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kaiser, H. F. (1960). The application of electronic computers to factor analysis. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 20, 141–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kashdan, T. B., Biswas-Diener, R., & King, L. A. (2008). Reconsidering happiness: The costs of distinguishing between hedonics and eudaimonia. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3(4), 219–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kasser, T., Davey, J., & Ryan, R. M. (1992). Motivation and employee-supervisor discrepancies in a psychiatric vocational rehabilitiation setting. Rehabilitation Psychology, 37(3), 175–187.Google Scholar
  32. Keyes, C. L. M., Shmotkin, D., & Ryff, C. D. (2002). Optimizing well-being: The empirical encounter of two traditions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 1007–1022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kristjansson, K. (2012). Positive psychology and positive education: Old wine in new bottles? Educational Psychologist, 47(2), 86–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kushner, S. C., Quilty, L. C., Tackett, J. L., & Bagby, R. M. (2011). The hierarchical structure of the dimensional assessment of personality pathology (DAPP-BQ). Journal of Personality Disorders, 25(4), 504–516. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2011.25.4.504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Wood, A. M., Osborne, G., & Hurling, R. (2009). Measuring happiness: The higher order factor structure of subjective and psychological well-being measures. Personality and Individual Differences, 47(8), 878–884.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46, 137–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McCall, S. (1975). Quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 2(2), 229–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McCrae, R. R. (2002). NEO-PI-R data from 36 cultures: Further intercultural comparisons. In R. R. McCrae & J. Alik (Eds.), The five-factor model of personality across cultures (pp. 105–125). New York: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McCrae, R. R., & John, O. P. (1992). An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications. Journal of Personality, 60(2), 175–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McMahan, E. A., & Estes, D. (2011). Hedonic versus eudaimonic conceptions of well-being: Evidence of differential associations with self-reported well-being. Social Indicators Research, 103(1), 93–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nave, C. S., Sherman, R. A., & Funder, D. C. (2008). Beyond self-report in the study of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being: Correlations with acquaintance reports, clinician judgments and directly observed social behavior. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(3), 643–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Neto, F. (1993). The Satisfaction With Life Scale: Psychometrics properties in an adolescent sample. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 22(2), 125–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (2008). The Satisfaction With Life Scale and the emerging construct of life satisfaction. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3(2), 137–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pavot, W., Diener, E., Colvin, C. R., & Sandvik, E. (1991). Further validation of the Satisfaction With Life Scale: Evidence of cross-method convergence of well-being measures. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57(1), 149–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Proctor, C., Linley, P. A., & Maltby, J. (2009). Youth life satisfaction measures: A review. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(2), 128–144. doi: 10.1080/17439760802650816.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rentfrow, P. J., Goldberg, L. R., & Levitin, D. J. (2011). The structure of musical preferences: A five-factor model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(6), 1139–1157. doi: 10.1037/a0022406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52(1), 141–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ryan, R. M., & Huta, V. (2009). Wellness as healthy functioning or wellness as happiness: The importance of eudaimonic thinking (response to the Kashdan et al. and Waterman discussion). The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(3), 202–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69(4), 719–727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1998). The contours of positive human health. Psychological Inquiry, 9(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shin, D., & Johnson, D. M. (1978). Avowed happiness as an overall assessment of the quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 5, 475–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Steger, M. F., Frazier, P., Oishi, S., & Kaler, M. (2006). The Meaning in Life Questionnaire: Assessing the presence of and search for meaning in life. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53(1), 80–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Suldo, S. M., Riley, K. N., & Shaffer, E. J. (2006). Academic correlates of children and adolescents’ life satisfaction. School Psychology International, 27(5), 567–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2001). Using multivariate statistics. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.Google Scholar
  56. Waller, N. (2007). A general method for computing hierarchical component structures by Goldberg’s bass-ackwards method. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 745–752.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Waterman, A. S. (2008). Reconsidering happiness: A eudaimonist’s perspective. Journal of Positive Psychology, 3(4), 234–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Watson, D., Clark, L., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wei, M., Shaffer, P. A., Young, S. K., & Zakalik, R. A. (2005). Adult attachment, shame, depression, and loneliness: The mediation role of basic psychological needs satisfaction. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(4), 591–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wuensch, K. (2012). Data screening. Karl Wuensch’s statistic lessons. Retrieved February 9, 2012, from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PPRCSt. Peter PortUK
  2. 2.Kwantlen Polytechnic UniversitySurreyCanada
  3. 3.Vancouver Island UniversityNanaimoCanada

Personalised recommendations