Skip to main content

Measuring Personal Growth and Development in Context: Evidence of Validity in Educational and Work Settings

Abstract

Consistent with the trend toward viewing psychological well-being as more than the absence of illness, we developed an instrument—the personal growth and development scale (PGDS)—that can be used to assess positive change in well-being attributable to context-specific experiences. As part of the validation process, we examined relations between the PGDS and measures of need satisfaction and autonomous motivation in students (N = 241) and employees (N = 468). In the student sample, we also examined relations with engagement and burnout. The findings supported our hypothesis that need satisfaction, autonomous motivation and engagement would relate positively with the PGDS, and that burnout would relate negatively. In a second student sample (N = 377), we collected longitudinal data to investigate how global psychological well-being relates to personal growth and development over the course of an academic term. We found that initial levels of global well-being predicted positive changes in growth and development and replicated earlier findings regarding relations between the PGDS, need satisfaction and autonomous motivation. Future applications of the PGDS for research and practice are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  • Allport, G. W. (1961). Pattern and growth in personality. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aristotle. (1985). Nicomachean ethics (T. Irwin, Trans.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.

  • Benedetti, A. A., Diefendorff, J. M., Gabriel, A. S., & Chandler, M. M. (2015). The effects of intrinsic and extrinsic sources of motivation on well-being depend on time of day: The moderating effect of workday accumulation. Journal of Vocational Behavior,88, 38–46.

    Google Scholar 

  • Biron, M., & Bamberger, P. (2010). The impact of structural empowerment on individual well-being and performance: Taking agent preferences, self-efficacy and operational constraints into account. Human Relations,62(2), 163–191.

    Google Scholar 

  • Browne, M. W., & Cudeck, R. (1993). Alternative ways of assessing model fit. In K. A. Bollen & J. S. Long (Eds.), Testing structural equation models (pp. 136–162). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chen, F. F. (2007). Sensitivity of goodness of fit indexes to lack of measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal,14(3), 464–504.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cronbach, L. J., & Meehl, P. E. (1955). Construct validation in psychological tests. Psychological Bulletin,52(4), 281–302.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deci, E. L., Koestner, R., & Ryan, R. M. (1999). A meta-analytic review of experiments examining the effects of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Psychological Bulletin,125, 627–668.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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, 227–268.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2014). The importance of universal psychological needs for understanding motivation in the workplace. In M. Gagné (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of work engagement, motivation, and self-determination theory (pp. 13–32). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deci, E. L., Ryan, R. M., Gagné, M., Leone, D. R., Usunov, J., & Kornazheva, B. P. (2001). Need satisfaction, motivation, and well-being in the work organizations of a former Eastern Bloc country: A cross-cultural study of self-determination. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,27, 930–942.

    Google Scholar 

  • Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Nachreiner, F., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2001). The job demands-resources model of burnout. Journal of Applied Psychology,86(3), 499–512.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deng, N., Guyer, R., & Ware, J. E. (2015). Energy, fatigue, or both? A bifactor modeling approach to the conceptualization and measurement of vitality. Quality of Life Research,24, 81–93.

    Google Scholar 

  • Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment,49(1), 71–75.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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, 143–156.

    Google Scholar 

  • Espinoza, J. A., Meyer, J. P., Anderson, B. K., Vaters, C., & Politis, C. (2018). Evidence for a bifactor structure of the scales of psychological well-being using exploratory structural equation modeling. Journal of Well-being Assessment,2(1), 21–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gagné, M. (2003). The role of autonomy support and autonomy orientation in prosocial behaviour engagement. Motivation and Emotion,27, 199–223.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gagné, M., & Deci, E. L. (2005). Self-determination theory and work motivation. Journal of Organizational Behaviour,26, 331–362.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gagné, M., Forest, J., Vansteenkiste, M., Crevier-Braud, L., Van den Broeck, A., Aspeli, A. K., et al. (2015). The multidimensional work motivation scale: Validation evidence in seven languages and nine countries. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology,24(2), 178–196.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gardner, W. L., Cogliser, C. C., Davis, K. M., & Dickens, M. P. (2011). Authentic leadership: A review of the literature and research agenda. The Leadership Quarterly,22(6), 1120–1145.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gignac, G. E. (2016). The higher-order model imposes a proportionality constraint: That is why the bifactor model tends to fit better. Intelligence,55, 57–68.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hinkin, T. R. (1998). A brief tutorial on the development of measures for use in survey questionnaires. Organizational Research Methods,1, 104–121.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howard, J. L., Gagné, M., & Bureau, J. S. (2017). Testing a continuum structure of self-determined motivation: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin,143(12), 1346–1377.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howard, J., Gagné, M., Morin, A. J. S., & Van den Broeck, A. (2016). Motivation profiles at work: A self-determination theory approach. Journal of Vocational Behaviour,95–96, 74–89.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hu, L. T., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling: A Multidisciplinary Journal,6(1), 1–55.

    Google Scholar 

  • Humphrey, S. E., Nahrgang, J. D., & Morgeson, F. P. (2007). Integrating motivational, social and contextual work design features: A meta-analytic summary and theoretical extension of the work design literature. Journal of Applied Psychology,92(5), 1332–1356.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ilardi, B. C., Leone, D., Kasser, R., & 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, 1789–1805.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnston, M. M., & Finney, S. J. (2010). Measuring basic needs satisfaction: Evaluating previous research and conducting new psychometric evaluations of the basic needs satisfaction in general scale. Contemporary Educational Psychology,35, 280–296.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kafka, G. J., & Kozma, A. (2002). The construct validity of Ryff’s scales of psychological wellbeing (SPWB) and their relationship to measures of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research,57(2), 171–190.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kam, C. C. S., & Meyer, J. P. (2015). How careless responding and acquiescence response bias can influence construct dimensionality: The case of job satisfaction. Organizational Research Methods,18(3), 512–541.

    Google Scholar 

  • Karasek, R. A. (1979). Job demands, job decision latitude, and mental strain: Implications for job redesign. Administrative Science Quarterly,24(2), 285–308.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marsh, H. W., Hau, K.-T., & Grayson, D. (2005). Goodness of fit evaluation in structural equation modeling. In A. Maydeu-Olivares & J. McArdle (Eds.), Contemporary psychometrics: A festschrift for roderick P McDonald. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a psychology of being. New York, NY: D. Van Nostrand Company.

    Google Scholar 

  • McDonald, R. P. (1999). Test theory: A unified treatment. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meyer, J. P., & Maltin, E. R. (2010). Employee commitment and well-being: A critical review, theoretical framework, and research agenda. Journal of Vocational Behavior,77, 323–337.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moran, C. M., Diefendorff, J. M., Kim, T.-Y., & Liu, Z.-Q. (2012). A profile approach to self-determination theory motivations at work. Journal of Vocational Behavior,81(3), 354–363.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morin, A. J. S., Arens, A., & Marsh, H. (2016). A bifactor exploratory structural equation modeling framework for the identification of distinct sources of construct-relevant psychometric multidimensionality. Structural Equation Modeling,23, 116–139.

    Google Scholar 

  • Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2011). Mplus user’s guide (6th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.

  • Parker, S. L., Jimmieson, N. L., & Amiot, C. E. (2010). Self-determination as a moderator of demands and control: Implications for employee strain and engagement. Journal of Vocational Behavior,76, 53–67.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peterson, U., Demerouti, E., Bergström, G., Samuelsson, M., Åsberg, M., & Nygren, Å. (2008). Burnout and physical and mental health among Swedish healthcare workers. Journal of Advanced Nursing,62(1), 84–95.

    Google Scholar 

  • Porath, C., Spreitzer, G., Gibson, C., & Garnett, F. G. (2012). Thriving at work: Toward its measurement, construct validation, and theoretical refinement. Journal of Organizational Behaviour,33, 250–275.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reeve, J. (2002). Self-determination theory applied to educational settings. In E. L. Deci & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of self-determination research (pp. 183–203). Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruini, C., Belaise, C., Brombin, C., Caffo, E., & Fava, G. A. (2006). Well-being therapy in school settings: A pilot study. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics,75(6), 331–336.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, R. M., Curren, R. R., & Deci, E. L. (2013). What humans need: Flourishing in Aristotelian philosophy and self-determination theory. In A. S. Waterman (Ed.), The best within us: Positive psychology perspectives on eudaimonia (pp. 57–75). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist,55, 68–78.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, R. M., Huta, V., & Deci, E. L. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies,9, 139–170.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryff, C. D. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,57(6), 1069–1081.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryff, C. D. (2014). Psychological well-being revisited: Advances in the science and practice of eudaimonia. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics,83(1), 10–28.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. H. (2006). Best news yet on the six-factor model of well-being. Social Science Research,35(4), 1103–1119.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schat, A. C. H., Kelloway, E. K., & Desmarais, S. (2005). The physical health questionnaire (PHQ): Construct validation of a self-report scale of somatic symptoms. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology,10(4), 363–381.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schaufeli, W. B., & Bakker, A. B. (2004). Job demands, job resources, and their relationship with burnout and engagement: A multi-sample study. Journal of Organizational Behaviour,25(3), 293–315.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schaufeli, W. B., Martinez, I. M., Marques Pinto, A., Salanova, M., & Bakker, A. B. (2002a). Burnout and engagement in university students: A cross-national study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology,33(5), 464–481.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schaufeli, W. B., Salanova, M., González-Romá, V., & Bakker, A. B. (2002b). The measurement of engagement and burnout: A two sample confirmatory factor analytic approach. Journal of Happiness Studies,3, 71–92.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schaufeli, W. B., & Taris, T. W. (2014). A critical review of the job demands-resources model: Implications for improving work and health. In G. F. Bauer & O. Hämmig (Eds.), Bridging occupational, organizational and public health: A transdisciplinary approach (pp. 43–68). New York, NY: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schleicher, H., Alonso, C., Shirtcliff, E. A., Muller, D., Loevinger, B. L., & Coe, C. L. (2005). In the face of pain: The relationship between psychological well-being and disability in women with fibromyalgia. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics,74(4), 231–239.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schmitt, N., & Ali, A. A. (2015). The practical importance of measurement invariance. In C. E. Lance & R. J. Vandenberg (Eds.), More statistical and methodological myths and urban legends (pp. 337–346). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist,55(1), 5–14.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shapiro, A., & Keyes, C. L. M. (2008). Marital status and social well-being: Are the married always better off? Social Indicators Research,88(2), 329–346.

    Google Scholar 

  • Siegrist, J. (1996). Adverse health effects of high-effort/low-reward conditions. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology,1(1), 27–41.

    Google Scholar 

  • Springer, K. W., & Hauser, R. M. (2006). An assessment of the construct validity of Ryff’s scales of psychological well-being: Method, mode, and measurement effects. Social Science Research,35(4), 1080–1102.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tóth-Király, I., Morin, A. J. S., Bőthe, B., Orosz, G., & Rigó, A. (2018). Investigating the multidimensionality of need fulfillment: A bifactor exploratory structural equation modeling representation. Structural Equation Modeling,25(2), 267–286.

    Google Scholar 

  • van Dierendonck, D. (2004). The construct validity of Ryff’s scales of psychological well-being and its extension with spiritual well-being. Personality and Individual Differences,36(3), 629–643.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vandenberg, R. J., & Lance, C. E. (2000). A review and synthesis of the measurement invariance literature: Suggestions, practices, and recommendations for organizational research. Organizational Research Methods,3(1), 4–69.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vandenberg, R. J., & Morelli, N. A. (2016). A contemporary update on testing for measurement equivalence and invariance. In J. P. Meyer (Ed.), Handbook of employee commitment (pp. 28–42). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zinbarg, R. E., Barlow, D. H., & Brown, T. A. (1997). Hierarchical structure and general factor saturation of the Anxiety Sensitivity Index: Evidence and implications. Psychological Assessment,9(3), 277–284.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zinbarg, R. E., Revelle, W., Yovel, I., & Li, W. (2005). Cronbach’s α, Revelle’s β, and Mcdonald’s ωH: Their relations with each other and two alternative conceptualizations of reliability. Psychometrika,70(1), 1–11.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reise, S. P., Scheines, R., Widman, K. F., & Haviland, M. G. (2013). Miltidimensionality and structural coefficient bias in structural equation modeling: A bifactor perspective. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 73(1), 5–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Waterman, A. S. (2013). The humanistic psychology–positive psychology divide: Contrasts in philosophical foundations. American Psychologist, 68(3), 124–133.

    Google Scholar 

  • Waterman, A. S., & Schwartz, S. J. (2013). Eudaimonic identity theory. In A. S. Waterman (Ed.), The best within us: Positive psychology perspectives on eudaimonia (pp. 99–118). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Waterman, A. S., Schwartz, S. J., Zamboanga, B. L., Ravert, R. D., Williams, M. K., Agocha, V. B., Kim, S. Y., & Donnellan, M. B. (2010). The questionnaire for eudamonic well-being: Psychometric properties, demographic comparisons, and evidence of validity. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(1), 41–61.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Carey, G. (1988). Positive and negative affectivity and their relation to anxiety and depressive disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97(3), 346–353.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (435-2014-0956) awarded to J. P. Meyer. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Brittney K. Anderson.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 33 kb)

Appendix

Appendix

The Personal Growth and Development Scale
Instructions
Using the scale provided, click on the most applicable circle for each statement to indicate your level of agreement
Not at all Somewhat Very much so
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
My university experience so far has helped me…
Autonomy
1. Gain the strength to stand up for what I believe**
2. Feel confident in my decisions*
3. Appreciate the value of setting my own direction in life
Environmental mastery
4. Learn how to manage my life more effectively
5. Gain confidence to deal with unforeseen difficulties*
6. Take advantage of opportunities in my surroundings**
Positive relations
7. Learn how to develop meaningful relationships with others**
8. Appreciate others’ perspectives on issues
9. Learn to work more effectively with others*
Self-acceptance
10. Feel more comfortable with who I am
11. Appreciate my strengths*
12. Feel good about the experiences that have shaped me**
Purpose in life
13. Discover what gives meaning to my life**
14. Identify important goals I want to achieve
15. Get closer to understanding what I want out of life*
Note. Items were represented without headings (e.g., Autonomy) and in a randomized order
Items indicated with an ** are recommended for a short, 5-item version of the PGDS while items indicated with an * are recommended, in addition to items included in the 5-item version, for the 10-item version

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Anderson, B.K., Meyer, J.P., Vaters, C. et al. Measuring Personal Growth and Development in Context: Evidence of Validity in Educational and Work Settings. J Happiness Stud 21, 2141–2167 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00176-w

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00176-w

Keywords

  • Personal growth and development
  • Psychological well-being
  • Eudaimonic well-being
  • Self-determination theory
  • Job-demands resources theory