Social Indicators Research

, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 243–253 | Cite as

Causal Ordering of Basic Psychological Needs and Well-Being

  • Jaime LeónEmail author
  • Juan L. Núñez


What is the relationship between well-being and satisfaction of basic psychological needs overtime? The basic psychological needs theory is a subtheory of the self-determination theory that elaborates the concept of psychological needs and its relations to psychological health and well-being. The goals of this research was to establish the causal ordering between basic psychological needs and three psychological well-being indicators (subjective well-being, self-esteem and satisfaction with life), in a longitudinal study. We used a cross-lagged two-wave design. A total of 272 university students completed the questionnaire at the beginning and at the end of the semester. Relatedness at time 1 (T1) had a positive and significant effect on all well-being indicators at time 2 (T2); competence (T1) had a positive and significant effect on all indicators except for self-esteem (T2); finally, autonomy (T1) did not have a significant effect on any of the well-being indicators (T2). In conclusion, we confirm the causal ordering of competence and relatedness on well-being, according to the basic psychological needs subtheory. Universities, in general, and teachers, in particular, should promote relations between students and support the need of competence.


Self-determination theory Basic psychological needs Cross-lagged Well-being Life satisfaction Self-esteem Vitality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of Las Palmas de Gran CanariaLas Palmas de Gran CanariaSpain

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