Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up Theories of Subjective Well-Being

  • Bruce Headey
  • Ruut Veenhoven
  • Alex Weari
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 26)


This paper addresses issues of causal direction in research on subjective well-being (SWB). Previous researchers have generally assumed that such variables as domain satisfactions, social support, life events, and levels of expectation and aspiration are causes of SWB. Critics have pointed out that they could just as well be consequences (Costa and McCrae, 1980; Veenhoven, 1988). In some contexts this has been referred to as the top-down versus bottom-up controversy (Diener, 1984). The main purpose is to propose a general statistical model which holds promise of resolving this controversy. The model can be used when three or more waves of panel data are available. It is used here to assess causal direction between six domain satisfactions (marriage, work, leisure, standard of living, friendship and health) and SWB. Data are drawn from four waves of an Australian Quality of Life panel survey (1981–1987) with an initial sample size of 942.


Life Satisfaction Causal Direction Domain Satisfaction Social Indicator Research Autocorrelated Error 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Andrews, F. M. and Withey, S. B.: 1976, Social Indicators of Well-Being (Plenum, New York).Google Scholar
  2. Argyle, M.: 1987, The Psychology of Happiness (Methuen, London).Google Scholar
  3. Bradburn, N. M.: 1969, The Structure of Psychological Well-Being (Aldine, Chicago).Google Scholar
  4. Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., and Rodgers, W. R.: 1976, The Quality of American Life (Sage, New York).Google Scholar
  5. Carmines, E. G. and McIver, J. P.: 1981, ‘Analysing models with unobserved variables’, in G. W. Bohrnstedt and E. F. Borgatta (eds.), Social Measurement: Current Issues (Beverley Hills, Sage).Google Scholar
  6. Costa, P. T. and McCrae, R. R.: 1980, ‘Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38, 668–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Costa, P. T. and McCrae, R. R.: 1984, ‘Personality as a lifelong determinant of well-being’, in C. Malatesta and C. Izard (eds.), Affective Processes in Adult Development and Agiing (Beverley Hills, Sage).Google Scholar
  8. Diener, E.: 1984, ‘Subjective well-being’, Psychological Bulletin 95, 542–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eysenck, H. J. and Eysenck, S. B. G.: 1964, Manual of the Eysenck Personality Inventory (Hodder and Stoughton, London).Google Scholar
  10. Greenberg, D. F. and Kessler, R. C: 1982, ‘Equilibrium and identification in linear panel models’, Sociological Methods and Research 10, 435–51.Google Scholar
  11. Headey, B. W., Holmstrom, E. L. and Wearing, A. J.: 1985, ‘Models of well-being and ill-being’, Social Indicators Research 17, 211–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Headey, B. W. and Wearing, A. J.: 1988, ‘The sense of relative superiority: central to well-being’, Social Indicators Research 20, pp. 497–516.Google Scholar
  13. Headey, B. W. and Wearing, A. J.: 1990, What Makes for Happiness? A Theory of Subjective Well-Being (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  14. Hoelter, J. W.: 1983, ‘The analysis of covariance structure’, Sociological Methods and Research 11, 325–44.Google Scholar
  15. Joreskog, K. G. and Sorbom, D.: 1978, LISREL IV (International Educational Services, Chicago).Google Scholar
  16. Kenny, D. A.: 1979, Correlation and Causality (Wiley, New York).Google Scholar
  17. Kessler, R. C. and Greenberg, D. F.: 1981, Linear Panel Analysis (Academic Press, New York).Google Scholar
  18. Kohn, M. L. and Schooler, C: 1983, Work and Personality (Ablex, Norwood, N.J.).Google Scholar
  19. Rogosa, D. R., Brandt, D., and Zimowski, M.: 1982, ‘A growth curve approach to the measurement of change’, Psychological Bulletin 90, 726–48.Google Scholar
  20. Rogosa, D. R. and Willet, J. B.: 1985, ‘Understanding correlates of change by modeling individual differences in growth’, Psychometrika 50, 203–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Veenhoven, R.: 1984, Conditions of Happiness (Reidel, Dordrecht).Google Scholar
  22. Veenhoven, R.: 1988, ‘The utility of happiness’, Social Indicators Research 20, 333–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce Headey
    • 1
  • Ruut Veenhoven
    • 1
  • Alex Weari
    • 1
  1. 1.Pol. Science Dept.University of MelbourneParkville, VictoriaAustralia

Personalised recommendations