Research Example #6

Published in 1989 in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the article “Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being” evaluated the measures of well-being. Upon the understanding of well-being and happiness, Carol D. Ryff asked the question: what constitutes positive psychological functioning?

The data needed to answer this question are reports of behavior. In order for this study to be workable, aspects of well-being were operationalized. The study consisted of a survey of 321 men and women who rated themselves on self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth. These same people then rated themselves on prior assessment indexes: affect balance, life satisfaction, self-esteem, morale, locus of control, and depression. Using correlation, the result of the study explains that relations with others, autonomy, purpose in life, and personal growth are not statistically correlated to the prior assessment indexes. Ryff concluded that the theoretical key aspects of psychological functioning holds little substance empirically.

For my evaluation of this study, I found it to be very straight forward and that made the claims much easier to understand and evaluate. My criticism of this research on whether or not I found the findings to be respectable was based mostly on construct validity, or how well Ryff operationalized the variables. If this study did not operationalized its variables well, it would fall apart because the claims would not be valid. I found the operationalization of happiness, and the other variables, to be pretty good. Thus, I respect this study and its findings; I think it was well done.

One thought on “Research Example #6

  1. It turns out that Ryff’s approach works pretty well for professional-class people in the U.S., and has also been tested successfully on professional-class people in some other countries (Spain and I think the Netherlands & Colombia, though I may be misremembering). It does NOT work so well with low-income U.S. immigrants from Latin America. I tested her questionnaire on two sets of low-income Latinas and got inconsistent responses. This questions the construct validity of her scales for this population. (Note: I have not yet written this up and may not get time to do so, though I do have all the data.) — J.S.

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