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The Assessment of Happiness in Adults and Children

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Abstract

There is no consensus on the single best practice to assess subjective well-being including happiness. As a result, researchers typically employ several measures. The most common approach is to use self-reports and other reports to estimate well-being, including happiness. These measures can be single or multi-item measures, and they usually correlate well. Additional methods include the Experience Sampling Method which typically uses some form of a pager to signal participants at random times throughout each day over a period of a week or two. When paged, the participants rate their current levels of well-being as well as some additional information (e.g., who they are with and what they are doing). Alternatively, the Day Reconstruction Method requires participants to systematically reconstruct from memory their previous day, reporting their activities and experiences. Because self-report and other report measures are vulnerable to response biases, positive psychologists are also attempting to develop implicit measures (i.e., disguised measures) and biological assays.

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... (2) bajos niveles de afecto negativo y (3) evaluación afectiva de las propias emociones positivas, dentro de las cuales se incluye la noción de felicidad (Holder, 2012). La felicidad es el componente que más se refiere a una evaluación afectiva global de la propia situación de vida (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998), así, esta variable resulta adecuada como un indicador del bienestar subjetivo en los niños para explorar sus asociaciones con las estrategias cognitivas de regulación emocional. ...
... Self-esteem has been linked to happiness and life-satisfaction from childhood to late adulthood (Diener et al., 2003;Holder, 2012). Various studies, in fact, have found that variables associated with positive mood, such as extraversion and sociability, positive cognitive factors, such as feeling competent and having a purpose, and positive self-concept such as. ...
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Social desirability is one of the most common sources of bias affecting the validity of experimental and survey research findings. From a self-presentational perspective, social desirability can be regarded as the resultant of two separate factors: self-deception and other-deception. Two main modes of coping with social desirability bias are distinguished. The first mode comprises two methods aimed at the detection and measurement of social desirability bias: the use of social desirability scales, and the rating of item desirability. A second category comprises seven methods to prevent or reduce social desirability bias, including the use of forced-choice items, the randomized response technique, the bogus pipeline, self-administration of the questionnaire, the selection of interviewers, and the use of proxy subjects. Not one method was found to excel completely and under all conditions in coping with both other-deceptive and self-deceptive social desirability bias. A combination of prevention and detection methods offers the best choice available.
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Subjective well-being (SWB) comprises people's longer-term levels of pleasant affect, lack of unpleasant affect, and life satisfaction. It displays moderately high levels of cross-situational consistency and temporal stability. Self-report measures of SWB show adequate validity, reliability, factor invariance, and sensitivity to change. Despite the success of the measures to date, more sophisticated approaches to defining and measuring SWB are now possible. Affect includes facial, physiological, motivational, behavioral, and cognitive components. Self-reports assess primarily the cognitive component of affect, and thus are unlikely to yield a complete picture of respondents' emotional lives. For example, denial may influence self-reports of SWB more than other components. Additionally, emotions are responses which vary on a number of dimensions such as intensity, suggesting that mean levels of affect as captured by existing measures do not give a complete account of SWB. Advances in cognitive psychology indicate that differences in memory retrieval, mood as information, and scaling processes can influence self-reports of SWB. Finally, theories of communication alert us to the types of information that are likely to be given in self-reports of SWB. These advances from psychology suggest that a multimethod approach to assessing SWB will create a more comprehensive depiction of the phenomenon. Not only will a multifaceted test battery yield more credible data, but inconsistencies between various measurement methods and between the various components of well-being will both help us better understand SWB indictors and group differences in well-being. Knowledge of cognition, personality, and emotion will also aid in the development of sophisticated theoretical definitions of subjective well-being. For example, life satisfaction is theorized to be a judgment that respondents construct based on currently salient information. Finally, it is concluded that measuring negative reactions such as depression or anxiety give an incomplete picture of people's well-being, and that it is imperative to measure life satisfaction and positive emotions as well.
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The relation between temperament and happiness was assessed in a sample of 441 children aged 7–14 years drawn from a population in Northern India. Parents assessed their children’s happiness and rated their children’s temperament using the Emotionality, Activity, and Sociability Temperament Survey (EAS). Children self-reported their own happiness using a single-item measure, the Oxford Happiness Scale Short Form, and the Subjective Happiness Scale. Parents’ temperament ratings conformed to the four factor structure proposed by Buss and Plomin (Temperament: early developing personality traits. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, 1984): Emotionality, Activity, Sociability, and Shyness. Temperament accounted for between 4 and 11% of the variance in children’s happiness depending on the measures. Children who were more social and active, and less shy, were happier. This result parallels the well-established relation between happiness and personality in adults and is similar to recent research on happiness and temperament in children; temperament traits akin to extraversion were positively associated with happiness. However, despite that neuroticism and its temperament counterpart are strongly and consistently linked to happiness in adults, the relation between happiness and the temperament trait associated with neuroticism (i.e., Emotionality) was weak. This suggests that the relations between temperament and happiness in children may not completely generalize across cultures.
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This study examines the impact of a social desirability response bias as a personality characteristic (self-deception and impression management) and as an item characteristic (perceived desirability of the behavior) on self-reported ethical conduct. Findings from a sample of college students revealed that self-reported ethical conduct is associated with both personality and item characteristics, with perceived desirability of behavior having the greatest influence on self-reported conduct. Implications for research in business ethics are drawn, and suggestions are offered for reducing the effects of a socially desirable response bias.
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The present investigation evaluated the relationship between measures of psychological well-being and social desirability in three age groups: 21–40, 41–60, and 61–82 year-old samples. Data on 330 people, consisting of community and clinical groups, yielded high correlations between three measures of well-being (the MUNSH, the LSI-Z, and the PGC) and the Edwards Social Desirability Scale for all age groups, but only moderate ones between well-being scales and the Marlow-Crown Social Desirability Scale. Partial correlations between well-being measures and an external criterion of happiness, controlling for social desirability, failed to improve on the 0-order criterion/well-being relationship. Controlling for social desirability, therefore, does not enhance the construct validity of well-being scales in adult populations at any age. These results, combined with those on the factor structure of scale totals and on the discriminant validity of the well-being measures, suggest that the high 0-order correlations between measures of well-being and the Edwards scale are more readily attributed to content similarity between the Edwards scale and measures of well-being than to a social desirability response bias in well-being measures.
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The degree to which response artifacts introduce error into self-report measures has long been a matter of concern in the psychological literature. For example, it has been suggested that self-report measures of subjective well-being (SWB) contain large amounts of variance due to the response style of social desirability (Carstensen and Cone, 1983). In the present study, four potential response artifacts (social desirability, current mood, moral beliefs about happiness, and happiness image management) and their effects on self reports of SWB were studied. Using nonself-report measures of happiness, in addition to self-report measures of SWB, various modes for the prediction of SWB were constructed. A measure of social desirability was found to be a significant predictor of nonself-report as well as self-reported measures of happiness, indicating that social desirability is a substantive personality characteristic which enhances well-being, rather than being a response artifact and source of error variance. Current mood was found to sometimes contribute as a predictor of self-report measures of SWB, suggesting the need for control of or assessment of its effects. Moral beliefs in happiness and image management did not significantly correlate with measures of happiness. Implications of the results for the measurement of well-being and for future research are discussed.
Article
A large animal literature implicates serotonin (5-HT) in the modulation of positive and negative affective behavior. In contrast, data from human studies almost exclusively emphasize 5-HT modulation of negative emotional processing. However, no previous studies have directly assessed the relation between 5-HT functioning and positive (PA) and negative (NA) affect. The present investigation tested whether individual differences in 5-HT functioning correlate with PA and NA ratings in a group of healthy subjects. Thirty-one psychiatrically healthy males completed separate assessments of affect and 5-HT functioning. Affect was examined with the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule rated three times a day for two work-weeks. 5-HT functioning was indexed by the maximum prolactin response to d,l-fenfluramine. The prolactin response to d,l-fenfluramine demonstrated a significant inverse correlation with mean ratings of both PA (r=−0.49; p<0.005) and NA (r=−0.42; p<0.05). These data provide evidence that 5-HT exerts an inhibitory influence over both PA and NA in humans, such that individual differences in 5-HT functioning inversely correlate with ratings of affect.
Article
An improved instrument, the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ), has been derived from the Oxford Happiness Inventory, (OHI). The OHI comprises 29 items, each involving the selection of one of four options that are different for each item. The OHQ includes similar items to those of the OHI, each presented as a single statement which can be endorsed on a uniform six-point Likert scale. The revised instrument is compact, easy to administer and allows endorsements over an extended range. When tested against the OHI, the validity of the OHQ was satisfactory and the associations between the scales and a battery of personality variables known to be associated with well-being, were stronger for the OHQ than for the OHI. Although parallel factor analyses of OHI and the OHQ produced virtually identical statistical results, the solution for the OHQ could not be interpreted. The previously reported factorisability of the OHI may owe more to the way the items are formatted and presented, than to the nature of the items themselves. Sequential orthogonal factor analyses of the OHQ identified a single higher order factor, which suggests that the construct of well-being it measures is uni-dimensional. Discriminant analysis has been employed to produce a short-form version of the OHQ with eight items.
Article
This commentary raises conceptual issues related to recent efforts to develop measures of subjective well-being (SWB). Specifically, Hills’ and Argyle's (2002) article on the development of the 29-item Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ), and its predecessor, the 20-item Oxford Happiness Inventory (Argyle, Martin & Crossland, 1989). Instead of assessing the structure of subjective well-being (SWB), items of the OHQ tap into self-esteem, sense of purpose, social interest and kindness, sense of humor, and aesthetic appreciation. The item content of the OHQ fails to differentiate the assessment of SWB from the predictors, correlates, and consequences of SWB. In contrast to published SWB findings with other measures, data are presented suggesting that the OHQ has artificially inflated correlations with those constructs tapped by the OHQ: self-esteem, sense of purpose, and social interest/extraversion. The operationalization of SWB by the OHQ is not based on relevant definition and theory and appears to invite nonrandom error into the study of SWB. The article concludes with an appeal for the use of more stringent conceptual and analytic approaches.
Article
A comparative study has been made of the positive moods generated by four common leisure activities: sport/exercise, music, church and watching TV soaps. Some 275 participants whose ages ranged from 18 to 82 were invited to indicate the intensity of their personal, positive feelings for the items of four measures designed to be representative of each of the activities. It was found that each activity was a significant source of positive moods. Factor analysis of the measures showed that they each contained a strong social component, as well as a factor characteristic of each activity. Using the Oxford Happiness Inventory (OHI) as a measure of happiness, only sport/exercise appeared to result in increased happiness, and the reasons for this are explained in terms of the several components of the OHI. The associations of each of the activities with the Eysenck personality traits as measured by the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) were also examined and the most frequent association is with extraversion. Church membership is atypical, in that church members exhibit significantly lower scores for psychoticism (tough mindedness) and higher lie-scale scores (social conformity).
Article
A meta-analysis of the efficacy of five selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) against non-selective and noradrenergic re-uptake inhibitors (mainly tricyclic antidepressants, TCAs) is presented. Fifty five double- blind studies were identified after excluding those multiply reported or with methodological problems likely to bias the outcome in favour of SSRIs. Standardised effect sizes and 95% confidence intervals were calculated based on the difference in the reduction in mean Hamilton depression rating scale (HDRS) scores for the two antidepressants. For studies not reporting standard deviations, the pooled variance from complete studies was used and a variance-weighted mean effect size calculated. There were no differences in efficacy between SSRIs and comparator antidepressants for SSRIs taken together or individually. If studies were classified into high and low depression scores based on a median split of initial HDRS scores, there was a slight advantage to TCAs in the high HDRS group. In addition, SSRIs were slightly less effective than TCAs in in-patients and against combined serotonin and noradrenaline re-uptake inhibitors (clomipramine and amitriptyline). These findings were accounted for by a clinically significant lower efficacy of paroxetine in these subgroups. In contrast, SSRIs as a group were marginally more effective than noradrenergic antidepressants, a finding accounted for by two studies with sertraline. Fluvoxamine was the only SSRI to have been tested adequately in in-patients, where it displayed equal efficacy to TCAs. This meta-analysis confirms that SSRIs and TCAs are in general equally effective, but suggests that paroxetine's efficacy in in-patients and against clomipramine and amitriptyline is not proven.
Article
This paper outlines a theory of global traits based on the seminal writings of Gordon Allport and 50 years of subsequent empirical research. Personality research needs to refocus on global traits because such traits are an important part of everyday social discourse, because they embody a good deal of folk wisdom and common sense, because understanding and evaluating trait judgments can provide an important route toward the improvement of social judgment, and because global traits offer legitimate, if necessarily incomplete, explanations of behavior. A substantial body of evidence supporting the existence of global traits includes personality correlates of behavior, interjudge agreement in personality ratings, and the longitudinal stability of personality over time. Future research should clarify the origins of global traits, the dynamic mechanisms though which they influence behavior, and the behavioral cues through which they can most accurately be judged.