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What’s New in Positive Psychology
On this page, you will find the titles and abstracts of selected articles from the most recent issues of the Positive Psychology journals (Journal of Positive Psychology, Journal of Happiness Studies, Psychology of Well-being, International Journal of Wellbeing), as well as occasional articles from other journals that address Positive Psychology.
To be published in Psychological Science:
In defense of parenthood: Children are associated with more joy than misery.
Recent scholarly and media accounts paint a portrait of unhappy parents who find remarkably little joy in taking care of thir children, but the scientific basis for these claims remains inconclusive. In the three studies reported here, we used a strategy of converging evidence to test whether parents evaluate their lives more positively than do non-parents (Study 1), feel relatively better than do non-parents on a day-to-day basis (Study 2), and derive more positive feelings from caring for their children than from other daily activities (Study 3). The results indicate that, contrary to previous reports, parent (and especially fathers) report relatively higher levels of happiness, positive emotion, and meaning in life than do nonparents.
Miller, A. (2013). Zen meets medicine. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 185, E15-E16.
Physician as theologian? It just might be the next dimension of modern medicine, according to proponents of “spiritual health care.” As defined in the province of Manitoba’s recently unveiled spiritual health care plan undefined the country’s first undefined it’s not necessarily a religious concept. But it is “therapeutic,” states the plan, Health and the Human Spirit: Shaping the Direction of Spiritual Health Care in Manitoba (www.gov.mb.ca/healthyliving/mh/hhs.html). Spiritual health care “closes the gap between patient and provider by focusing on the quest for self-awareness as an essential encompassing aspect of healing and wellness.”
Jayawickreme, E., Forgeard, M.J.C., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2012). The engine of well-being. Review of General Psychology, 16, 327-342.
The study of well-being is hampered by the multiplicity of approaches, but focusing on a single approach begs the question of what “well-being” really is. We analyze how well-being is defined according to the three main kinds of theories: “Liking” approaches (generally adopted by psychologists), “Wanting” approaches (predominant among economists), and “Needing” approaches (used in both public policy and psychology). We propose an integrative framework, the engine model of well-being, drawing on Seligman (Seligman, M. E. P., 2011, Flourish. New York, NY: The Free Press) and Sen’s (Sen, A. K., 1999, Development as freedom. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press) emphasis on the plurality of this construct by distinguishing among (a) inputs (resources that enable well-being), (b) processes (internal states of mechanisms influencing well-being), and (c) outcomes (the intrinsically valuable behaviors that reflect the attainment of well-being). We discuss implications for research, measurement, and interventions.
Kesebir, P., & Kesebir, S. (2012). The cultural salience of moral character and virtue declined in twentieth century America. Journal of Positive Psychology, 7, 471-480.
In a large corpus of American books, we tracked how frequently words related to moral excellence and virtue appeared over the twentieth century. Considering the well-established cultural trend in the USA toward greater individualism and its implications for the moral domain, we predicted that terms related to morality and virtue would appear with diminishing frequency in American books. Two studies supported our predictions: Study 1 showed a decline in the use of general moral terms such as virtue, decency, and conscience, throughout the twentieth century. In Study 2, we examined the appearance frequency of 50 virtue words (e.g., honesty, patience, compassion), and found a significant decline for 74% of them. Overall, our findings suggest that during the twentieth century, moral ideals and virtues have largely waned from the public conversation.
Quinlan, D., Swain, N., & Vella-Brodrick, D.A. (2012). Character strengths interventions: Building on what we know for improved outcomes. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 1145-1163.
For this review strengths intervention studies were located using online searches and collegial networks and included if they explicitly sought to teach or use a strengths classification to enhance well-being, and used pre- and post-intervention measures and a comparison group. Eight studies met the criteria and have been summarised by this review. To date, the effect sizes achieved by character strengths interventions have been small to moderate. An understanding of how these interventions work may facilitate development of more effective interventions, while expanding the field of character strengths interventions to include a broader range of activities and approaches may also offer benefits. Research examining individual factors, such as strengths use, psychological need satisfaction, goal-setting and goal-striving provides promising leads to explain how strengths interventions work. However, the effect on intervention efficacy of relational or contextual factors, such as intervention environment or facilitator attitude to strengths, has not yet been explored. Implications for interventions in school settings are considered.
Masuda, A.D., & Sortheix, F.M. (2012). Work-family values, priority goals and life satisfaction: A seven year follow-up of MBA students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 1131-1144.
The present research takes a motivational approach to examine the work-family interface and well-being. We report a longitudinal study which shows that giving priority to family goals over work and leisure goals lead to higher life satisfaction after 7 years from reporting such goals. Additionally, this effect was mediated by family satisfaction. We also found that family priority goals led to higher life satisfaction in time 1 only when people also reported high levels of family values. This interaction was not significant when predicting life satisfaction at time 2. Instead, family values uniquely predicted life satisfaction at time 2. Contrary to our expectations work values did not moderate the work priority goals and life satisfaction relationship either at time 1 nor time 2. However, results showed that individuals who prioritized and valued work over family reported lower levels of life satisfaction at time 1. This effect was not found at time 2. We used self-determination theory to develop our hypothesis.
Casas, F., Coenders, G., Gonzales, M., Malo, S., Bertran, I., & Figuer, C. (2012). Testing the relationship between parents’ and their children’s well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 1031-1051.
Casas et al. (J Happiness Stud 9(2):197–205, 2008) found no significant relationship between paired answers given by parents and their 12–16-year-old children (N = 266) for a single-item scale on overall life satisfaction (OLS). However, a significant, but low (.19) parent–child relationship did appear for the PWI multi-item scale. Overall, children reported higher subjective well being than parents. In this article, we present the results obtained from confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), using more scales and a bigger sample (N = 1,250) of paired parents and children. The study uses three multiple-item scales: the PWI, the SWLS and the BMSLSS, and six single-item scales: the OLS, two items from Russell’s scale on core affects, one on overall happiness, Fordyce’s happiness item and the optional item of the BMSLSS on overall life satisfaction. Separate CFA for each of the 3 multi-item scales showed good fit statistics. In order to check comparability between parents and children, we tested equal loading and intercept constraints. The models with restricted loadings fit only for the PWI and BMSLSS, but none of the models with restricted intercepts fit. Therefore, it was only possible to estimate two factor correlations for parents and their children, both very low (.16 for the PWI, .18 for BMSLSS), and it was not possible to compare factor means. When correlating scores from the 6 single-item scales for parents and children, they were all found to be significant but very low. As regards items from the multiple-item scales for parents and children many correlations are positive and significant, although very low, but others are non significant. The means of some items were substantially higher for children than for parents. For some items, differences were minor, non-significant or even reversed. All of the results suggest that parents’ well-being is very weakly related to their own children’s well-being, in spite of socialization, common material welfare and genetic influences. However, one outstanding result is that in our Catalan sample, parents’ well-being seems to have a greater influence on their female child’s well-being than on their male child’s.
Steptoe, A., Demakakos, P., & de Oliveira, C. (in press). The psychological well-being,
health, and functioning of older people in England.
Psychological or subjective well-being is a topic of major national and international policy interest. The analyses summarised in this chapter focus on the relationship of psychological well-being with demographic factors, health, and physical and cognitive functioning in ELSA. Cross-sectional analyses of the rich set of well-being measures obtained in 2010–11 are presented, together with longitudinal analyses testing whether well-being in 2002–03 and 2004–05 predicted health and disability in 2010–11 and mortality. Several different aspects of psychological well-being are examined, including evaluative well-being (general satisfaction with life), affective or hedonic well-being (enjoyment, positive affect and depressive symptoms) and eudemonic well-being (purpose in life, self-acceptance and control).
Harzer, C., & Ruch, W. (2012). When the job is a calling: The role of applying one’s
signature strengths at work. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 362-371.
This study investigates the role of applying the individual signature strengths at work for positive experiences at work (i.e. job satisfaction, pleasure, engagement, and meaning) and calling. A sample of 111 employees from various occupations completed measures on character strengths, positive experiences at work, and calling. Co-workers (N = 111) rated the applicability of character strengths at work. Correlations between the applicability of character strengths and positive experiences at work decreased with intraindividual centrality of strengths (ranked strengths from the highest to the lowest). The level of positive experiences and calling were higher when four to seven signature strengths were applied at work compared to less than four. Positive experiences partially mediated the effect of the number of applied signature strengths on calling. Implications for further research and practice will be discussed.
Huta, V., Pelletier, L.G., Baxter, D., & Thompson, A. (2012). How eudaimonic and
hedonic motives relate to the well-being of close others. The Journal of Positive
Psychology, 5, 399-404.
Past research has examined the link of eudaimonic and hedonic motives with personal well-being, but less is known about their link with the well-being of close others. Also, empirical data on the link with the well-being of close others would address an ongoing debate regarding whether eudaimonia is egoistic and possibly detrimental to others. Participants completed self-report measures of their typical degrees of eudaimonic and hedonic motivation. We then asked their friends and relatives to tell us how the participant affected their well-being. When entering eudaimonia and hedonia simultaneously as predictors of close other well-being in multiple regressions, only eudaimonia related positively to the well-being of close others. Thus, eudaimonia had a positive, not negative, impact on other people. Furthermore, while past research shows that both eudaimonic and hedonic motives benefit personal well-being, this study suggests that eudaimonic motivation has more positive influences on close others.
Rush, J., & Grouzet, F.M.E. (2012). It is about time: Daily relationships between
temporal perspective and well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 427-442.
This study examined the day-to-day relationships between temporal perspective and well-being. Temporal perspective has predominantly been measured with single-occasion measurement designs, which ignore the potential for within-person variations that may be important in accounting for fluctuations in well-being. A 14-day daily diary design was employed to examine the dimensions of temporal perspective (temporal focus, temporal attitude, and temporal distance) and their dynamic relationships with daily well-being. The results from multilevel analyses indicated that: (a) there is evidence of within-person variability in daily temporal perspective, and (b) this within-person variability in temporal perspective fluctuated systematically with fluctuations in daily well-being. Each temporal perspective dimension was useful in predicting daily well-being. Temporal perspective dimensions interacted with each other such that the daily relationships with well-being depended on both the temporal region (past, present, or future) and the nature of the thoughts (pleasant vs. unpleasant; near vs. far).
Chang, Y., Lin, Y, & Chen, L.H. (2012). Pay it forward: Gratitude in Social Networks.
Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 761-781.
Based on the framework of the broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson in Philos Trans R Soc B Biol Sci 359(1449):1367, 2004a, b), we proposed that the emotion of gratitude generates upstream reciprocity (UR, which is helping an unrelated third party after being helped) by broadening the beneficiary’s perspective toward others and thus making the beneficiary represent the benefactor and newly encountered strangers in the same social category. Furthermore, by inducing one UR after another, gratitude may lead to a chain/network of UR and strengthen the structure of organization. We named the effect the integration function of gratitude and demonstrated it by applying the social network analysis technique to eighteen small groups. Implications of the integration function are discussed in terms of self-identity, social exchange theory, and quality of life.
Tafarodi, R.W., Bonn, G., Liang, H., Takai, J., Morizumi, S., Belhekar, V., & Padhye,
- (2012). What makes for a good life? A four-nation study. Journal of Happiness
Studies, 13, 783-800.
How do we assess the value of our lives? What makes the life we live a good or worthy one in our own eyes? What are its aims? The answers to these questions are implicit in the often unarticulated commitments by which people define their selves, purposes, and actions. These commitments structure the moral framework that guides our everyday qualitative distinctions and positions us within a unified narrative of continuity and change. The substantive conception of a good life, we argue, presupposes but is not reducible to a set of basic values. As an initial exploration of cultural variation, Canadian, Chinese, Indian, and Japanese university students were compared on what they held to be most important for assessing the worth of their lives. The results revealed considerable commonality of content with notable differences consistent with the cultural ethos of each group.
Kageyama, J. (2012). Happiness and sex differences in life expectancy. Journal of
Happiness Studies, 13, 947-967.
The aim of this study is to test the explanatory power of happiness on survival at the aggregate level. Based on previous findings that psychological stress adversely affects survival and that its effect on survival is more severe for men, this study uses the sex difference in, rather than the level of, life expectancy as the dependent variable. As long as psychological stress and happiness are negatively correlated, happiness is expected to have a greater impact on men’s life expectancy and negatively influence the life expectancy gap between women and men. However, at the same time, the causality is expected to run in both directions. In the reverse direction from the life expectancy gap to national happiness, the intermediary is the women’s widowhood ratio. Since the widowed are, on average, less happy, an increase in the life expectancy gap, which raises the women’s widowhood ratio, is expected to lower women’s average happiness. For this reason, this study first investigates the reverse causality and demonstrates that the life expectancy gap negatively affects national happiness. Then, taking this reverse causality into account, it shows that happiness is significant in explaining the cross-country differences in the life expectancy gap. As national average happiness decreases, the sex difference in life expectancy increases. This result suggests that happiness has a significant impact on survival even at the aggregate level.
Henderson, L.W., & Knight, T. (2012). Integrating the hedonic and eudaimonic perspectives to more comprehensively understand wellbeing and pathways to wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2.
Recently, the disagreement that separates hedonic from eudaimonic philosophers has spread to the science of wellbeing. This has resulted in two opposing perspectives regarding both wellbeing concepts and proposed pathways to wellbeing. Whilst contention continues, most contemporary psychologists now agree that hedonic and eudaimonic approaches each denote important aspects of wellbeing. This has led to integrated wellbeing conceptualisations, in which the combined presence of hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing components is referred to as ‘flourishing’. In regard to the attainment of wellbeing, research simultaneously investigating hedonic and eudaimonic pathways suggests that a life rich in both types of pursuits is associated with the highest degree of wellbeing. Despite this assertion, previously underemphasised methodological limitations question the validity of such claims. To further progress this important area of investigation, future research directions to ameliorate said limitations are explored. It is recommended that the past tendency to contrast and compare hedonia and eudaimonia be abandoned, and instead that the inherent value of both be recognised. Time-use research methods are needed to cross-validate past findings obtained from cross-sectional research, which will make it possible to transition from purely descriptive conclusions to applied conclusions.
Dodge, R., Daly, A.P., Huyton, J., & Sanders, L.D. (2012). The challenge of defining
wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2.
Wellbeing is a growing area of research, yet the question of how it should be defined remains unanswered. This multi-disciplinary review explores past attempts to define wellbeing and provides an overview of the main theoretical perspectives, from the work of Aristotle to the present day. The article argues that many attempts at expressing its nature have focused purely on dimensions of wellbeing, rather than on definition. Among these theoretical perspectives, we highlight the pertinence of dynamic equilibrium theory of wellbeing (Headey & Wearing, 1989), the effect of life challenges on homeostasis (Cummins, 2010) and the lifespan model of development (Hendry & Kloep, 2002). Consequently, we conclude that it would be appropriate for a new definition of wellbeing to centre on a state of equilibrium or balance that can be affected by life events or challenges. The article closes by proposing this new definition, which we believe to be simple, universal in application, optimistic and a basis for measurement. This definition conveys the multi-faceted nature of wellbeing and can help individuals and policy makers move forward in their understanding of this popular term.
Here is a link to our list of Positive Psychology Readings.docx. It is updated by a research professor every month, and is now listed by publication year, to make it easier for you to track the most recent publications. It draws on all of the positive psychology research from around the world that is published in English.
The readings are primarily scholarly journal articles, but there are also some books and overviews for the general public. The readings are organized by categories, such as the definition and assessment of well-being, predictors of well-being, well-being in different groups, character strengths, relationships and positive institutions, resilience, posttraumatic growth, positive interventions, and savouring. Even if you do not have access to scholarly journal through an academic library, you may be able to track down at least the abstracts of many of the papers on the web. We will be updating this reading list regularly.
We also have a second list focused specifically on Positive Clinical Psychology.docx.
You will also find a good listing of various Positive Psychology readings in the Developmental Constructs section of The Book Shelf. This is a website that we do not administer.
Journals and Special Journal Issues
There are several journals in Positive Psychology:
International Journal of Wellbeing, a free online journal
Psychology of Well-being: Theory, Research, and Practice, a new open-access journal
Journal issues dedicated to positive psychology:
American Psychologist, January 2000
Psychological Topics, December 2009
Terapia Psicologica, (some articles in English, some in Chilean) 2013 Volume 31 Issue 1
Authors from whose websites you can download articles or research summaries even if you don’t have access to a university library:
You can also get some of the articles in positive psychology at Generally Thinking
You will find synopses on many positive psychology topics at Positive Psychology News Daily, where you can search by topic