Subjective wellbeing and families : issues of measurement and data interpretation

Cummins, Robert A. 2008, Subjective wellbeing and families : issues of measurement and data interpretation, in AIFS 2008 : Paper from the 2008 Australian Institute of Family Studies Seminar Series, AIFS, [Melbourne, Vic.], pp. 1-62.

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Title Subjective wellbeing and families : issues of measurement and data interpretation
Author(s) Cummins, Robert A.ORCID iD for Cummins, Robert A.
Conference name Australian Institute of Family Studies. Seminar (2008 : Melbourne, Vic.)
Conference dates 13 Mar. 2008
Title of proceedings AIFS 2008 : Paper from the 2008 Australian Institute of Family Studies Seminar Series
Publication date 2008
Series Australian Institute of Family Studies Seminar Series
Start page 1
End page 62
Publisher AIFS
Place of publication [Melbourne, Vic.]
Summary Since April 2001 we have been monitoring the Subjective Wellbeing (SWB) of the Australian population using the Personal Wellbeing Index. Our aims are to establish normative values and to identify people with abnormally low SWB. Each of 18 surveys has involved a new sample of 2,000 people, randomly chosen but representing the geographical distribution of the population. The data are remarkable for their stability, with the variation in population mean scores being just 3.2 percentage points. The cause of such high reliability is Subjective Wellbeing Homeostasis. Here, in a manner analogous to the management of body temperature, the SWB for each person is normally held positive and within a narrow set-point range. However, all homeostatic systems have a limited capacity to absorb challenge and when aversive experiences are both strong and sustained, homeostasis fails. If this occurs, people lose their normal positive view of themselves and become depressed. Therefore, the second aim of these studies is to reveal the demographic character of families in distress, who are in need of additional resources. Our data reveal the extent to which family structure and responsibilities impact on wellbeing. They also yield important diagnostic information about individuals, and point to SWB as a crucial measure of intervention outcome. In sum, the Personal Wellbeing Index is a simple, reliable and valid measure of SWB. The measures it yields are theoretically embedded, they can be compared against solid normative data, and their interpretation is enhanced through an understanding of SWB homeostasis.
Language eng
Field of Research 170113 Social and Community Psychology
Socio Economic Objective 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
HERDC Research category L2.1 Full written paper - non-refereed (minor conferences)
Copyright notice ©2008, AIFS
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School of Psychology
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