Psychological well-being in cultural context : measurement, patterns and relevance for practice
Wissing, Jan Andries Benjamin
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This study, presented in article format, contributed to the development of the science and practice of positive psychology / psychofortology, specifically in the South African multi-cultural context, through (i) a first phase exploration of the validity of several scales, mainly developed in a 'western' context, for applicability of measurement of facets of psychological well-being in the South African (multicultural) context (manuscript I), (ii) an exploration of patterns of psychological wellbeing and satisfaction with life in cultural context (manuscript 2), and (iii) a review of the state of the art of the applicability of knowledge (theory and experimental findings) from the domain of positive psychology, for use in practice to enhance the quality of life for people (manuscript 3). For purposes of this study "cultural context" referred to relatively individualist and relatively collectivist cultural orientations as manifested in shared patterns of behavioural readiness, assumptions, attitudes, beliefs, self-definitions, norms, values, historical background and language groupings. The aim of the first study I article was to do a first phase screening of psychometric properties of several scales measuring facets of psychological wellbeing in a South African context. Most of these scales were developed in a western context, and measure facets of cognitive, affective, conative, social, and spiritual psychological well-being. Data were gathered in two projects including 731 participants from different cultural contexts in the North West Province. The FORTproject (FORT = Clarifying the nature of psychological strengths; -=strength) included a convenience sample of 384 mainly white students and adults from the Potchefstroom area, and a convenience sample of 130 mainly black students from the Mafikeng area. The POWIRS-project (POWIRS = Profiles of Obese Women with the Insulin Resistance Syndrome) included 102 black and 1 15 white adult women. Reliability and validity of scales for use in a South African context were reported. Results indicated that the reliability and validity of scales varied from acceptable to totally unacceptable for use in specific subgroups. It was concluded that the most promising scales for use in all groups were the Affectometer 2 (AFM), the Fortitude Questionnaire (FORQ) (except the FORQ-S), the Cognitive Appraisal Questionnaire (CAQ), the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS) the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) (the latter measuring pathology), and to some extent the Sense of Coherence Scale (SOC). This second study I article explored the patterns of psychological well-being and satisfaction with life in relatively more individualist and relatively more collectivist cultural contexts in South Africa. Secondary factor analyses were conducted on data obtained in four cross-sectional studies, comprising 1,909 participants. Questionnaires varied in studies, and measured facets of affective, cognitive, physical, spiritual, interpersonal and social well-being. Similarities and differences in patterns of psychological well-being and satisfaction with life were found. Satisfaction with life clusters with intra-psychological well-being in relatively more individualist cultural groups, and with inter-personal factors in relatively more collectivist African groups. Implications for models of psychological well-being and interventions to enhance psychological well-being were indicated. The aim of the third study I article was to review and evaluate the practical applicability of scientific knowledge from the domain of positive psychology / psychofortology, with specific reference to assessment, interventions, lifespan development and application in various contexts. It was shown that knowledge in the scientific domain of positive psychology has great relevance for, and application possibilities on individual, community and public policy levels. Applications were found as far as evaluation (assessment) and interventions are concerned in various life contexts (such as education, psychotherapy, health promotion, work), and in various phases of life (from childhood through adolescence and adulthood to old age). Several specific, empirically validated, strategies for enhancement of facets of psychological well-being were highlighted. It was pointed out that an advantage of positive psychology is that it has the theory, research evidence, and techniques to bring benefit to many people on the total mental health continuum, and not only, but also, to the minority who have a problem or are at risk of developing problems. A main conclusion across the different studies reported in this thesis (articles 1-3), was that cultural contexts and variables certainly need to be taken into account in research and practice of positive psychology. Despite the major developments in the scientific domain of positive psychology / psychofortology, its theories and applications have mainly been developed and explored in a western context, and further research is necessary, specifically in the African context. Several recommendations for future research were made.
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