The evaluation of the general psychological well–being and the mental health continuum models in an African context
Khumalo, Itumeleng Paul
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Although the debate regarding the nature and structure of psychological well-being is ongoing (see Compton, 2001; Forgeard, Jayawickreme, Kern & Seligman, 2011; Kashdan, Biswas-Diener & King, 2008; Keyes, 2002; Kopperud & Vitterso, 2008; Lent, 2004; Linley, Maltby, Wood, Osborne & Hurling, 2009; Ryan & Deci, 2001; Ryff & Singer, 1998; Wissing & Temane, 2008; Wissing & Van Eeden, 2002), there has been sufficient support for more holistic, complex and inclusive models to explain and measure psychological well-being. The intertwined experience of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being as well as overlapping intrapersonal and interpersonal well-being experience (Keyes, 2002; Wissing & Temane, 2008) is captured by some contemporary models. The General Psychological Well-being (GPW; Wissing & Temane, 2008; Wissing & Van Eeden, 2002) and the Mental Health Continuum (MHC; Keyes, 2002, 2005a, 2005b, 2007; Keyes et al., 2008) models are of particular interest in this study especially as they both represent the essence of holistic psychological well-being. Previous research has seen the proliferation of multiple constructs and sub-constructs in the study of psychological well-being in the field of positive psychology. However, little is known about the manifestation and measurement of holistic psychological well-being particularly in an African context. The present thesis intended to explore the GPW and MHC models and their measures namely, the General Psychological Well-being Scale (GPWS) and the Mental Health Continuum Short Form (MHC-SF; Keyes, 2002, 2005a) in an African Setswana-speaking group. Through this effort, research issues pertaining to theoretical conceptualisation, measurement and socio-demographic interaction were explored. The thesis comprises three sub-studies reported in three manuscripts. All data were collected in cross-sectional surveys. The scale development phase of the first sub-study utilised secondary data analyses, while primary data were collected and analysed by the researcher for the second and third sub-studies. The aim of the first manuscript was to develop and validate a self-report instrument to measure general psychological well-being within an African context. This study took place over three phases and comprised data sets with a cumulative sample of 2760 participants. The phases were 1) scale development (n=2005), 2) pilot study (n=296), and 3) scale validation (n=459). The intention was that the scale should be shorter than the previous batteries of scales used in the initial identification of the General Psychological Well-being factor (GPW) by Wissing and Van Eeden (2002). The results yielded a reliable and valid 20 item scale. A Cronbach alpha of .89 among this sample attests to its reliability. Construct and criterion-related validity were supported by confirmatory and exploratory factor analyses and inter-scale correlations. According to Noar (2003), the development of reliable and valid measures contributes to the advancement of quality research. It is envisaged that the GPWS will be of value in epidemiological and multi-disciplinary studies as well as in evaluation of the impact of interventions to enhance positive health (cf. Seligman, 2008). The aim of the second study was to explore the influence of socio-demographic variables, namely gender, age, marital status, employment status, educational level and environmental setting on holistic psychological well-being in an African sample. Keyes and Waterman (2003) included these factors among the determinants of well-being and mental health. A community sample (n=459) consisting of male (n=141) and female (n=318) Setswana-speaking adults from rural (n=210) and urban (n=249) settings participated in the study. Findings indicate that whether a person lives in an urban or rural area has the most robust influence on their psychological well-being. Furthermore, psychological well-being was found to be positively influenced by being married, having a higher educational status and being employed. Gender and age did not have any differential influence on well-being. The insights gained from these findings could help enhance understanding of the various patterns in the manifestation of psychological well-being in a (South) African context. This will allow for better targeted interventions towards the enhancement of general psychological well-being in African communities. In this case, it is apparent that rural communities are in particular need of positive development intervention. According to Farid and Lazarus (2008) intervention efforts towards the improvement of lives need to be encouraged from the level of policy development. Government and business should take interest in people’s levels of well-being in guiding policy decisions (Diener, Kesebir & Lucas, 2008). The aim of the third study was to undertake a psychometric comparison of the General Psychological Well-being Scale (GPWS) and Mental Health Continuum Short-Form (MHC-SF) in an African context. The study comprised 459 Setswana-speaking participants. The study employed three main statistical approaches, namely, classical test theory (CTT) (cf. Clark & Watson, 1995; John & Benet-Martínez, 2000; Panounen & Ashton, 1998) structural equation modelling (SEM) (Byrne, 2001; Kline, 2011), and the Rasch model (De Bruin, 2004; Linacre, 2002, 2003; Rasch, 1960) of item response theory (IRT) in comparing the two scales. Firstly the theoretical basis of the scales and their development routes were explored. Secondly results from CTT (descriptive statistics, reliability, construct and criterion-related validity), SEM (measurement model fit indices) and IRT (item fit statistics, difficulty parameters, and response scale thresholds) analyses are reported. The main finding is that the GPWS and the MHC-SF are comparable measures of holistic psychological well-being in an African context. Although the MHC-SF appeared to be marginally superior, no model and measure emerged as clearly better than the other. The findings of the three sub-studies in this thesis contribute to the study of well-being and the field of positive psychology in at least three ways. Firstly, a new self-report instrument to measure general psychological well-being was developed and validated for use in an African context. Secondly, the study highlighted the significant influence of socio-demographic variables on individuals’ psychological well-being. Thirdly, in psychometrically comparing two scales, the study not only employed CTT and SEM methods as has been previously done, but has also reported IRT’s Rasch model’s results. The thesis is a comprehensive quantitative evaluation of the two holistic psychological well-being models and their measures in an African context. Qualitative studies towards the further clarification and contextualisation of the understanding of well-being in an African context are suggested. This may serve to triangulate, contradict or pose further hypotheses regarding the findings of the present study.
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