Toward an integration of subjective well-being and psychopathology
Greenspoon, Peter Jay
The objective of this study was to explore the potential validity and utility of a dual-factor system (DFS) of conceptualizing mental health. The factors were the traditional perspective on mental health, psychopathology (PTH), and the relatively recent perspective, subjective well-being (SWB). Research has shown that PTH and SWB are not simply opposite poles of a single continuum, however, the constructs have yet to be integrated in a meaningful manner. The sample consisted of 407 children in Grades 3-6. Self- and teacher-report data were available for the entire sample, in addition to parent-report data for a subsample of 247 children. Measures of PTH and SWB were completed, after which subjects were classified as either high or low in each area, using various criteria. Subjects meeting criteria for further analysis were those classified as low PTH - high SWB (Group 1), high PTH - low SWB (Group 2), and low PTH - low SWB (Group 3), the last group being the one challenging the unidimensional perspective. Group membership was then used as the classification variable in a series of discriminant function analyses. Predictor variables used were those in which research has indicated relationships with both PTH and SWB. These variables assessed the domains of temperament, personality, self-concept, locus of control, and interpersonal relations. The results indicated that all three groups could be classified at well above chance levels. Groups 1 and 2 showed significant differences on virtually all predictor variables, with Group 2 scoring in the pathological directions. Group 3, however, showed similarities and differences with both Groups 1 and 2. Whereas Groups 1 and 3 were similar on the disposition-type variables of Neuroticism and Locus of Control, Group 3 was similar to Group 2 on the situation-type variables of Interpersonal Relations and Academic Competence. A linear trend was noted on the Self-Concept variables, with Group 3 consistently falling between Groups 1 and 2. The results of this study offer strong preliminary evidence for the validity and potential utility of a DFS. These results are discussed, as are implications for the fields of mental illness prevention and intervention.