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Studies

Neugarten et al. (1961): study US 1955

Publication

Author(s):
Neugarten, B.L.; Havighurst, R.J.; Tobin, S.S.
Title:
The Measurement of Life Satisfaction.
Source:
Journal of Gerontology, 1961, Vol. 16, 134 -143

Investigation

Public:
50+ aged, whites followed 2,5 years, Kansas City, USA., 196?
Sample:
Respondents:
N = 177
Non Response:
Panel group: 16% refusal; 26% dropout after 4 interviews. Quasi panel: 17% dr.
Assessment:
Interview: face-to-face
4 interviews in a period of two and a half years.

Happiness Measure(s) and Distributional Findings

Full text:
Selfreport in focused interview:

Content analysis of interview records by independent judges.
Interviews focused on the extent to which S feels he has achieved his goals in life, whatever those goals might be; feels he has succeeded in accomplishing what he regards as important. High ratings go, for instance, to S who says, "I've managed to keep out of jail" just as to R who says, "I managed to send all my kids through college". Low ratings go to R who feels he's missed most of his opportunities, or who says, "I've never been suited to my work", or "I always wanted to be a doctor, but never could get there". Also to R who wants most to be "loved", but instead feels merely "approved". (Expressions of regret for lack of education are not counted because they are stereotyped responses among all but the group of highest social status).

Rating options:
5  Feels he has accomplished what he wanted to do. He has  
    achieved or is achieving his own personal goals.
4  Regrets somewhat the chances missed during life. "Maybe   
    I could have made more of certain opportunities".  
    Nevertheless, feels that he has been fairly successful in  
    accomplishing what he wanted to do in life.
3  Has a fifty-fifty record of opportunities taken and opportunities
    missed. Would have done some things differently, if he had  
    his life to live over. Might have gotten more education.
2  Has regrets about major opportunities missed but feels good  
    about accomplishment in one area (may be his avocation).
1  Feels he has missed most opportunities in life.
Classification:
C-RG-h-fi-v-5-a
Author's label:
Congruence desired/achieved goals.
Error estimates:
Reliability: Inter-judge agreement: 92% of the paired judgements showed exact agreement or 1-step disagreement. Retest reliability : 73% exact agreement of 1-step disagreement between paired judgements and psychologist rating on the basis of interview 1½ - 2 years later (N=80). Validity: Purpose of investigation.
Full text:
Selfreport in focused interview:

Content analysis of interview records by two independent judges:
High ratings for R who expresses happy, optimistic attitudes and mood; who uses spontaneous positively-toned affective terms for people and things; who takes pleasure from life and expresses it. Low ratings for depression, 'feel blue and lonely'; for feelings of bitterness; for frequent irritability and anger. (Here not only R's  verbalized attitudes in the interview were considered, but interferences were made from all the knowledge of his inter-personal relationships, how others react towards him).

Rating options
5  'This is the best time of my life'. Is nearly always cheerful, optimistic. Cheerfulness may seem unrealistic to an observer, but R shows no  sign of  'putting up a bold front'.
4  Gets pleasure out of life, knows it and shows it. There is  enough restraint  to seem appropriate to a younger person. Usually feels positive affect. Optimistic.
3  Seems to move along on an even temperamental keel. Any depressions are neutralized by positive mood swings. Generally neutral-to-positive affect. May show some irritability
2   Wants things quiet and peaceful. General neutral-to-negative affect. Some depression.
1   Pessimistic, complaining, bitter. Complaints of being lonely. Feels 'blue' a good deal of the time. May get angry when in contact with people.
Classification:
M-FH-c-fi-v-5-a
Author's label:
Mood tone.
Error estimates:
Reliability: Inter-judge agreement: 92% of the paired judgements showed exact agreement or 1-step disagreement. Retest reliability : 69% exact agreement or 1-step disagreement between paired judgements and psychologist rating on the basis of interview 1½ - 2 years later (N=80). Validity: Purpose of investigation.

Correlational Findings

Author's label Subject Description Finding Zest vs apathy Zestful Resolution and fortitude Fortuitous Positive self-concept Evaluation of self-as-a-whole