Personality , Life Events , and Subjective Weil-Being : Toward a Dynamic Equilibrium Model

  • Headey B
  • Wearing A
  • 33

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Abstract

Using data from 4 waves of an Australian panel study, this study offers a dynamic account of relations between personality, life events, and subjective well-being (SWB). Members of the Victorian Quality of Life panel study were interviewed 4 times: in 1981,1983,1985, and 1987. The initial sample size was 942; 649 respondents remain. The study shows that very stable personality traits (neuroticism, extraversion, and openness to experience) predispose people to experience moderately stable levels of favorable and adverse life events and moderately stable levels of SWB. However, contrary to the implications of previous research (Costa & McCrae, 1980, 1984), life events influence SWB over and above the effects of personality. A dynamic equilibrium model is outlined, in which each person is regarded as having "normal" equilibrium levels of life events and SWB, predictable on the basis of age and personality. Only when events deviate from their equilibrium levels does SWB change. Unusually favorable events enhance SWB; unusually adverse events depress it. The dynamic equilib- rium model is compared with 3 alternatives: personality models, adaptation level models, and models that treat life events as being wholly exogenous.

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Authors

  • Bruce Headey

  • Alexander Wearing

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