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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Happiness, well-being, and post-secondary attainment: measuring the subjective well-being of British Columbia's high school graduate class of 1988 Jongbloed, Janine Alysia


The purpose of the current study is to create definitions and conceptualizations of the constructs of “happiness” and “well-being” in a large sample of the high school graduate class of 1988 in British Columbia, Canada, and then explore the relationships among these concepts and post-secondary educational aspirations, expectations, and attainment. In this thesis, I define the concepts of “happiness” and “well-being” in terms of the participants’ own descriptions of these concepts elicited from focused questionnaire and interview questions from the last wave of the 22-year longitudinal Paths on Life’s Way project. Data were collected using survey methods (n=574) and interviews (n=19). By analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data from Paths on Life’s Way, I employ a mixed methods approach. Specifically, I use the survey data extensively and have added my own questions to the most recent set of follow-up interviews to better define and conceptualize “happiness” and “well-being” for members of the high school graduating class of 1988 in British Columbia, Canada. The current study builds on previous work done with this dataset (Andres, 1992, 2002, 2009, 2010) using the theoretical framework of Sen’s (1985, 1993, 2005) conceptualization of functionings and capabilities in relation to people’s well-being and agency. The basic hypothesis of the current study is that people’s perceptions of their own “happiness” and “well-being” are not only distinct, but also dependent on context, time, and life sphere (e.g., work vs. family). These complex concepts, and participants’ self-ratings of them, relate to post-secondary educational aspirations, expectations, and attainment in ways that differ by gender, health, marital status, and presence or absence of children. As well, the acts of defining and measuring one’s own “happiness” and “well-being” and attempting to change these is an iterative process that is both influenced by and influences one’s educational path.

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