The Potential of Mixed Methods for Person-Oriented Well-Being Research

2016-04-21, 16:13:01   Ivo Ponocny and Christian Weismayer
pages 102–110.
DOI: 10.17505/jpor.2016.10
Abstract: The assessment of individual well-being has found its way into official statistics not only via objectively measurable indicators, but also focusing on subjective well-being via life satisfaction or happiness self-ratings. Although a first step towards a person-centered view is taken by that (compared to classic GDP reporting), it can be demonstrated by means of qualitative interviewing that a lot of essential information gets lost when relying on aggregate life evaluation, even if subjectively reported. The database is taken from the MODUL Study of Living Conditions (Ponocny, Weismayer, Dressler, & Stross, 2015), which provides, among other gathered data sources, 500 semi-structured interviews about the current quality of life from different locations in Austria, together with subjective self-ratings about life satisfaction and happiness. Numerical self-ratings are contrasted to what people actually reported about their lives. The comparison between both approaches shows that top global self-evaluations tend to hide essential problematic aspects which people tell about their lives verbally. This does not only let the single-item self-ratings look very superficial, but even essentially biased, when prematurely interpreted by researchers. Additionally, different patterns were detected how the study participants interpreted life satisfaction and happiness at all. Merging quantitative information such as implausible response patterns (found by configuration frequency analysis) with qualitative information from the interview narratives helped to explain counterintuitive responses. Summed up, this mixed method approach demonstrates the importance of considering not only aggregate information, but also following a more holistic view on individuals and their specific configurations of internal and external quality of life conditions.
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Keywords: Person oriented research, qualitative methods, mixed methods, subjective well-being, social indicators, configuration frequency analysis, official statistics, quality of life
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