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The Multidimensional Well-Being Assessment (MWA):

Measuring Relational, Collective, Transcendent, Psychological, and Physical Contets o! Wellness

Shelly P. Harrell, Nicole Moshfegh, Gera Anderson, Marta Orozco, Claudia V. Pena, Nardos Bellete, ustin !nder"ood, #sther Par$, %ina Ch&iel, ' Hoda A(ou)*ia(
Pe++erdine !ni,ersity, Graduate School of #ducation and Psychology
Developing an understanding of well-being in the context of diversity is critical. Existing measures of well-
being have given limited attention to diversity in their conceptual foundation and in the development of item
content. Conceptualizations of well-being have been operationalized and then measured within an individualistic
theoretical frame and then applied to diverse cultures, rather than developing the construct of well-being in a
way that integrates culture and context from its inception, and developing a measure emerging from this
conceptualization that is inclusive and multiculturally-grounded. Most conceptualizations and measures of well-
being have an individualistic, estern perspective and are not inclusive of aspects noted to be pertinent to the
well-being of those from collectivistic cultures, such as community, culture, and spirit. !lthough some scales
have attempted to gain cross-cultural validity, these efforts have mainly been accomplished through gathering
international data and comparing countries, rather than examining diverse experiences of well-being within the
same national context. "et, many countries have racially-ethnically diverse populations #e.g., the $nited %tates,
Canada, !ustralia, and many European nations& that include immigrants and refugees, as well as descendents
of immigrants, slaves, and indigenous groups in colonized nations. 'he conceptualization, measurement, and
empirical study of well-being should include attention to these groups in the context of their sociopolitical
histories and current conditions. Most existing scales have been developed and validated in predominately
young #i.e., college-aged&, Caucasian, highly affluent, and highly educated populations within the $.%. or Europe.
(elevant to mental health contexts, it is important to emphasize that the construct of well-being consists of
more than simply the absence of diagnosable symptoms as well-being research examines what it means to live
a good life #)ing * +apa, ,--./ (obbins, 011.&. %ymptom expression correlates negatively with well-being, yet
research suggests that the constructs are conceptually distinct rather than on a single continuum. 2ndividuals
may lac3 depressive or anxious symptoms but also may not necessarily experience positive states such as
happiness, 4oy, authenticity, growth, awe, and meaning #(obbins, 011.&. Conversely, it may be possible to excel
in dimensions of well-being in the presence of symptoms. 'his distinction is important for psychologically-based
interventions. 5urther, consideration of positive well-being may be helpful in understanding the development and
maintenance of unwanted symptoms. !dditionally, many psychotherapy clients see3 opportunities to grow and
enhance their lives instead of, or in addition to, reducing specific symptoms #%chneider * May, ,--6&. 'he field
of Counseling 7sychology and some recent therapies #e.g., !cceptance and Commitment 'herapy #!C'&,
7ositive 7sychotherapy #77'& explicitly name enhancement of life satisfaction as a primarily treatment goal.
'wo primary goals guided the development of the The Multidimensional Well-Being Assessment #M!/
8arrell, 01,,&9
#,& to develop a well-being measure more inclusive of aspects of well-being that may be particularly
relevant to racial:ethnic groups that are not white or of European decent, people from more collectivistic
cultures, as well as those of lower socioeconomic status, and
#0& to develop a measure that has utility in applied contexts, particularly with respect to psychologically-based
interventions such as psychotherapy and life coaching.
! large psychometric study is currently being implemented with a goal of racial:ethnic and
socioeconomic diversity in the validation sample. ;ur sample size goal is ,<11 participants in order to
conduct a factor analysis for a more thorough examination of the structure of the M!. 'he M! is currently
being translated into %panish, )orean, and 5arsi so that initial psychometric data can include a broad diversity
of participants for whom English is not their first language.
'he data reported here reflect the responses of the first -= participants who participated in the
psychometric study and completed an online >uestionnaire that included demographic >uestions and the
M!. ;f those -=, sixty-three #<?& have also completed a set of validation instruments.
Descri!ti"n an# De$el"!%ent "& the W' Descri!ti"n an# De$el"!%ent "& the W'
Development of the M! was informed by guidelines for scale construction offered by De@ellis #01,0& and
Clar3 and atson #,--6&. ! comprehensive literature review on the construct of well-being, measures of well-
being, and well-being in diverse racial-ethnic groups was conducted that resulted in the Multidimensional-
Contextual Model of ell-Aeing #8arrell, et. al., 01,0& positing five core life contexts within which well-being is
experienced9 (elational, Collective, 'ranscendent, 7sychological, and 7hysical. ! >ualitative study on well-
being among homeless men in a substance-abuse program #+athan, 011-& also informed the development of
the conceptual framewor3, particularly the decision to include a dimension of psychological well-being related to
the sense that one is in the process of growing and becoming a better person #transformative well-being&.
!n exhaustive pool of items was systematically generated for consideration that reflected the literature and
was consistent with the conceptual model. 'hese items were evaluated by an open-discussion content
validation process with a culturally diverse group of doctoral and masterBs level students in psychology familiar
with both multicultural psychology !+D the well-being literature. 'he number of items were reduced and
assigned to theoretically-derived well-being dimensions using a C-sort procedure. ! preliminary scale was
developed and piloted in a sample of <1 !frican !merican women in prison #Drills * @illaneuva, 01,0& where it
performed well in statistical analyses. !dditional literature review and content validation discussion resulted in
the addition of dimensions within the Collective and 7hysical wellness contexts resulting in a final ,<1-item scale
with five primary wellness contexts, and fifteen well-being dimensions #0-= within each context&.
The " Contets and #" $imensions o! the MWA %ith &am'le (tems The " Contets and #" $imensions o! the MWA %ith &am'le (tems
PHYSIC'( WE((NESS CONTE)TS *+ #i%ensi"ns, +- ite%s./ 2ncludes personal safety, health status and health-enhancing
behaviors, as well as well-being related to the conditions of oneEs physical environment.
Health *-0 ite%s./ F2 felt physically healthy and strong enough to handle the demands of my daily activitiesG/ F2 too3 good care of
my healthG/ F2 got enough hours of peaceful, uninterrupted sleepG/ F2 felt comfortable with my sexualityG.
En$ir"n%ent *-- ite%s./ F2 spent time in places with lots of grass, flowers, trees, and:or clean rivers, la3es, beaches, etc.G/ F'he
place where 2 live was mostly free from very loud noises such as traffic, trains, gunshots, sirens, etc.G.
Sa&et1 *2 ite%s./ F2 felt safe in the neighborhood where 2 liveG/ F2 felt safe from sexual violence or exploitationG/ FMy loved ones
were safe from violence, abuse, or harassmentG/ 2 felt safe from threats, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or stal3ingG.
PSYCHO(O3IC'( WE((NESS CONTE)TS *4 #i%ensi"ns, 45 ite%s./ 2ndividual and sub4ective well-being/ positive, behavioral,
emotional, and self-awareness/ also includes transformational processes, that is, personally-defined indicators of progress on desired
outcomes and sub4ective assessment that change or growth is occurring.
'wareness *6 ite%s./ F2 was aware of the connection between my mind, my emotions, and what was going on in my bodyG/ F2 too3
time to Hsmell the rosesB, really noticing and en4oying things from my sensesG.
E%"ti"nal *-0 ite%s./ F2 felt strong and empoweredG. F2 was confident in myself/ my self-esteem was highG. F2 felt 4oy and
happiness insideG/ F2 felt inspired or excited about somethingG.
F7ncti"nal *-5 ite%s./ F2 was productive/ 2 got things doneG/ F2 did a good 4ob at wor3, school, or with other responsibilitiesG/
F2 3ept my word or followed through, did what 2 said 2 would doG/ F2 had a positive event or activity to loo3 forward toG.
Trans&"r%ati$e *-0 ite%s./ F2 made progress dealing with a problem or getting rid of a bad habitG/ F2 learned something new,
became more 3nowledgeableG/ F2 did something to move my life forward or head in the right directionG.
RE('TION'( WE((NESS CONTE)TS *0 #i%ensi"ns, 08 ite%s./ 'he nature and >uality of oneEs interpersonal relationships,
including prosocial behavior with others.
Relati"nshi! 97alit1 *-: ite%s./ F2 was able to be myself, to be ErealE with the people 2 care aboutG/ F'here was someone in my
life who really understands me and 3nows me wellG/ F2 felt supported and encouragedG/ F2 felt good about my friendshipsG.
Pr"s"cial ;eha$i"r/ *-0 ite%s./ F2 did or said something to lift someoneBs spiritsG/ F2 showed patience with a person or situationG/ F2
helped someone in needG/ F2 expressed gratitude or appreciation to someoneG/ F2 gave good advice or guidance to someoneG.
CO((ECTIVE WE((NESS CONTE)TS *4 #i%ensi"ns, +: ite%s.9 2ncludes a positive sense of community i.e.,
connection, belonging&, social group identity #e.g., racial:ethnic, sexual orientation&, civic participation, and national pride.
C"%%7nit1 *-5 ite%s./ F2 felt secure and grounded by my roots in my culture or other community 2 identify withG/ F'hings that 2 did
during my leisure time reflected my culture or another community 2 identify withG.
Partici!at"r1 *2 ite%s./ F2 volunteered my time in service of people in need, animals, the environment, or another cause
important to meG/ F2 participated in or contributed to positive change on a social 4ustice issue or causeG.
I#entit1 *-0 ite%s./ F2 felt li3e 2 was EhomeE when 2 was with people from my culture #or another group in society important to my
identityG/ F2 felt strongly and emotionally connected to my culture or another group in society that is important to meG/ F2 felt
good about how 2 was fulfilling my role in my family, culture, or in another group in society important to meG.
Nati"nal C"nte<t *: ite%s./ F2 have positive feelings about my home countryG/ FMy home country was strong and stable in terms
of leadership and political mattersG.
TR'NSCENDENT WE((NESS CONTE)TS *0 #i%ensi"ns, 08 ite%s./ 2ndicates spirituality, pea3 experience and higher status of
consciousness or higher purpose beyond human form. 2t can also be a connection with nature and the infinite or finding meaning.
eaning an# Fl"w *-4 ite%s./ F2 was Hin the zoneB, got totally lost or immersed in an activity that 2 en4oyedG/ F2 felt connected to all
of humanity regardless of race, nationality, social class, etc.G/ F2 felt li3e my life had meaning, li3e 2Bm here for a purposeG.
S!irit7alit1 *-+ ite%s.9 F2 en4oyed expressing and sharing my spirituality with other people or in a faith communityG/ F2 felt
positively connected with the soul or spirit of another person #living or deceased&G/ F2 witnessed or experienced spiritual healingG.
M! 2+%'($C'2;+% !+D (E%7;+%E %C!IE9$sing the scale below, please select the response that indicates how much each statement has been true for
you D$(2+D '8E 7!%' '; EE)%, including today.

1J+E@E(:+;' !' !IIJ +ever true for me during the past 0 wee3s, not even once ?J7(E''" ;5'E+:M;%'I"J 'rue for me most days during the past 0
,J(!(EI":! I2''IEJ 'rue for me only a few times during the past 0 wee3s =J@E(" 5(EC$E+'I":@E(" %'(;+DI"J 'rue for me usually everyday
0J%;ME'2ME%:%;ME8!'J 'rue for me about half the time 6J!I!"%:EK'(EMEI"J 'rue for me nearly all day everyday
+:!JD;E% +;' !77I" '; MEJ 'his statement doesnEt relate to my life at all
'he M! was developed to incorporate important aspects of well-
being that have been given minimal attention in existing scales such as
transformative well-being, collective well-being, and transcendent well-being.
Conceptualizing well-being inclusive of these ideas and measuring the
resulting multidimensional construct in a single instrument is a uni>ue
'he preliminary data reported here is highly promising with respect to
the psychometric properties of the measure. (eliability coefficients ranged
from .L1-.-<. 'he pattern of relationships reflected in the validity coefficients
and differences between groups suggest strong construct and 3nown-groups
Ionger-term goals include developing scoring protocols that enable
the generation of well-being profiles for use in applied contexts, as well as
for individual and small group purposes. ! comprehensive and culturally-
inclusive measure of well-being, such as the M!, will allow for testing the
effectiveness of psychosocial interventions with respect to effects on positive
mental health, not only on the reduction of symptomatology. !
comprehensive measurement of well-being can be a useful tool not only for
research, but also in applied contexts.
Preli%inar1 Ps1ch"%etric Preli%inar1 Ps1ch"%etric
Pr"!erties "& the W' Pr"!erties "& the W'
Christopher, C. M. #,---&. %ituating psychological well-being9 exploring the cultural roots of its theory and research. Journal of Counseling &
Development. 77#,&, ,=,-,60.
Deci, E.I. * (yan, (. M. #011<&. 8edonia, eudaimonia, and well-being9 !n introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9#,&, ,-,,.
De@ellis, (.5. #01,0&. Scale Development: Theory and pplications #?
ed.&. Ios !ngeles, C!9 %age.
Diener, E., irtz, D., 'ov, ., )im-7rieto, C., Choi, D., ;ishi, %., * Aiswas-Diener, (. #011-&. +ew well-being measures9 short scales to assess
flourishing and positive
and negative feelings. Social !ndicators Journal, 97#,& ,=?-,6<.
8arrell, %.7., Moshfegh, +., !nderson, D., ;rozco, M., 7ar3, E., * 7ena, C.@. #March, 01,0&. Development of a frame"or# and measure of multiple
conte$ts of "ell% &eing: 'ersonal( relational( collective( transcendent( and physical. 7oster presented at the !nnual Conference of the %ociety
for 8umanistic 7sychology #!7! Division ?0&. 7ittsburgh, 7!.
)eyes, C. I. M., %hmot3in, D. * (yff, C. D. #0110&. ;ptimizing well-being9 the empirical encounter of two traditions. Journal of 'ersonality and Social
)*#<&, ,11L-,100.
)ing, I. !., * +apa, C. ). #,--.&. hat ma3es a good lifeN Journal of 'ersonality and Social 'sychology ( 7#,&, ,6<-,<6.
;yserman, D., Coon, 8. M., * )emmelmeier, M. #0110&. (ethin3ing individualism and collectivism9 evaluation of theoretical assumptions and
meta-analyses. 'sychological +ulletin, ,*)#,&, ?.
(obbins, A. D. #011.&. hat is the good lifeN 7ositive psychology and the renaissance of humanistic psychology. The Humanistic 'sychologist( -.#0&,
-<-,,0. doi9 ,1.,1.1:1..L?0<1.10,,1-..
%uh, E. M. #0110&. Culture, identity consistency, and sub4ective well-being. Journal of 'ersonality and Social 'sychology, )-#<&, ,?L.-,?-,.
7reliminary %ample Characteristics #+J-=&
!DE9 ,.-6L years old, MJ?<.<. years #%DJ,?.1.&
DE+DE(9 L0 omen #L<.<O&, 00 Men #0?.=O&
(!CE9 == hite #=<..O&, 61 7eople of Color #Iatino, !sian, 7ersian, !frican !merican, Middle Eastern, Multiracial&
2MM2D(!'2;+ %'!'$%9 L? Aorn in the $%! #L,.LO&, ,, moved to $%! as a child #,,.LO&, ,1 moved to $%! as adult
ED$C!'2;+9 ,L 8igh %chool Degree:@ocational #,-.,O&, L< College or Draduate Degree #.1.-O&
Dimensions (ated Most 5re>uently as !mong the 'op 5ive Most 2mportant Contributors to ;verall ell-Aeing
L,O rated F'he >uality of my relationships with the people closest to meG among their top five
<1O rated F8aving positive emotions and feelingsG among their top five
66O rated FMy physical healthG among their top five
6,O rated FMy daily activities and achievementsG among their top five
=.O rated F8ave a sense of meaning and purposeG among their top five
Differences Aetween Droups
DE+DE(9 omen had significantly higher scores on the /elationship 0uality dimension of well-being than men
#t#-0&J-,.--, pP.16&.
2MM2D(!'2;+ %'!'$%9 'hose who moved to the $%! as an adult had significantly higher Collective !dentity scores
than both those born in the $%! and those who moved to $%! as a child #5#0,-,&J?.=., pP.16&
(!CE9 7eople of Color had significantly lower sub4ective well-being #t#<?&J0.=6, pP.16&, lower total 'hysical 1ell%+eing
#t#-0&J0.,0,pP.16&, and higher negative emotions than hites #t#<,&J-0..<, pP.1,&.
ED$C!'2;+9 7articipants whose highest level of education was a high school degree or vocational school had
significantly higher scores on the Collective%'articipatory dimension of well-being than those with a college or graduate
#t#-,&J0.,1, pP.16&.