To romantic loneliness, with socio-demographic factors accounted for (Neto,

To accurately measure how effective early beginnings may be as a predictor for later
wellbeing, it is vital to not only describe how the construct is measured and operationalised
but to define. However, there has historically been a lack of consensus when defining
wellbeing. This essay will briefly touch upon the historical timeline regarding the ‘challenge
of defining wellbeing’ (Dodge, Daly, Huyton, & Sanders, 2012) and provide critique of
relevant theoretical background/literature, as well as establishing how both relationships and
the social networking/media-dependant culture contemporary society has created interrelate
in terms of wellbeing; e.g. Facebook usage has been proven beneficial for both relationship
maintenance and subjective well-being as a result of users receiving strong, composed
communication from strong ties (Burke, & Kraut, 2016). The importance of research into
children’s early beginnings and how it impacts wellbeing later in both adolescence and
adulthood will also be explored, as well as the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions and
positive psychology. Wellbeing research is crucial in improving quality of life; low
subjective wellbeing has been strongly associated to social, family and romantic loneliness,
with socio-demographic factors accounted for (Neto, 2015).
It is important to note the historical background when defining wellbeing. Two main
approaches emerged: the hedonic tradition which emphasised the importance of constructs
such as happiness, positive and low negative affect and life satisfaction (Bradburn, 1969) and
the eudaimonic tradition, which used a positive psychological basis in terms of functioning
and human development (Waterman, 1993). Despite this ‘confusing and contradictory
research base’ (Pollard and Lee, 2003), contemporary psychologists now agree both opposing
approaches denote important wellbeing aspects and has, thus, led to an integrated wellbeing
conceptualisation. This integration of both approaches has been used to create a
comprehensive understanding (Henderson and Knight, 2012), which state it is a life rich in
both pursuits which will result in the highest degree of wellbeing.
Deci and Ryan (2000) claim there are as little as three basic human universal needs:
autonomy, competence and relatedness. The theory focuses on how behaviour is selfdetermined
and both the cultural and social conditions that promote this. This theory is
highly regarded in the field as it comprehensive and considers how the basic human need for
fulfilment is applicable to everyone regardless of culture or stage of development. Although it
may initially seem reductionist to condense these needs down to three, it is a useful macro
theory, which research emphasises the importance of attachment and how these universal
needs can be achieved with the aid of strong, healthy relationships as a child; ‘relationships
provide the key experience that connects children’s personal and social worlds. It is within
the dynamic interplay between these two worlds that minds form and personalities grow,
behaviour evolves and social competence begins’ (Howe, Brandon, Hinings & Scholfield,
1999). Hence, if a child fails to form healthy relationships, attainment of these three basic
needs will inevitablybe a struggle; the importance of attachment and healthy relationships
will be further discussed later on in the essay.
One early, renowned sociological study was able to provide insight as to how societal
conditions and mortality rates can be correlated on a macro level. Durkheim (1897), one of
the founding fathers of Sociology, claimed it is when society gets into a state of anomie,
individuals became psychologically detached. Suicide was thus attributed to a lack of social
integration and cohesion (Stack, 2004). However, there are many theoretical and
methodological flaws to the study and it has since been dismissed by social scientists with
heavy theoretical and methodological critique. Douglas (1966) questioned the validity of the
suicide statistics; it is all dependent on coroners to classify a death as a suicide, and in some
religions suicide is a ‘social disgrace’. As opposed to Durkheim’s claim of Catholicism’s
high social control reducing the rate of suicide, it is argued that, rather, this results in the
families’ not admitting to the coroner that their relative committed suicide. Thus, it may not
be the case that societies have a significant higher suicide rate, but certain cultures may be
less prone to classifying suicides. This dismissal of societal factors on such a macro level
provides support and reasoning for how wellbeing research should have a much more
individualistic focus; suicide is personal to the individual and this emphasises the need for
research into how earlier beginnings could have been a predictor in these suicides, as opposed
to the current societal factors. Despite this, this was the first methodological study that was
able to establish ‘social facts’, and although the study may be flawed in various aspects, it is
known as a classic and important sociological study, with strong influences on sociological
and philosophical work for years to come, e.g. the development of social control theory
(Agnew, 1991)
However, this is not to say social factors should be merely disregarded. More contemporary
theories simply acknowledge how externally derived norms should not be applied without
consideration of individual differences. A highly comprehensive definition derives from the
work of Felce and Perry (1995), who claim wellbeing stems from an individuals’ aspirations
and perception of their current situation. Quality of life is generally agreed to be multidimensional
and comprise of five dimensions: physical wellbeing, material wellbeing, social
wellbeing, emotional wellbeing and development. This macro definition acknowledges how
everyone’s own satisfaction and idea of success is unique and personal to the individual;
although our culture is likely to shape these goals. However, for this essay, it is subjective
wellbeing that will be referenced throughout.
Some individuals are simply more resilient than others irrespective of external factors and
individualistic stressors; Tugade & Fredrickson (2004) found resilient individuals are prone
to ‘bounce back’ from stressful experiences quickly and efficiently, and is attributed to
individuals finding positive meaning despite the circumstances, as well as quicker recovery
of negative cardiovascular arousal. It is interesting to note the cognitive differences between
participants; resilient individuals reported finding the same situation less stressful. Not only is
this physiologically beneficial to the body and overall physical health/wellbeing, it has been
suggested this extra time also gives the body restoration time to toughen up if the individual
encounters more stressful or dangerous circumstances (Dienstbier, 1989).
It has been established that positive psychological interventions can be used to promote
positive thoughts and emotions in times of distress, and hence boost resilience and overall
wellbeing. Sin & Lyubomirsky (2009) found positive psychology interventions significantly
enhance wellbeing and decrease depressive symptoms, which emphasises the importance of
positive psychology. Although the effectiveness was impacted by factors such as the severity
of the depression, the basic premise findings are important in positively influencing
cognitions, even if improvement is gradual; it is suggested that it would be beneficial for
clinicians to deliver positive interventions as individual therapy and for long periods of time,
to ensure the therapy is as effective as possible.
The question is: why are some people naturally more emotionally resilient than others?
Attachment type, developed during the early years, may predict emotional resilience in
adolescence and adulthood. It is claimed that the concepts of both attachment and resilience
are complementary and strengthened by each approach; attachment has been established as a
crucial factor in maximising resilience and minimising risk for vulnerable children in need of
care and protection (Atwool, 2006).
Attachment has been found to increase one’s self-worth, resilience (Karreman &
Vingerhoets, 2012) and confidence, and teach them they are loveable; that the world is not a
nasty place out to get them. It has been established that a strong attachment in the first three
years of life is essential in assuring a strong, healthy view of both the world and others
around them (Bowlby, 1979). However, although this can predict later wellbeing, it is not
determined; many educational psychologists are sceptical about the relevance of attachment
theory. McNab (2005) claimed ‘it is all too often a causal attribution, which induces in the
professionals as kind of hopeless fatalism that obstructs creativity about how a person who
has experienced trauma and suffering might still make a good life for themselves’. However,
if attachment theory were to be more prominent and accepted by professionals, there could be
a positive impact on young people who have experienced suffering to overcome their
difficulties, and thus boost their emotional resilience; linking back to positive psychological
interventions. Behaviour is often claimed to ‘not make sense’ by teachers (Slater, 2007), and
without a proper understanding of the relevance of attachment theory, children’s behaviour
difficulties may never be properly addressed, hence their wellbeing will inevitably suffer with
potential long-term consequences.
Without these early beginning difficulties properly addressed, a child could potentially grow
up neurotic. High levels of childhood adversity have been significantly linked to neuroticism
(Rosenman & Rodgers, 2006), which emphasises how negative consequences can prevail
throughout the lifespan, and how it is inevitably more effective the earlier positive
psychological interventions are targeted. Grossman (1995) claims ‘attachment is not one
relationship among others; it is the very foundation of healthy individual development’.
Without that basic foundation healthy development is significantly hindered, which
emphasises the impact early beginnings do have long-term.
Attachment style and neuroticism are also predictors of social media use and how we all have
different functional needs of these social networks. Neuroticism was found to predict social
media use, whilst both attachment anxiety and avoidance predicted social media addition
(Blackwell et al. 2017). In Westernised culture, we are exposed to media and technological
influences every day. It has recently been revealed that users spend an average of 50 minutes
using both Facebook and Instagram daily (Stewart, 2016); this significant proportion of time
surely cannot be without implications. Verduyn et al. (2017) established how passively social
networking provokes envy and thus negatively impacts on subjective well-being, however if
one is to actively use a social network the effect is vice versa. Positive wellbeing is achieved
by promoting feelings of social connectedness and thus demonstrates the benefits of social
networking; particularly on neurotic and/or anxiously attached individuals.
These individuals tend to seek lots of reassurance, and hence are found to have higher levels
of social media use than avoidantly attached individuals. Communicating online is
understandably easier for if one is anxious, as the computer screen barrier allows for a longer
time to plan out what they want to say, and the removal of awkward pauses in conversation
(Kandell, 1998). Avoidantly-attached individuals tend to use social media less, as it would be
presumed they have less interest in developing or maintaining relationships due to their high
levels of self-sufficiency. However, the fear of missing out has been found to be a statistically
higher predictor of social media use than attachment or neuroticism; although where this fear
derives could be an example of neuroticism manifesting. Either way, social media is
evidently functionally beneficial at helping individuals manage their difficulties and
improving social connectedness. Despite childhood adversities prevailing into later years, it is
important to note how the problems that may arise can be helped and managed via
Despite social media use having been established as more positive than negative in
contemporary research, the darker side of the statistics reveals some worrying implications of
social media. Cyberbulling is a massive, growing issue, as well as the age in which children
are signing up to these social networking sites; a quarter of internet users aged 8-12 have a
social networking profile (Office of Communications, 2010), despite the minumum age for
Facebook and most networking sites to be 13. This demonstrates how our technoological
advancements are also risking young people’s safety and wellbeing, as well as benefiting.
With happiness being many individuals’ life goals (Tay, Kuykendall, & Diener, 2015), it is
feasible that the type of social networker you are will determine how your social media use
will achieve happiness. Ofcom (2008) have identified two distinct types of social networkers;
‘alpha socialisers’ and ‘attention seekers’. They are both likely to have different attainable
goals and different functional needs provided by networks such as Facebook. For example, an
‘attention seeker’ may benefit from improved subjective well-being following lots of ‘likes’
on their pictures and statuses, whilst an ‘alpha socialiser’ may feel happier initiating a lot of
online flirting or banter. However, the dependency of this becomes a problem in itself; if the
attention seeker was unable to secure enough likes, their subjective well-being will inevitably
suffer. It is evident social media is beneficial for our wellbeing to an extent, but if addiction
and dependency is present, the effects are likely to be more negative. Dat (2015) found
Facebook is a significant antecedent of habit via a user-reported feeling of satisfaction, but
the initial satisfaction soon develops into dependency. There is a gap in the literature for the
long-term effects of heavy social-media use at such a young age, as social networking is a
very recent and modern phenomenon. The NHS warns three hours of social networking a day
could cause mental health issues later on in life; longitudinal studies would be the most
appropriate at measuring these effects.
Longitudinal studies are one of the most effective methodology at assessing long-lasting
effects on well-being, how it may alter throughout the lifespan and measuring success rates of
therapeutic interventions. An important investigation of longitudinal wellbeing was
conducted using the ‘self-concordance model’ (Sheldon and Elliott, 1999). Self-concordance
of goals reflects how consistent they are with an individual’s developing interests and core
values. This model explores how all motivated individuals attempt to attain goals via the
conative process (Emmons, 1989), and thus benefit from an improved sense of wellbeing. For
these goal-intentions to develop in teenagers/adults, it seems feasible early beginnings would
influence how motivated you grow up to be. However, this model only offers insight as to
how factors will achieve positive outcomes, and does not account for any negative affect and
difficulties one may face in cultural or social restraints reaching particular goals; e.g. students
of a disadvantaged group are found to be more limited in the educational system as a result of
teacher labelling (Rist, 1970), and thus lead to a significant lack of motivation.
Research states students of a low socio-economic background tend to be stereotyped, and
thus live up to a self-fulfilling prophecy (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968). A teacher was
falsely informed by the researchers some of the students in the class were ‘intellectual
bloomers’. The ‘intellectual bloomers’ showed statistically significant academic gains, thus
demonstrating how teacher’s expectations can both positively and negatively influence
behaviour and achievement. The model is known as the ‘Pygmalion effect’ and has even had
workplace applications on employees (Bezuijen et al, 2009), demonstrating the credibility
and relevance of the model. This is also very important research in terms of children’s
wellbeing, and emphasises the importance of teachers trying to be as unbiased as possible to
not disadvantage children susceptible to prejudice.
Educational disadvantages at such an early age could have consequences on wellbeing in
later adolescence or adulthood; strain theory (Stone and Merton, 1958) states academic
failure does not cause motivation as such, but it simply makes it harder to achieve selfconcordance
goals using legitimate means. However, a young person who has high emotional
wellbeing and resilience is unlikely to engage in criminal activity. Hence, socio-economic
status may accentuate wellbeing in young people who already have had childhood
After reviewing all the literature research and theoretical viewpoints for the question of
whether early beginnings can predict wellbeing later in life, the short answer is yes. It is
simply illogical to presume societal factors alone can account for wellbeing, as has been
stated in the critiques of Durkheim’s suicide study. Contemporary theorists have since
focused much more individualistically, are in consensus that wellbeing is multi-dimensional
and how the cultural climate can shape and influence, but it is not societally determined. As
established, socio-economic status is a big hinderance to young people in the education
system, but it is the individual’s own perception of their life circumstances that result in
subjective wellbeing with the aid of emotional resilience and positive emotions; developed in
younger years via a healthy attachment and upbringing. It was established technology may
have an impact on wellbeing, with the individual needs and functionality of these networks
having been said to be predicted by neuroticism and attachment; hence a healthy usage of
these sites is important to avoid a dependency. However, the focus of positive psychology is
crucial in reducing these negative consequences into adolescence or adulthood. Attachment
theory seems to lack prominence within educational psychology, which demonstrates how
more research is required to further help children’s wellbeing