Longitudinal Prediction of Domain Satisfaction and Global Life Satisfaction: Test of a Social Cognitive Model

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The experience of life satisfaction has been studied at a global level and in specific domains of life such as work, marriage, and academic satisfaction. Global life satisfaction has been described as a predictor of, as well as an outcome of, domain-specific life satisfaction. "Top-down" conceptualizations of well-being indicate that one's level of overall satisfaction is essentially a personality trait, whereas "bottom-up" approaches assert that the experience of satisfaction in different domains of life combine to yield an overall sense of satisfaction. In order to integrate these two approaches, the current study utilized a longitudinal methodology and structural equation modeling to address how personality traits, domain-specific social cognitive variables, and life satisfaction (both general and domain-specific) relate to each other over time. A model of the hypothesized psychological processes involved in goal evaluations, life satisfaction, and positive affect is outlined. Of particular interest was the extent to which social cognitive variables (self-efficacy, social supports, and goal progress) account for unique variance in subsequent life satisfaction and domain-specific life satisfaction after controlling for personality effects (positive affect).

In this study, 769 university students completed an online survey of their goals, academic satisfaction, and general life satisfaction at two points in time 8 weeks apart. Based on previous theory and empirical research on domain-specific satisfaction, this integrative model is cognitively-based and posits that if one has positive perceptions (high self-efficacy, resource availability, progress in goal pursuit) regarding one's goals in a particular life domain (e.g., family, work), then one will experience higher levels of satisfaction in that domain. Global life satisfaction and domain-specific satisfaction were hypothesized to have reciprocal effects on each other over time, as were goal progress and goal self-efficacy. Results generally supported the proposed model. The social cognitive variables accounted for significant variance in subsequent global and domain-specific satisfaction even after controlling for the effects of personality. Goal-oriented perceptions may, therefore, nurture a sense of satisfaction independent of personality traits. Self-efficacy and goal progress were found to have reciprocal effects, whereas global life satisfaction and domain-specific satisfaction did not. Results and implications for future research are discussed.