The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

A Multidimensional View of Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Mindfulness and the Mediating Role of Motivation

Friday, January 18, 2013
Grande Ballroom A, B, and C (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Lisa Davis, PhD Candidate, PhD Candidate, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Purpose:  While the mental health literature typically elaborates negative aspects of psychological functioning and psychopathology, our understanding of optimal functioning and wellbeing is comparatively incomplete.  Further, the majority of studies on wellbeing emphasize psychological indices, leaving the construct of social wellbeing even less well understood.  A multidimensional view of social wellbeing that includes meaningfulness of society, social integration, acceptance of others, social contribution, and social actualization was used to test a theoretically-based structural model of antecedents to social well-being.  Sociological theory and Self-Regulation Theory posit that effective regulation of motivational states improves social functioning and gives rise to social contribution and integration.  Mindfulness, which involves the self-regulation of attention, is included based on evidence that it improves self-regulatory strategies.  While previous studies have shown that mindfulness enhances psychological wellbeing through the mechanism of emotion-regulation, this is the first study the author is aware of to test whether mindfulness may enhance social wellbeing through the regulation of motivation.  It is hypothesized that the relationship between mindfulness and social wellbeing is mediated through self-regulated goal-striving.

Methods:  This study used data from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), 2004-2006.  MIDUS is a nationally representative survey examining the effects of midlife development on the self-reported physical health, psychological wellbeing, and social wellbeing of adults aged 25 to 75.  Data were collected through the use of a telephone interview and a questionnaire mailed to 4963 respondents.  Measures of mindfulness, persistence in goal striving, and social wellbeing were gathered through self-report surveys.  A latent path analysis was used to test the theoretically-based structural model and the Sobel method was used to test mediation.

Results:  Structural equation modeling results showed that the model under study displayed an excellent fit to the data (CFI = 0.95, RMSEA = 0.04, 90% CI = .038 - .053).  As hypothesized, mindfulness was positively related to persistence in goal striving (ß = 0.215, p = .001) and persistence in goal striving was positively related to social wellbeing (ß = 0.086, p = .001).  In addition, the relationship between mindfulness and social wellbeing was fully mediated by persistence in goal striving (indirect estimate = 0.016, p= .001).

Implications:  Greater levels of mindful awareness may give rise to the ability to self-regulate motivational states and persist in goal-striving.  As self-regulation theory predicts, the ability to regulate motivational states ultimately enhances social functioning and social integration.  This study supports the notion that mindfulness may increase individuals’ capacity to contribute to society and find meaning in social participation through the mechanism of self-regulated motivation.  Mindfulness has been shown to be modifiable and is strengthened through structured exercises.  Mindfulness-based interventions may develop self-regulatory skills that can enhance motivational structures and positively impact individuals’ level of social wellbeing.