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Stepping Off The Hedonic Treadmill: Individual Differences In Response To Major Life Events

A. Mancini, G. Bonanno, A. Clark
Published 2011 · Psychology

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Theorists have long maintained that people react to major life events but then eventually return to a setpoint of subjective well-being. Yet prior research is inconclusive regarding the extent of interindividual variability. Recent theoretical models suggest that there should be heterogeneity in long-term stress responding (Bonanno, 2004; Muthen & Muthen, 2000). To test this idea, we used latent growth mixture modeling to identify specific patterns of individual variation in response to three major life events (bereavement, divorce, and marriage). A four-class trajectory solution provided the best fit for bereavement and marriage, while a three-class solution provided the best fit for divorce. Relevant covariates predicted trajectory class membership. The modal response across events was a relatively flat trajectory (i.e., no change). Nevertheless, some trajectories diverged sharply from the modal response. Despite the tendency to maintain preevent levels of SWB, there are multiple and often divergent trajectories in response to bereavement, divorce, and marriage, underscoring the essential role of individual differences.
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