Measuring Personal Growth and Development in Context: Evidence of Validity in Educational and Work Settings

Abstract

Consistent with the trend toward viewing psychological well-being as more than the absence of illness, we developed an instrument—the personal growth and development scale (PGDS)—that can be used to assess positive change in well-being attributable to context-specific experiences. As part of the validation process, we examined relations between the PGDS and measures of need satisfaction and autonomous motivation in students (N = 241) and employees (N = 468). In the student sample, we also examined relations with engagement and burnout. The findings supported our hypothesis that need satisfaction, autonomous motivation and engagement would relate positively with the PGDS, and that burnout would relate negatively. In a second student sample (N = 377), we collected longitudinal data to investigate how global psychological well-being relates to personal growth and development over the course of an academic term. We found that initial levels of global well-being predicted positive changes in growth and development and replicated earlier findings regarding relations between the PGDS, need satisfaction and autonomous motivation. Future applications of the PGDS for research and practice are discussed.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by research grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (435-2014-0956) awarded to J. P. Meyer. The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Appendix

Appendix

The Personal Growth and Development Scale
Instructions
Using the scale provided, click on the most applicable circle for each statement to indicate your level of agreement
Not at all Somewhat Very much so
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
My university experience so far has helped me…
Autonomy
1. Gain the strength to stand up for what I believe**
2. Feel confident in my decisions*
3. Appreciate the value of setting my own direction in life
Environmental mastery
4. Learn how to manage my life more effectively
5. Gain confidence to deal with unforeseen difficulties*
6. Take advantage of opportunities in my surroundings**
Positive relations
7. Learn how to develop meaningful relationships with others**
8. Appreciate others’ perspectives on issues
9. Learn to work more effectively with others*
Self-acceptance
10. Feel more comfortable with who I am
11. Appreciate my strengths*
12. Feel good about the experiences that have shaped me**
Purpose in life
13. Discover what gives meaning to my life**
14. Identify important goals I want to achieve
15. Get closer to understanding what I want out of life*
Note. Items were represented without headings (e.g., Autonomy) and in a randomized order
Items indicated with an ** are recommended for a short, 5-item version of the PGDS while items indicated with an * are recommended, in addition to items included in the 5-item version, for the 10-item version

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Anderson, B.K., Meyer, J.P., Vaters, C. et al. Measuring Personal Growth and Development in Context: Evidence of Validity in Educational and Work Settings. J Happiness Stud 21, 2141–2167 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-019-00176-w

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Keywords

  • Personal growth and development
  • Psychological well-being
  • Eudaimonic well-being
  • Self-determination theory
  • Job-demands resources theory