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Int J Psychol. 2011 Dec;46(6):436-45. doi: 10.1080/00207594.2011.565344. Epub 2011 May 24.

Aspirations and wellbeing in Romanian and US undergraduates.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4620, USA.


Updating cross-cultural research of the past decade on the relationship between life aspirations and wellbeing, we compared Romanian (N=69) and US (N=64) undergraduates on the contribution of the importance and likelihood of attaining intrinsic and extrinsic aspirations to psychological maladjustment and life satisfaction, and on the qualitative meaning they assign to financial success. Similarly to prior studies, we found that extrinsic and intrinsic aspirations tended to be either negatively or positively correlated with life satisfaction, respectively; however, wealth predicted life satisfaction for Romanian students. Unlike previous research, we found generally negative relationships between intrinsic aspirations and psychological maladjustment. Although there were no differences between Romanian and US undergraduates on extrinsic and intrinsic orientation, on the overall importance of attaining aspirations, or on specific extrinsic and intrinsic aspirations, Romanian students expressed weaker expectations of fulfilling intrinsic aspirations than did US students. Finally, the groups produced similar rankings of aspirations and assigned similar meaning to financial success. The results favored a social cognitive rather than a self-determination model of psychological wellbeing in that expectations for attaining aspirations were more often predictive of life satisfaction than were their content. We interpret these findings and their convergence and departure from earlier research in terms of political economic, demographic, and cultural factors. We encourage future cross-cultural investigations of the social construction of aspirations, subsidiation of seemingly contradictory aspirations to each other, and cognitive and ecological mediation of the complex relationship of aspirations to psychological functioning.

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