A prototype analysis of New Zealand adolescents’ conceptualizations of wellbeing


  • Gazal Bharara Auckland University of Technology
  • Scott Duncan Auckland University of Technology
  • Aaron Jarden University of Melbourne http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4293-7032
  • Erica Hinckson Auckland University of Technology




adolescents, prototype analysis, wellbeing, well-being, perspectives, components


This research investigated New Zealand adolescents’ (aged 11 to 13, N = 361) perceptions of wellbeing from a prototype perspective. Specifically, three studies examined what constitutes and promotes wellbeing, whether adolescents’ perspectives are aligned with adults’ conceptualizations and academic models of wellbeing, whether socioeconomic status influences adolescents’ conceptualization, and whether wellbeing is prototypically organized. Results showed that wellbeing is prototypically organized as some components are more central to the concept of wellbeing and others more peripheral. Contrary to lay adults’ conceptualizations and popular wellbeing models, adolescents consider enjoyment/having fun, feeling safe, and being kind/helpful as central components of wellbeing, and sense of satisfaction as a peripheral component of wellbeing. Furthermore, low socio-economic status adolescents consider comfort/being wealthy, being focused, good physical health, good values, and success/achievements as more central for wellbeing than high-socioeconomic status adolescents. Consistent with the current literature, positive family relationships, positive friendships, and physical activity/sport were the most frequently reported pathways to wellbeing among adolescents. Overall, researchers and practitioners should consider adolescents’ understanding of wellbeing in the development of wellbeing assessments and interventions.


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Author Biographies

Gazal Bharara, Auckland University of Technology

Gazal Bharara is a PhD student at the Human Potential Centre, AUT University. As part of her research, she examined the comprehensive aspects that predict adolescents’ wellbeing during intermediate to secondary school transition. Prior to her full-time studies, she worked as a school counselling psychologist, a specialized adolescent psychologist, motivational coach, and a special educator. Her current research interests are in adolescent wellbeing, school psychology, psychometrics, and positive education. She holds a Master and Bachelor (Honors) of Psychology.

Scott Duncan, Auckland University of Technology

Associate Professor Scott Duncan is the Head of Department (Physical Activity, Nutrition and the Outdoors) in the School of Sport and Recreation at AUT University. Areas of expertise include the measurement and classification of physical activity, program design and evaluation, curriculum-based health and wellbeing interventions for children, and determining the effects of the built environment and daily mobility on health outcomes. He is particularly interested in engaging children in healthy lifestyles through traditional unstructured play and independent mobility. Current research includes several large-scale lifestyle interventions in school, community, workplace, and primary care settings.

Aaron Jarden, University of Melbourne

Associate Professor Aaron Jarden is Director of the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne. He is a wellbeing consultant, social entrepreneur, and a prolific author and presenter. He has previously been a Senior Research Fellow at Flinders University, and Head of Research at the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI). He is past president of the New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology, also co-editor of the International Journal of Wellbeing, lead investigator for the International Wellbeing Study, and Senior Scientist for Work on Wellbeing amongst others.

Erica Hinckson, Auckland University of Technology

Professor Erica Hinckson is the Head of School of the School of Sport and Recreation at AUT University. Her program of research focuses on the science of behavior, in particular, the patterns, causes and effects of physical activity and sedentary behavior on health in youth and adults, within the context of the built environment. She has been involved in large national regional programs (e.g., Travelwise, School Travel Plan Programme). She is on the steering committee for the International Physical Activity and Environment Network—Adolescents (IPEN). She is also executive member of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity and former chair of the Council of Environment and Physical Activity.