The Social Production Function Theory for the Analysis of Subjective Well Being

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Agnetha SCHUCHARDT, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
The Social Production Function Theory (Lindenberg 1996; Esser 1999; Ormel et al. 1999) connects the achievement of universal needs of all humans (social and physical) with an increase in subjective well being (Diener et al. 1993). For this end, instrumental needs have to be fulfilled othrough different activities and resources. Comfort and stimulation are instrumental goals that are necessary for physical subjective well being whereas status, affection and behavioral confirmation promote social well being. Activities leading to these goals and respective resources can be substituted according to costs and benefits (Nieboer and Lindenberg 2002).

The substitution of the sub-dimensions of well being was tested in a qualitative study with voluntary emergency responders. This target group was chosen because their commitment is not based on payment while they have to bear immense burdens. The research question was: Why do voluntary emergency responders accept decreases in their subjective well being while doing their work? The results from semi-structured interviews (analyzed with the qualitative content analysis; Mayring 2010) showed that decreases in some instrumental goals were accepted for an increase through the fulfillment of other goals. These results offer interesting insights into the interconnections of the sub-dimensions of subjective well being. Negative effects on its social component include a lack of understanding for the importance of their work from both society and social networks of the emergency responders, resulting in a lack of appreciation. Moreover, conflicts within the aid organization cause extreme stress. But all these factors can be accepted by emergency responders – even impairments in their physical well being such as a lack of sleep or injuries – as long as stimulation (fun and excitement during missions), behavioral confirmation (doing the right thing and giving something back to the community) and affect (friendships within the aid organization) are guaranteed.