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What is wellbeing for rural South African women? Textual analysis of focus group discussion transcripts and implications for programme design and evaluation

Ferrari, Giulia ORCID: 0000-0002-1670-4905 (2022) What is wellbeing for rural South African women? Textual analysis of focus group discussion transcripts and implications for programme design and evaluation. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 9 (1). ISSN 2662-9992

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Identification Number: 10.1057/s41599-022-01262-w


Policy makers’ ultimate goal is to deliver the highest possible level of population welfare. Economists investigate the effect of socio-economic dimensions on wellbeing using unidimensional measures of life satisfaction or happiness as proxies for welfare. However, social psychologists have shown that wellbeing is a much broader construct and that an intervention may have opposite effects on its components. Unidimensional measures may hide these patterns. Most literature focuses on high-income countries. The growing evidence from low- and middle-income countries also largely relies on standard unidimensional measures. This study tests the validity of this reliance by exploring the wellbeing construct of South African women, quantitatively analysing textual data from focus group discussions to investigate whether unidimensional measures are appropriate in this context. It provides evidence against the indiscriminate use of unidimensional wellbeing measures. Cluster and correspondence analysis of the transcripts show that relevant domains of women’s wellbeing include relations with others, autonomy, and a perception of control over their environment (environmental mastery). Results also reveal that participants have a relational view of themselves, distinct from the individuated view predominant in the US and Europe and the collectivist view found in East Asia. Such relational self-perception modifies study participants’ wellbeing construct in ways that are important for policy implementation and evaluation. For example, women’s autonomy and environmental mastery rely on shared peer-identity to redefine rules and meet challenges. Wellbeing measures for policy evaluation would benefit from incorporating these insights to meaningfully measure progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 3 on ‘good health and wellbeing’ in South Africa and other contexts that exhibit similar concepts of wellbeing.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: IGA: Centre for Women Peace and Security
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
JEL classification: I - Health, Education, and Welfare > I1 - Health > I10 - General
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2022 15:36
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2022 11:36

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