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The rise in social problems experienced by young people has provided an impetus for the development of programs and research to address well-being amongst youths; and research on social well-being (SWB) has increased considerably in the recent times. The study of social well-being in childhood through youth age, as a holistic concept, is still in its early stages. However, many of the more narrowly defined concepts under the broader banner of ‘social well-being’ have been studied for decades (Guttman & Louis, 1982).

The psychological concept well-being is a general term for the condition of an individual or group, for example their social, economic, psychological, spiritual or medical state; high well-being means that, in some sense, the individual’s experience is positive, while low well-being is associated with negative happenings (Guttman & Louis, 1982). Social well-being, a psychosocial component of well-being is a multifaceted concept encompassing both individual capacities and social competencies.

In the past, many studies, have operationalized social well-being using objective criteria such as Gross Domestic Topic (GDP) that reflect the relative prosperity of communities and societies (Andrews & Withey 1976), these studies describe social well-being as the basis for social equality, social capital, social trust; the antidote to racism, stigma, violence and crime (Aked, Marks, Cordon & Thompson, 2008). In this view, social well-being is seen as an end state in which basic human needs are met and people are able to coexist peacefully in communities with opportunities for advancement. This “end state” is characterized by equal access to and delivery of basic needs and services (water, food, shelter, and health services), the provision of primary and secondary education, the return or resettlement of those displaced by violent conflict, and the restoration of social fabric and community life.

This raises the question; what is the place of the global society especially the contemporary Nigerian society in addressing these challenges that when met, ensures better social well-being? Although researchers such as Aked and colleagues has maintained that it depends on the sum of individual mental well-being in a group, community or society; the quality of government – local, organisational, national and international; the quality of services and provision of support for those in need; the fair distribution of resources including income; the norm with regard to interpersonal relationships in a group, community or society, including respect for others and their needs, compassion and empathy, and authentic interaction (Aked, Marks, Cordon & Thompson, 2008). However, some recent work has operationalized social well-being in terms of behaviours that reflect community and organizational participation and membership (Coleman, 1988; Putnam, 2000).

One foremost socio psychologically based research on social well-being posits that individual-level social well-being can be conceptualized as having two facets: social adjustment and social support (McDowell & Newell, 1987). Social adjustment refers to the subjective satisfaction with relationships or the performance of social roles. Social support refers to the quality and number of persons whom an individual trusts and can rely on, as well as the degree to which one is needed and matters to others and society. Thus, social well-being as a psychological concept can be broadly defined as an individual’s appraisal of their social relationships, how others react to them, and how they interact with social institutions and community.

Measuring social well-being as individual perceptions is of key importance to the field. According to Larson (1996), the key to deciding whether a measure of social well-being is part of an individual’s health is whether the measure reflects internal responses to stimuli—feelings, thoughts and behaviours reflecting satisfaction or lack of satisfaction with the social environment.

The recognition that the way in which an individual relates to others and to their society is a key aspect of their social well-being led the researcher to adopt, for the purpose of this study, a more  socially-oriented conceptualisation of well-being as proposed by Keyes (1998), which captures individuals’ appraisals of their own circumstances and functioning in society, along five dimensions: Social integration (individuals’ appraisal of the quality of their own relation with society and community); Social contribution (the feeling of being a vital member of the society, with something importance to offer to the world); Social acceptance (trusting others, and having favourable opinions on the human nature); Social actualisation (the evaluation of the potentials of society and it corresponds to the idea that society has potentials that come true through institutions and citizens); Social coherence (the perception of the quality and the organization of social world).

Social well-being is considered an important component of overall well-being, besides emotional and psychological well-being (Keyes 2003). This construct seems particularly promising to capture well-being of individuals as nested within social structures, since its five dimensions are broad enough to cover the evaluation of self with respect to the social context (social integration, social contribution), the evaluation of other people (social acceptance), and the evaluation of the society (social coherence, social actualisation).

The idea that social well-being is a valuable end in itself seems irrefutable; as it reflects the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It includes being able to adapt and deal with daily challenges while leading a fulfilling life. The complex developmental stages that young people or the youths experience from birth through youth age, how their social well-being is reflected in their behaviours, thoughts, feelings and abilities differs across the ages. The contemporary Nigerian society is never an exception in this, hence the need for the present study in which efforts is concentrated on the social well-being of the youths (undergraduates); as well as variables that contributes or influences their social well-being. It is worthy of note that, there is an emphasis on the behavioural and emotional strengths of youths, as well as how they respond to adversity. Recent studies reveal that many of the characteristics or attributes of social well-being follow a developmental pathway, and age-appropriateness is therefore a key factor in measurement (Denham Wyatt, Bassett, Echeverria & Knox, 2009; Humphrey, Yoon, Kumar, Lestou, Kitadono, Roberts & Riddoch, 2010).

For young people, Social well-being creates the foundations for healthy behaviour and educational attainment. It also helps prevent behavioural problems (including substance misuse) and mental health problems. Social well-being provides personal competencies (such as emotional resilience, self-esteem & interpersonal skills) that help to protect against risks relating to social disadvantage, family disruption and other adversity in life. Such competencies provide building blocks for personal development which will enable young people to take advantage of life chances.

It is common fact that poor social well-being predicts a range of negative outcomes in adolescence and adulthood. For example, negative parenting and poor quality family or school relationships seem to place young people at risk of poor mental health. Early intervention in childhood can help reduce physical and mental health problems and prevent social dysfunction being passed from one generation to the next

For young people with poor social, emotional and psychological health there appear to exist an increased likelihood of poor social and economic outcomes, of criminal behaviour and higher risk behaviours, such as substance misuse, lower levels of social interaction and poor mental health, outcomes which may continue into adulthood in both the short- and long-term. For example, young people with behavioural problems are more likely to leave school with no qualifications, become teenage parents, experience relationship or marital problems and experience unemployment in adulthood.

A range of factors related to individual and environmental characteristics have been associated with the promotion of social well-being in young people (Bernard, Stephanou & Urbach 2007). Factors specific to the individual person can influence their social well-being, such as particular cognitive styles, learning styles, innate skills and abilities, temperament, self-esteem, self-efficacy, and the development of social and emotional skills.

. One variable of primary interest in this study is civic engagement. Civic engagement involves working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes (Ehrlich, 2013). Over the past 20 years, social participation among young people has gained increasing attention in the scientific literature, as well as among policy makers. Following this assertion, this study will investigate the extent of civic engagement among young people in Nigeria.

Young people’s active involvement in their community and citizenship behaviours are implicitly considered indicators of positive youth development and well-being, and their promotion has become a central aim of youth policies in different countries; therefore, if civic engagement is key to attaining successful social well-being of the youths in the present global world, then there is need for Nigeria to promote same among her youths. However, far less attention has been devoted to the empirical test of such assumptions (Cicognani, Pirini, Keyes, Joshanloo, Rostami & Nosratabadi 2008).

According to Wandersman and Florin (2000), contributions given to the community through participation imply an aspiration for life and are indicative of individuals’ well-being. Gamson (1992) argues that participation in social movements involves enlargement of personal identity and represents an opportunity for self-realization. A similar position has been advanced in the developmental literature on young adulthood. A study by Smetana, Campione-Barr and Metzger (2006) reveal that during youthful ages, contributing to community life through social participation increases young people’s self-efficacy and personal control and enhances positive developmental outcomes. Research studies showed that youthful participation increases leadership competences, sense of cohesion, social responsibility, perceptions of personal efficacy and agency. According to Prilleltensky, Nelson and Peirson (2001), opportunities for participation and self-determination and the possibility of giving a contribution to community life are fundamental for increasing psychological and social well-being and their sense of belonging.

Many studies have found that civic engagement is associated with positive developmental outcomes (Johnson, Johnson & Holubec 1998; Larson, Wang. Bowen, McCormick, Teri, Crane & Kukull 2006; Ludden, 2011; Schmidt, Loyens, van Gog, & Paas 2007). How this play a role on the youths is paramount to this study. Despite recent calls for a closer investigation on how engaging in civic activities potentially can impact the lives of young people who have the greatest need, few studies have examined the impact of civic engagement for social well-being of young people at all levels. Moreover, researchers have pointed out that the civic opportunity gap exists well before the young adult years (Flanagan 2009; Kahne & Middaugh 2009). In high poverty neighbourhoods, schools offer fewer civic learning activities and communities offer fewer organized activities (Hart & Atkins 2002). Therefore, civic engagement is a potentially important topic for youths in developing countries than it is recognized. Hence, the first aim of the present study is to analyse the role of civic engagement in social well-being among youths, in Nigeria.

Researchers report that changes in social well-being are closely tied to one’s personality, with positive changes in one corresponding to similar changes in the other (Bergman & Magnusson 1997). Social well-being is related to an individual’s connectedness to the larger community and the belief that he or she can contribute to society’s growth. It is a good predictor of general mental and physical health, and people with higher social well-being often are more civically engaged and are more apt to behave in a pro-social manner. Therefore, if one changes the traits that help the person in social life, the individual’s social life also improves. Underlying much of the study has been an assumption that psychological well-being was independently influenced by personality (Bergman & Magnusson 1997).

Psychologists have continually maintained that the aim of Big-Five assessment approaches is to locate people on underlying trait continua as reliably as possible; proponents of the model are prone to overlook cross-situational variation or to treat it as measurement error (Shadel & Cervone, 1993; Smith & Williams 1992). A person who scores high in extroversion, for example, is highly outgoing, friendly and active. Those who score high in conscientiousness are organized, responsible and hardworking. An analysis of the responses in researches revealed that individual social well-being is linked to personality over time, is a strong predictor of social well-being, and is recognized as people’s levels of positive versus negative emotion and their satisfaction with life (Bergman & Magnusson, 1997; DeNeve & Cooper, 199l8). Social well-being is consistently associated with all Big Five factors (McCrae & Costa, 1991); this is why those who scored higher on extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and openness had higher social well-being (Hayes & Joseph, 2003). Those who gained in these traits over time often showed comparable gains in their social well-being. The second aim of the present study is to analyze the role of the Big Five personality dimensions (neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness) in social well-being among young people in Nigeria.

Humans have evolved through taking risks. In fact, most human actions can be conceptualized as containing an element of risk. Humans and risk are associated, and it is thus perhaps not surprising that, despite the risk-averse society that appears to have recently evolved, many people crave danger, excitement, and risk. This is exemplified in the current boom of high-risk activities such as skydiving and bungee jumping.

Most studies investigating individual differences in the propensity for risk taking have focused on sensation seeking (Ferrando & Chico, 2001; Zuckerman, 2007). This is because taking risks (e.g., substance abuse, reckless driving, risky sexual behaviours, high-risk sport) (Zuckerman, 2007) is an obvious way to experience feelings that increase physiological arousal (Arnett, 1996; Zuckerman, 1994). Recent research suggests that risk-taking behaviours can serve many different goals or functions in addition to the management of physiological arousal states (Cooper, Agocha & Sheldon, 2000; Shapiro, Siegel, Scovill & Hays, 1998). This study will examine how this works for youths especially the Nigerian youth/young people who are the key studied participants in this study.

Despite this attempt at an activity- specific classification, recent research suggests that the involvement in more socially accepted high-risk activities such as high-risk sports may also serve an escape strategy to cope with negative effects for some individuals (Castanier, Christine & Woodman, 2010; Cazenave, Le Scanff & Woodman, 2007). Furthermore, while some high risk athletes minimize risk as much as possible, others may deliberately engage in risk-taking behaviours within an already high-risk activity. Zuckerman (1994) suggested that sensation seekers display a willingness to take risks in order to experience the sensation rewards of “sensation-seeking activities” such as drug use, dangerous driving, and risky sports.

These traits can be partitioned into four dimensions: thrill and adventure seeking, experience seeking, disinhibition, and boredom susceptibility (Zuckerman, Eysenck & Eysenck, 1978). Sensation seeking individuals tend to engage in behaviours that increase the amount of stimulation they experience. Such behaviours (e.g., interest in stimulating occupations, drug use, driving recklessly, etc.) involve seeking out arousal. The activities to fulfil the preferred arousal vary in the amount of risk associated with them. Risk taking is a correlate of sensation seeking but is not a primary motive in behaviour (Zuckerman, 1994). Sensation seekers accept risk as a possible outcome of obtaining this arousal, yet do not seek out risk for its own sake (Zuckerman, 1994).

The present study focuses on finding the role of civic engagement, personality and sensation seeking in social well being of undergraduates. A general statement that have existed today in our present day Nigeria and the world at large is that the youths (undergraduates) are the leaders as well as the pioneers of future. If this is true, there is need to examine the social well being of undergraduates in carrying out patriotic duties as future leaders. Since undergraduates at all levels receive series of trainings that qualify them as future leaders and engineers of development; it is therefore worthwhile to investigate some factors (civic engagement, personality and sensation seeking) that might play key roles in making them better leaders and citizens.

Statement of the Problem

Social problems experienced by young people in recent time have become a special aspect of our daily living and the contemporary society. This is synonymous with the popular saying that a youth for example cannot give what the person does not have, especially in Nigeria where it seems that much efforts has not been made in enhancing the social well-being of youths. Hence, it is common knowledge that young people’s active involvement in their community (rural and urban) is implicitly considered indicators of positive youth development and well-being, and the promotion of engagements in such endeavours together with positive personality development has become a central aim of youth policies in different countries. However, far less attention has been devoted to the empirical test of such assumptions (Cicognani, Pirini, Keyes, Joshanloo, Rostami, & Nosratabadi, 2008).

It is noteworthy that in trying to increase or achieve social well-being, most human actions can be conceptualized as containing elements of risk. In addressing this issue of social well being among undergraduates, earlier research has suggested that high-risk behaviours may reflect a means of affect self-regulation with individuals benefiting from a risk-associated reduction in negative effects. However, an undergraduates’ active involvement in the community and citizenship behaviour could play a role in the persons’ social well-being, because of opportunities it will offer such an undergraduate. In addition, sensation seeking which is risk-associated is a salient psychological variable that together with personality can exert an influence on the social well-being of Nigerian adolescents in particular and the world in general, though less investigated by researchers. This has therefore made certain pertinent questions imperative as follows:

Will civic engagement predict social well-being of undergraduates?

Will Extraversion personality predict social well-being of undergraduates?

Will Agreeableness personality predict social well-being of undergraduates?

Will Conscientiousness personality predict social well-being of undergraduates?

Will Neuroticism personality predict social well-being of undergraduates?

Will Openness personality predict social well-being of undergraduates?

Will sensation seeking predict social well-being of undergraduates?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research is to examine whether:

Civic engagement would predict undergraduates’ social well-being.

Extraversion personality would predict undergraduates’ social well-being.

Agreeableness personality would predict undergraduates’ social well-being.

Conscientiousness personality would predict undergraduates’ social well-being.

Neuroticism personality would predict undergraduates’ social well-being.

Openness personality would predict undergraduates’ social well-being.

Sensation seeking would predict undergraduates’ social well-being.

Operational Definition of Terms

Social Well-being

Social well-being in this study is the extent of an individuals’ level of appraisals of the adaptive nature of his/her own circumstances and functioning in society as indicated by a participant’s score on Social Well-being Scale (Keyes, 2005).

Civic Engagement

Civic engagement is the level of acceptance that one can and should make a difference in enhancing his or her community as indicated by a participant’s score on Civic Engagement Scale (Ehrlich, 1997).


This refers to the enduring traits of an individual as measured by Big-Five Personality Scale (John, Donahue &Kentle, 1990).

Sensation Seeking

This is an individual’s level of willingness to take physical and social risks for the sake of such experiences as indicated by a participant’s score on Arnett Inventory of Sensation Seeking (Arnett, 1991).

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