What is happiness? What creates or leads to the experience of happiness? Questions like these are fundamental in understanding human functioning in terms of strengths, psychological resiliency, positive emotions, and well-being. However, many question whether current definitions of well-being are shaped by Western Euro-centric perspectives of happiness, negating "other" patterns of well-being (Ryff, Keyes, & Hughes, 2003). Well-being has been considered a critical component in understanding optimal functioning (Ryan & Deci, 2001). However, relatively little qualitative research has been conducted examining how well-being is expressed and experienced in the context of life adversity and racial/ethnic minority status. The purpose of this study was to explore the interplay between life challenges and well-being in a sample of 13 ethnically diverse homeless men in urban Los Angeles, with the aim of gaining a greater understanding of well-being within this community. Qualitative data was gathered via focus group interviews, and findings were examined in context of prevailing definitions of well-being found in the literature. Results indicated that well-being is the amalgamation of variables or domains that differ in their particular configurations across individuals. Major themes of well-being that emerged included: (a) religion and spirituality, (b) the importance of peak experiences, (c) the role of community, (d) safety and security, (e) relationships, and (f) the role of culture as a mediating variable in well-being. Potential contributions include adding to the rich scholarly dialogue on prevailing notions of well-being, as well as providing supplemental data that can contribute to the development of a contextually-appropriate self-report measure of well-being.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Well-being; Homeless men

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Harrell, Shelly P.;