“Keeping up with the Jones’s”, (Baumgardner & Crothers, 2009) is a popular saying in America today, and not far from the truth, concerning the mentality and opinions concerning happiness and well-being. The Declaration of Independence also states the pursuit of happiness is an alienable right (Baumgardner & Crothers, 2009). Society today lends opportunities to fulfill anyone’s desires, or dreams, yet as individual’s we are concerned about what other’s think around us.
This thought process is evident throughout the American culture today and in history (Baumgardner & Crothers, 2009). The concepts of culture and happiness are being compared as individualistic and collectivist (I-C) which provides the basis for over all well-being and what it means to be happy. Research compared two cultures Americans to East Asians and found subjective wellbeing (SWB) to be low in Japan where income trends are high, when compared to Americans. This concept was considered void because the Asian cultures did not measure happiness to self or individuality.
Therefore the studies had to be modified. Later reviews revealed that Americans are encouraged to identify and express their unique sense of self as a way to influence and distinguish themselves from others, whereas or in contrast Asians are encouraged to identify and express attributes that behoove the community as a whole to develop self-critical and self-discipline which enables fitting in with others. This concept allows for improvement or enhances decision making that improves the social norm (Baumgardner & Crothers, 2009).
Because happiness and feeling good about oneself is a part of the American culture, American Parents rear their children to think for themselves and pursue things that make a child happy or feel good about them; this perspective is consistent with subjective well – being (SWB), and that happiness is both subjective and individualized; it relates to the development of planning to pursue the things that both express who we are (traits and characteristics), with what separates us from others; uniqueness, and staying true yourself (Baumgardner & Crothers, 009). A good example of this would be, a middle income family allowing their children to explore different activities, such as sports, art, or music to find what brings the individual joy, or discover new skills that will eventually lead them to influence others and themselves. It is a hard contrast in the Asian cultural for happiness carries less importance in their culture.
Children are encouraged to restrain their emotions, and to fit in with others and take pride in team work (sympathetic relationships, or understanding others perspective and accepting it) “Children are expected to learn how to adjust themselves to others so as to enhance and maintain harmonious social relationships” (Baumgardner & Crothers, 2009). This thinking also can lead to a critical mind set of one self and possibly others.
East Asians do not put an emphasis on happiness, life satisfaction or the understanding and pursuit of positive emotions, but believe happiness is fleeting, and one should live a composed life from moment to moment in appreciation. Americans or individualistic cultures place emphasis on positive feelings that are directly related to achievement or accomplishments. It is believed good feelings promote self-esteem, independence, and happiness.
A good example would be receiving a scholarship for earning a high GPA. Interestingly enough goal achievement is also important to collective culture or the Asian culture, when asked; research perspective was placed on SWB due to western influences (Baumgardner & Crothers, 2009). However both cultures admitted to personal satisfaction, than to please others concerning the pursuit of goals.
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