The science of well-being and its theoretical foundations: A critical review of Positive Psychology’s paradigm

Beatrice Mazza, Massimo Grasso


Positive psychology, founded by Martin Seligman in 1998, has established itself very quickly in the international scene as the “new science of well-being”. This kind of psychology affirms a general change in relation to the object of clinical psychology. Clinical psychology was traditionally interested in pathology and the deficit. It has been found to be more “effective” by using a theoretical model based on issues such as happiness, personal fulfillment and satisfaction with their own lives. The problem of measurability of these issues has been resolved through the production of a multitude of self-reporting instruments. These instruments have led to the creation of a considerable body of studies and research that has led to the widespread dissemination among government agencies and private institutions. However many dissenting voices highlight some particularly critical aspects, such as: the claim to measure issues that are difficult to define in an operational sense; the adoption of an individualistic and universalistic perspective; membership of epistemological paradigms and methodological assumptions both of which are scarcely able to consider the complexity of the phenomena and the behavior observed since they both have been purged of their contextual dimension. This paper seeks to explore these issues by proposing a critical reflection on the paradigm of positive psychology and its application proposals.


Positive psychology; wellness; clinical psychology; self report scales; happiness

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Rivista di Psicologia Clinica. Teoria e metodi dell'intervento

Rivista Telematica a Carattere Scientifico Registrazione presso il Tribunale civile di Roma (n.149/2006 del 17/03/2006)

ISSN 1828-9363