Social & Education Policy

Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Frustration: Profiles Among Emerging Adult College Students and Links to Well-Being

Reed-Fitzke, K.; Lucier-Greer, M.


A short-term longitudinal design and latent profile approach were utilized with two samples, an exploratory sample and confirmatory sample, to identify subgroups of collegiate emerging adults based on reports of their basic psychological needs (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness); both basic need satisfaction and frustration were assessed. A two-profile solution emerged in the exploratory analyses (N = 177 emerging adults) and was verified in the confirmatory analyses (N = 375 emerging adults in the confirmatory sample). Emerging adults in profile one exhibited lower levels of basic psychological need satisfaction and higher basic psychological need frustration than emerging adults in profile two. Accordingly, they were named the Ambivalent profile and Sufficiently Satisfied profile, respectively. Group differences were also identified on salient outcomes; members of the Ambivalent profile reported significantly lower life satisfaction and vocational identity and higher anxiety and depression. Correlational findings lend some support to the presence of two distinct (i.e., need satisfaction and frustration) interrelated constructs, yet findings in regard to the latent profiles fail to reject the notion of need satisfaction and frustration as constructs that fall on a single continuum. Findings suggest that clinicians and helping professionals on college campuses would benefit from thinking in terms of basic need fulfillment when working with emerging adults in collegiate settings.