Positive and negative affect in middle to late adulthood: Longitudinally examining and predicting individual differences and intraindividual change

Paul William Griffin, Fordham University

Abstract

Considerable research has been devoted to examining the association between age and happiness. Unfortunately, the majority of this research has been cross-sectional, yielding inconsistent results across studies. Moreover, little attention has been devoted to examining individual differences in the manner in which subjective well-being changes over time. To better understand changes in subjective well-being from middle-age to late adulthood, growth curve models were estimated for both positive and negative affect over a ten-year period. Participants were 1,534 men in the VA Normative Aging Study, ages 45 to 97 (mean age = 69 years). First, growth models were used to estimate sample trajectories for both positive and negative affect, as well as to test whether there were significant interindividual differences for affect trajectories over time. Growth models for positive affect indicated a linear decline with age. Negative affect was best characterized by quadratic relationship with age, demonstrating a linear decline until approximately 70 years, and thereafter showing a gradual incline. Results also indicated significant individual differences in rates of change for both positive and negative affect. Next, personality traits (extraversion and neuroticism) and contextual variables (getting married and self-reported health) were incorporated into growth models to determine whether these variables could be used to predict individual differences in levels and rates of change in affect. Higher extraversion was associated with higher levels of positive affect, but not with rate of change. Higher neuroticism predicted higher levels of negative affect, as well as an attenuated decline in middle-adulthood and a steeper incline in late adulthood. Better health predicted higher levels, but not rate of change, for positive affect. For negative affect, although better health was associated with lower levels of negative affect, it was also associated with less decline in negative affect in middle age and greater increases in late adulthood. Lastly, the life event of getting married did not predict level or rate of change for neither positive nor negative affect. The implications of these findings, both theoretical and applied, are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Developmental

Recommended Citation

Griffin, Paul William, "Positive and negative affect in middle to late adulthood: Longitudinally examining and predicting individual differences and intraindividual change" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3125014.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3125014

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