Age-group differences in facets of positive and negative affect

Aging Ment Health. 2011 Aug;15(6):784-95. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2011.562184. Epub 2011 May 24.


Objectives: The higher order structure of Positive Affect (PA) and Negative Affect (NA) is comparable in self-report affect data from younger and older adults. The current study advances this work by comparing the factor structure of facets of PA and NA in older and younger adults using exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses.

Method: Older (N = 203; M age = 73.5 years, range 65-92) and younger (N = 349; M age = 19.1 years, range 18-30) adults completed the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule-Expanded Form (PANAS-X) (Watson, D., & Clark, L.A. (1999). Manual for the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule -- Expanded Form. Iowa City, IA: The University of Iowa), which measures General PA and NA as well as three facets of PA (Joviality, Self-Assurance, and Attentiveness) and four facets of NA (Fear, Sadness, Guilt, and Hostility).

Results: Item-level exploratory factor analyses of the facet scales revealed structures that were similar in older and younger adults; however, older adult solutions were more diffuse and diverged more from the PANAS-X scale structure. The facet of Sadness exhibited the largest age-group difference, relating more to guilt and anxiety in older than younger adults.

Conclusion: Older adults may discriminate less amongst specific affect terms or may experience greater affective heterogeneity. Further, Sadness may manifest in age-specific ways. The construct variance of Sadness, and how this issue might be related to the assessment of depression in older adults, is discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult