Drawing on recent neuroscience research, Gilbert (2005, 2009a) suggested that vulnerability and psychopathology could be conceptualized and treated using a tripartite model of affect regulation which postulates three evolved systems oriented toward threats, resources, and affiliation, and respectively triggering negative affect (NA), activated positive affect (PA), and social safeness. He additionally proposed that social safeness, characterized by feelings of warmth and connectedness, plays an especially important role in psychosocial functioning. We tested various aspects of this theory through a 7-day daily diary study in which 51 male and 51 female students completed measures of social safeness, NA, PA, perceived social support (PSS), and received social support (RSS) every evening. First, social safeness emerged as operationally distinct from low NA, PA, and PSS. Second, participants who endorsed higher mean levels of RSS over the week had higher mean levels of safeness, and social safeness was higher on days when participants reported higher RSS than their mean. Third, social safeness was more strongly related to numerous indicators of vulnerability and psychopathology than NA, PA, and PSS, and it predicted these variables controlling for NA, PA, and PSS. Results support the theory that social safeness is a distinct affective experience that responds to affiliation and offers unique protection from psychosocial suffering.
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The complete results from the hierarchical regressions are available from the authors.
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Kelly, A.C., Zuroff, D.C., Leybman, M.J. et al. Social Safeness, Received Social Support, and Maladjustment: Testing a Tripartite Model of Affect Regulation. Cogn Ther Res 36, 815–826 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-011-9432-5