Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 67–84

Subjective Change and Its Consequences for Emotional Well-Being

  • Corey Lee M. Keyes


This study investigates the impact of subjective changes in the execution of the roles of spouse, worker, and parent on the level and structure of positive and negative affect. According to the self-theory of subjective change, perceived improvement and decline are unsettling because each violate standards of self-conception, but perceived stability satisfies the organismic desire for homeostasis. Therefore individuals who perceive more changes in themselves should report more negative and less positive affect, compared with individuals who feel they have remained the same. The context-dependence theory of affects also argues that the correlation of negative and positive affect is strong when individuals are distressed and modest when they are in homeostasis. Thus, the correlation of positive and negative should approach unity as individuals perceive more change in themselves. Data are from the MIDUS study and sample (N = 3,032) of adults between the ages of 25 and 74. Respondents completed scales of positive and negative affect, and evaluated their current and past (10 years ago) functioning as spouses (or close relationship), in work, and as parents (relationship with their children). The correlation of positive and negative affect approached unity at the highest levels of perceived improvement, r = −.93, and at the highest levels of perceived decline, r = −.90, but was modestly correlated at no change, r = −.52. Moreover, the level of positive affect was lower, and negative affect was higher, among adults who perceived more improvement as well as declines, compared with adults who remained the same. Implications for the study of objective life events as well as health interventions are discussed.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Corey Lee M. Keyes
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health EducationThe Rollins School of Public HealthUSA
  3. 3.Center for Child Well-Being, The Taskforce for Child Survival and DevelopmentEmory UniversityAtlanta

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