Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

Editors: Sam Goldstein, Jack A. Naglieri

Positive Affect

  • David N. Miller
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79061-9_2193



Positive affect refers to the extent to which an individual subjectively experiences positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness.


Positive affect is one aspect of pleasurable and positive experience. Although positive affect overlaps to a significant degree with the concept of positive emotions, they are not identical. Positive affect is more closely related to mood states whereas positive emotions involve positive feelings as well as characteristic patterns of physiological arousal, thoughts, and behaviors [1]. Positive affect is usually measured through the use of self-report scales, such as the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule [2], in which respondents are presented with words describing both positive and negative moods and asked to rate each according to the extent that it describes them. Although these scales were originally designed for adults, more recently they have been adapted for use with children and adolescents.

Research suggests that individuals who have high degrees of positive affect are generally more extraverted than people with negative affect, and that they also experience a greater variety of mental and physical health benefits. Moreover, although positive affect is often contrasted to negative affect, these constructs can be independent of each other. Specifically, individuals can be high or low on one dimension whether they are high or low on the other [1]. For example, in determining whether a child or adolescent is experiencing depression or anxiety, assessing the degree of positive affectivity may be useful. Research suggests that youth with depression experience substantial levels of negative affect but not positive affect, whereas youth with anxiety disorders often experience both negative and positive affect. Although positive affect appears to a large extent to be genetically determined, it is not exclusively so, and can be enhanced through both cognitive and behavioral modification [1].


  1. 1.
    Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063–1070.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • David N. Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Education and Counseling PsychologyUniversity at Albany, SUNY Division of School PsychologyAlbanyUSA