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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Testing the broaden-and-build theory in early adolescence : exploring associations of positive affect and problem solving coping strategies Forsyth, Karen


In the context of testing the broaden-and-build theory in samples of adults, Fredrickson (1998, 2001) has hypothesized and found that frequent experiences of positive emotions broaden thoughts and behaviours, facilitating coping with stress and adversity, through building longterm psychological, physical, and social resources, which catalyze upward spirals toward future well-being. Yet, to date, scant research attention has been paid to examining the degree to which the broaden-and-build theory extends to research with children and adolescents. To address this gap, we investigated the theory with 96, 4th and 5th graders (48% female; M = 9.8 years; SD = .57) who completed a battery of measures assessing positive and negative affect and coping (Problem Solving/Self-Reliance and Seeking Social Support) at two time-points during the school year, approximately eight weeks apart. Results from regression analyses indicated that initial positive affect, but not negative affect, predicted improved broadened coping, and initial broadened coping predicted increased positive affect, but not reductions in negative affect. Further analyses indicated that increases in positive affect were mediated by broadened coping, and increases in broadened coping were mediated by positive affect. This study supports the broaden-and-build theory and provides insight into the role of positive emotions in broadening thoughts and behaviours in early adolescence and over time. Limitations and future directions are discussed with regard to the relevance of the broaden-and-build theory for research with adolescents and its educational applications.

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