Negative and Positive Affect Scales

Wills et al.

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Brief Description: This is a 24-item self-report questionnaire that assesses positive and negative affect over the last month. Response options are on a 5-point Likert scale with the following anchors: not at all true, a little true, somewhat true, pretty true, and very true. This measure is comprised of items from previous research on affective structure (Watson & Tellegen, 1985; Zevon & Tellegen, 1982) and consists of two scales. The Negative Affect Scale (12 items) includes items on negative affective states, lack of perceived control, negative self-concept, and pessimism. The Positive Affect Scale (12 items) includes items on positive affect, positive perceived control, positive self-regard, and optimism.
Target Population: Adolescents, ages 11-16 years.
Administrative Issues: Can be administered in a classroom setting.
Scoring Information:

Sum the raw scores for items in each scale.
Negative Affect Scale items: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 20, and 21.
Positive Affect Scale items: 4, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 22, 23, and 24.


Internal Consistency (Cronbach's alpha)
Negative Affect Scale: ranged from 0.88 - 0.91 over 4 assessment points
Positive Affect Scale: ranged from 0.83 - 0.90 over 4 assessment points

Construct Validity data:
Correlations with substance use level: Negative affect: r = 0.23,0.18;
Positive affect: r = -0.17, -0.11
Substance use problems: Positive and negative affect in 9th grade predicted substance use problems in 10th grade (p < .01) with 9th grade substance use level controlled.
Positive and Negative affect scores identified as moderators between substance use level and substance use problems.
Higher negative affect strengthened the relationship between level and problems. Higher Positive affect scores reduced the relationship between level and problems.
Smoking: Negative affect was significantly associated with an increase in smoking over 3 years.
Coping skills: Correlations with active coping/good control and avoidant coping/poor control: Negative affect was significantly correlated with a measure of avoidant coping (r = 0.46, 0.50). Positive affect was significantly correlated with a measure of active coping (r = 0.54, 0.55).

Test-retest data for the Negative Affect Scale: r = 0.57 for one year interval; 0.50 for 2-year interval; 0.43 for 3-year interval.
Test-retest data for the Positive Affect Scale: r = 0.37 for 1-year; r = 0.38 for 2-year; and r = 0.30 for 3-year.

Clinical Utility of Instrument: This measure can assess recent affective experiences in adolescents, which has relevance for their coping, substance use, and substance use problems. May help to identify adolescents who would particularly benefit from affect and coping-oriented interventions.
Research Applicability: This measure can be used to identify the role of affect in adolescent substance abuse, and can be used as a predictor of smoking, other substance use problems, and coping.
Copyright, Cost, and Source Issues: This measure is freely available in the public domain.
Source Reference:

Wills, T.A., Sandy, J.M., Shinar, O., & Yaeger, A. (1999). Contributions of positive and negative affect to adolescent substance use: Test of a bidimensional model in a longitudinal study. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 13(4), 327-338.

Wills, T.A., Sandy, J.M., & Yaeger, A. (2002). Moderators of the relationship between substance use level and problems: Test of a self-regulation model in middle adolescence. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 111, 3-21.

Supporting References: Wills, T.A., Sandy, J.M., & Yaeger, A.M. (2002). Stress and smoking in adolescence: A test of directional hypotheses with latent growth analysis. Health Psychology, 21, 122-130. [Note: reports on negative affect scale only].
Author: Thomas A. Wills, Ph.D.
Contact Information: Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Bronx, New York 10461

*Watson, D., & Tellegen, A. (1985). Toward a consensual structure of mood. Psychological Bulletin, 98, 219-235.

Zevon, M.A., & Tellegen, A. (1982). The structure of mood change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 111-122.

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Last Updated
September 24, 2020