One Size Fits All? Applying Theoretical Predictions About Age and Emotional Experience to People With Functional Disabilities

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The current study examined whether commonly observed age differences in affective experience among community samples of healthy adults would generalize to a group of adults who live with significant functional disability. Age differences in daily affect and affective reactivity to daily stressors among a sample of participants with spinal cord injury (SCI) were compared with a noninjured sample. Results revealed that patterns of affective experience varied by sample. Among noninjured adults, older age was associated with lower levels of daily negative affect, higher levels of daily positive affect, and less negative affective reactivity in response to daily stressors. In contrast, among the sample with SCI, no age differences emerged. Findings, which support the model of Strength and Vulnerability Integration, underscore the importance of taking life context into account when predicting age differences in affective well-being.

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