AFFECT BALANCE SCALE (ABS)
To assess positive and negative affect as indicators of life satisfaction and/or well-being (1,2).
Five positive affect questions and 5 negative affect questions.
Norman M. Bradburn. Studies conducted by the National Organization for Research (NORC) at the University of Chicago in the 1960s resulted in the publication The Structure of Psychological Well-Being by Bradburn (1), which contains a description of the Affect Balance Scale. Available at http://cloud9.norc.uchicago.edu.
The ABS has been translated into many languages, including Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Laotian; cultural equivalence was found (3).
Number of items in scale
There are 10 items.
Positive affect, Negative Affect, and Affect Balance, which is the difference between Positive Affect and Negative Affect and is sometimes used as an indicator of overall happiness.
WHO ICF Components
Time to administer/complete
Not copyrighted. The measure is available at http://cloud9.norc.uchicagoedu/dlib/spwb/summary.htm. Full-text chapters of The Structure of Psychological Well-Being (1) are available as PDF files at http://cloud9.norc.uchicago.edu/dlib/spwb/index.htm. The ABS is discussed at length in Chapter 4.
Yes or no.
The range is 0–5 for positive and for negative affect.
Interpretation of scores
Higher scores indicate higher positive and higher negative affect.
Method of scoring
Positive and negative questions summed separately, with a score of 1 for a “yes” response and a score of 0 for a “no” response. Affect Balance is computed as the difference between Positive Affect and Negative Affect.
Time to score
Training to score
Training to interpret
Typical responses for specific populations can be drawn from existing literature (3–10).
Generally strong reliability. Bradburn (1) reported test-retest reliability on a sample of 200 over a 3-day period for Positive Affect, Negative Affect, and Affect Balance to be 0.83, 0.81. and 0.76, respectively. Internal consistency reliabilities for Positive Affect range between 0.55 and 0.73; for Negative Affect scores range between 0.61 and 0.73.
Bassett et al (4) evaluated the agreement between self-report and rater versions of 4 mental health measures, including ABS, in a sample of 538 individuals. Results indicated a strong association. This association was found even for respondents classified as depressed or cognitively impaired. Although there was evidence of rater bias, with raters underrating affective status and overrating cognitive status, the magnitude of the bias proved small.
Bradburn (1) showed that positive affect correlated with single-item indicators of happiness from 0.34 to 0.38 and with corresponding values for negative affect at −0.33 and −0.38. He hypothesized that positive and negative affect were distinct dimensions; this was supported by small associations between the scales (0.04–0.15). Factor analyses have also indicated distinct orthogonal dimensions
Others have also found positive and negative affect to be orthogonal dimensions, with negligible or weak negative associations, supporting the two-factor theory which “maintains that positive and negative affect represent statistically independent dimensions of subjective well-being, with positive affect more related to situational factors and negative affect more related to dispositional factors” (5).
Sensitivity/responsiveness to change
For people at all ages, negative affect appears to decrease over time. “Looking at all three age groups together, negative affect decreased steadily until around age 60, at which time the rate slowed significantly. Unlike the hypothesized upturn in very old age, the decline continued even in very old age” (6). Maitland et al (7) have found stability in positive and negative affect factors over 3 years in a Victoria sample aged 54–87. Factor loadings remained largely invariant over time. Some differences in sex loadings emerged.
Comments and Critique
A model of subjective well-being has been proposed and tested by Liang which integrates the ABS and the Life Satisfaction Index–Version A (LSIA). The proposed model employs 8 ABS items and 7 LSIA items and is presumed to measure 4 dimensions: congruence, happiness, positive affect, and negative affect. Liang (8) successfully replicated this model across 4 randomly divided subsamples; Lawrence and Liang (9) reported further evidence for the stability of the model structure across age and sex, but noted some variability when comparing African American and White samples and conclude that the meaning of subjective well-being may differ for these two groups
Evidence seems to suggest that positive and negative affect are independent of each other and that they have different etiologies with positive affect being influenced by environmental factors, and negative affect deriving more from stable, perhaps genetic, factors. “There is a heritable basis of negative affect, perhaps stemming from genetically influenced personality characteristics. Situational variables that family members share are of greater importance for explaining family resemblance for positive affect” (5). This emphasis on the independence of the 2 factors makes the use of a difference score to obtain an indication of “Affect Balance” conceptually problematic. Moreover, fundamental weaknesses in the ABS have been argued, including the fact that affect items more strongly reflect arousal content; items include non-affect content; intensity/frequency of affect is not assessed; response bias may lead to ceiling or floor effects (10).
1.(Original) Bradburn NM. The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago: Aldine; 1969.
2.Bradburn NM, Caplovitz D. Reports on happiness. Chicago: Aldine; 1965.
3.Devins GM, Beiser M, Dion R. Cross-cultural measurements of psychological well-being: the psychometric equivalence of Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Laotian translations of the Affect Balance Scale. Am J Public Health 1997;87:794–9.
4.Bassett SS, Magaziner J, Hebel JR. Reliability of proxy response on mental health indices for aged, community-dwelling women. Psychol Aging 1990;5:127–32.
5.Baker LA, Cesa IL, Gatz M, Mellins C. Genetic and environmental influences on positive and negative affect: support for a two-factor theory. Psychol Aging 1992;7:158–63.
6.Charles ST, Reynolds CA, Gatz M. Age-related differences and change in positive and negative affect over 23 years. J Pers Soc Psychol 2001;80:136–51.
7.Maitland SB, Dixon RA, Hultsch DF, Hertzog D. Well-being as a moving target: measurement equivalence of the Bradburn Affect Balance Scale. J Gerontol 2001;56:P69–77.
8.Liang J. A structural integration of the Affect Balance Scale and the Life Satisfaction Index A. J Gerontol 1985;40:552–61.
9.Lawrence RH, Liang J. Structural integration of the Affect Balance Scale and the Life Satisfaction Index A: race, sex, and age differences. Psychol Aging 1988;3:375–84.
10.Diener E. Subjective well-being. Psychol Bull 1984;95:542–75.
McDowell I, Newell C. Measuring health: a guide to rating scales and questionnaires, Second Edition. Oxford (UK): Oxford University Press; 1996. pp. 191–194.