Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-55597f9d44-zdfhw Total loading time: 0.387 Render date: 2022-08-12T23:34:39.683Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

9 - The socioemotional basis of resilience in later life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 December 2010

Prem S. Fry
Trinity Western University, British Columbia
Corey L. M. Keyes
Emory University, Atlanta
Get access



Resilience has numerous meanings in prior research, but generally refers to a pattern of functioning indicative of positive adaptation in the context of significant risk or adversity. Underlying this broad definition are two specific conditions: (a) exposure to significant risks; and (b) evidence of positive adaptation despite serious threats to development. In this chapter, we examine the relevance of positive emotions and social connection as basic building blocks of resilience in later life. We put forth a dynamic conception of resilience to illuminate, theoretically and empirically, how some individuals are able to maintain, recover, or improve their health and well-being in the face of life challenges. We then summarize select parts of ongoing studies to illustrate how our formulation of resilience guides our program of empirical research on positive emotions. We conclude with a brief consideration of future research directions to advance understanding of later life resilience.

The socioemotional basis of resilience in later life

The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

(Kennedy, 1968)

What do we know about human well-being?

New Frontiers in Resilient Aging
Life-Strengths and Well-Being in Late Life
, pp. 239 - 257
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Almeida, D. M. (2005). Resilience and vulnerability to daily stressors assessed via diary methods. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 64–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ashby, F., Isen, A. M, and Turken, A. U. (1999). A neuropsychological theory of positive affect and its influence on cognition. Psychological Review, 106, 529–550.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bisconti, T. L., and Bergeman, C. S. (2007). Understanding the adjustment to widowhood: using dynamical systems to assess and predict trajectories of well-being. In Dulmen, M. H. M. and Ong, A. D. (eds.), Oxford handbook of methods in positive psychology (pp. 395–408). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Bisconti, T. L., Bergeman, C. S., and Boker, S. M. (2004). Emotional well-­being in recently bereaved widows: A dynamical systems approach. The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 59B, P158–P167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bisconti, T. L., Bergeman, C. S., and Boker, S. M. (2006). Social support as a predictor of variability: An examination of the adjustment trajectories of recent widows. Psychology and Aging, 21, 590–599.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Block, J. (1971). Lives through time. Berkeley, CA: Bancroft Books.Google Scholar
Block, J., Block, J. H., and Keyes, S. (1988). Longitudinally foretelling drug usage in adolescence: Early childhood personality and environmental precursors. Child Development, 59, 336–355.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Block, J., and Kremen, A. M. (1996). IQ and ego-resiliency: Conceptual and empirical connections and separateness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 349–361.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Boker, S. M. (2001). Differential models and differential structural equation modeling of intraindividual variability. In Collins, L. M. and Sayer, A. G. (eds.), New methods for the analysis of change (pp. 5–27). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
Boker, S. M., and Bisconti, T. L. (2006). Dynamical systems modeling in aging research. In Bergeman, C. S. and Boker, S. M. (eds.), Methodological issues in aging research (pp. 185–229). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Bolger, N., Davis, A., and Rafaeli, E. (2003). Diary methods: Capturing life as it is lived. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 579–616.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bonanno, G. A. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events?American Psychologist, 59, 20–28.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Bonanno, G. A., Moskowitz, J. T., Papa, A., and Folkman, S. (2005). Resilience to loss in bereaved spouses, Bereaved parents, and bereaved gay men. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 827–843.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Carstensen, L. L. (1992). Social and emotional patterns in adulthood: Support for socioemotional selectivity theory. Psychology and Aging, 7, 331–338.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cicchetti, D., and Dawson, G. (2002). Editorial: Multiple levels of analysis. Development and Psychopathology, 14, 417–420.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Davis, M. C., Zautra, A. J., and Smith, B. W. (2004). Chronic pain, stress, and the dynamics of affective differentiation. Journal of Personality, 72, 1133–1159.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Eckenrode, J. (1984). Impact of chronic and acute stressors on daily reports of mood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 907–918.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Folkman, S. (1997). Positive psychological states and coping with severe stress. Social Science and Medicine, 45, 1207–1221.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Folkman, S., and Moskowitz, J. T. (2000). Positive affect and the other side of coping. American Psychologist, 55, 647–654.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Folkman, S., and Moskowitz, J. T. (2004). Coping: Pitfalls and promise. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 745–774.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions?Review of General Psychology, 2, 300–319.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fredrickson, B. L. (2000). Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention and Treatment, 3, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-­and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fredrickson, B. L., and Branigan, C. (2001). Positive emotions. In Bonanno, G. A. and Mayne, T. J. (eds.), Emotions: Current issues and future directions. (pp. 123–151). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
Fredrickson, B. L., and Branigan, C. (2005). Positive emotions broaden the scope of attention and thought-action repertoires. Cognition and Emotion, 19, 313–332.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fredrickson, B. L., and Joiner, T. (2002). Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional well-being. Psychological Science, 13, 172–175.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fredrickson, B. L., and Levenson, R. W. (1998). Positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. Cognition and Emotion, 12, 191–220.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fredrickson, B. L., Mancuso, R. A., Branigan, C., and Tugade, M. M. (2000). The undoing effect of positive emotions. Motivation and Emotion, 24, 237–258.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fredrickson, B. L., Fredrickson, B. L., Tugade, M. M., Waugh, C. E., and Larkin, G. R. (2003). What good are positive emotions in crisis? A prospective study of resilience and emotions following the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 365–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers. New York:Little Brown.Google Scholar
Isen, A. M. (2000). Some perspectives on positive affect and self-regulation. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 184–187.Google Scholar
Isen, A. M., Daubman, K. A., and Nowicki, G. P. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1122–1131.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Isen, A. M., Niedenthal, P. M., and Cantor, N. (1992). An influence of positive affect on social categorization. Motivation and Emotion, 16, 65–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnson, K. J., and Fredrickson, B. L. (2005). We all look the same to me: Positive emotions eliminate the own-race bias in face recognition. Psychological Science, 16, 875–881.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Keltner, D., and Bonanno, G. A. (1997). A study of laughter and dissociation: Distinct correlates of laughter and smiling during bereavement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 687–702.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Keyes, C. L., Shmotkin, D., and Ryff, C. D. (2002). Optimizing well-­being: The empirical encounter of two traditions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 1007–1022.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lang, F. R., and Carstensen, L. L. (1994). Close emotional relationships in late life: Further support for proactive aging in the social domain. Psychology and Aging, 9, 315–324.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lazarus, R. S., Kanner, A. D., and Folkman, S. (1980). Emotions: A cognitive-phenomenological analysis. In Plutchik, R. and Kellerman, H. (eds.), Theories of emotion (pp. 189–217). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Luthar, S. S. (2006). Resilience in development: A synthesis of research across five decades. In Cohen, D. J. and Cicchetti, D. (eds.), Developmental psychopathology: Risk, disorder, and adaptation (pp. 739–795). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
Luthar, S. S., and Brown, P. J. (2007). Maximizing resilience through diverse levels of inquiry: Prevailing paradigms, possibilities, and priorities for the future. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 931–955.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Luthar, S. S., Cicchetti, D., and Becker, B. (2000). The construct of resilience: A critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, 71, 543–562.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., and Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success?Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Masten, A. S. (2007). Resilience in developing systems: Progress and promise as the fourth wave rises. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 921–930.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Masten, A. S., and Obradovic, J. (2006). Competence and resilience in development. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1094, 13–27.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Moskowitz, J. T., Folkman, S., Collette, L., and Vittinghoff, E. (1996). Coping and mood during AIDS-related caregiving and bereavement. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 18, 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ong, A. D., and Allaire, J. (2005). Cardiovascular intraindividual variability in later life: The influence of social connectedness and positive emotions. Psychology and Aging, 20, 476–485.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ong, A. D., and Bergeman, C. S. (2004). The complexity of emotions in later life. The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 59B, P117–P122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., and Bisconti, T. L. (2004). The role of daily positive emotions during conjugal bereavement. The Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 59B, P168–P176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., Bisconti, T. L., and Wallace, K. (2006). Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 730–749.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., and Boker, S. M. (2009). Resilience comes of age: Defining features in later adulthood. Journal of Personality, 77, 1777–1804.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ong, A. D., and Edwards, L. M. (2008). Positive affect and adjustment to perceived racism. The Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27, 105–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Park, C. L., and Folkman, S. (1997). Meaning in the context of stress and coping. Review of General Psychology, 1, 115–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pillow, D. R., Zautra, A. J., and Sandler, I. (1996). Major life events and minor stressors: Identifying mediational links in the stress process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 381–394.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Pressman, S. D., and Cohen, S. (2005). Does positive affect influence health?Psychological Bulletin, 131, 925–971.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Reich, J. W., Zautra, A. J., and Davis, M. C. (2003). Dimensions of affect relationships: Models and their integrative implications. Review of General Psychology, 7, 66–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reis, H. T., and Gable, S. L. (2000). Event-sampling and other methods for studying everyday experience. In Judd, C. M. and Reis, H. T. (eds.), Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology (pp. 190–222). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Rutter, M. (2002). Family influences on behavior and development: Challenges for the future. In Grolnick, W. S. and McHale, J. P. (eds.), Retrospect and prospect in the psychological study of families. (pp. 321–351). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Ryff, C. D., and Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719–727.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Ryff, C. D., and Singer, B. (2000). Interpersonal flourishing: A positive health agenda for the new millennium. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4, 30–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ryff, C. D., and Singer, B. H. (eds.). (2001). Emotion, social relationships, and health. London: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stone, A. A., Shiffman, S. S., and DeVries, M. W. (1999). Ecological momentary assessment. In Diener, E. and Kahneman, D. (eds.), Well being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 26–39). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
Tugade, M. M., and Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). Resilient individuals use positive emotions to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 320–333.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tugade, M. M., Fredrickson, B. L., and Barrett, L. F. (2004). Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of Personality, 72, 1161–1190.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Zautra, A. J., Johnson, L. M., and Davis, M. C. (2005). Positive affect as a source of resilience for women in chronic pain. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 212–220.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Zautra, A. J., Smith, B., Affleck, G., and Tennen, H. (2001). Examinations of chronic pain and affect relationships: Applications of a dynamic model of affect. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 69, 786–795.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats