Positive affect as mediator: The socioemotional selectivity theory applied to the association between bonding social capital and wellbeing in later life

Marianne Simons*, J. Reijnders, M. Janssens, J. Lataster, N. Jacobs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Bonding social capital was previously found as more strongly associated with wellbeing in later life than bridging social capital. The present study explored a theoretical explanation found in the socioemotional selectivity theory, by examining whether this association is mediated by the experience of positive affect. According to this theory older adults prefer intimate social relationships that contribute to the experience of positive emotions. A sample of older adults (50-93 years) filled out two online questionnaires, with an interval of 4 weeks, measuring bonding and bridging social capital and positive affect on T1 (N = 319, M-age(SD) = 61.28(7.65)) and social, emotional and psychological wellbeing on T2 (N = 202, M-age(SD) = 61.31(7.47)), as well as relevant covariates. Associations were found between bonding social capital and all sub-dimensions of wellbeing. Mediation analysis showed that these associations were (partly) mediated by the experience of positive affect. Bridging social capital was only associated with social wellbeing and no association with the experience of positive affect was found. These findings support the socioemotional selectivity theory and further illustrate the importance of bonding social capital in positive aging as a resource of opportunities to experience positive emotions, contributing to wellbeing in later life. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Oct 2022


  • Bonding social capital
  • positive affect
  • wellbeing
  • positive aging
  • socioemotional selectivity theory
  • SPAN

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