How Helpful Support During Childhood Transforms Negative Experience.

by Dr. Kerstin Liesenfeld, Prof. Dr. N. Baumann and Prof. Julius Kuhl

Negative feelings and their often-harming impact on health and wellbeing is broadly discussed. Within the frame of Positive Psychology, various concepts regarding health and wellbeing thus primarily focus on positive affect (e.g., Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002; Cohen & Pressman, 2006). Following the increasing numbers of mental health problems in society associated with negative affect, it might seem unusual to voluntarily shed a light on negative emotion and negative affect. In our study, we examined the bright and growth-oriented side of negative emotion: its contribution to accommodative self-growth.

By use of a retrospective biography analysis in combination with an assessment of the adult’s ability to self-regulate emotions (i.e. action vs. state-orientation) we compared various sources of stress regarding their direct impact on health, well-being and thrive. Additionally, we investigated their indirect impact on accommodative self-growth under specific supportive conditions within the environment (nurture).

In analyzing biography, specifically regarding negative experiences and its positive outcomes, we found demand and threat related state-orientation (i.e. the tendency to get stuck in hesitation and frustration) under specific circumstances (helpful support during childhood) to even promote personal development (accommodative self-growth, derived from PSI-theory).


Dr. Kerstin Liesenfeld
Liesenfeld Research Institute/Tufts University

1 Liesenfeld Research Institute / Tufts University, Boston (USA)
2 University of Trier
3 University of Osnabrück

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