psp-98-4-659 - Journal of Personality and Social Psychology...

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A Meta-Analysis of Normal and Disordered Personality Across the Life Span Christopher J. Ferguson Texas A&M International University Debate continues about whether personality, both normal and disordered, can change significantly or is mainly stable across the life span. One issue that receives little attention is the degree to which personality stability coefficients may be influenced by attenuation due to measurement error. The current meta- analysis examines the data from recent research on personality stability, reporting both uncorrected and corrected stability coefficients. Attenuation due to measurement error was found to cause a significant reduction in personality stability coefficients, raising the possibility that some studies may conflate personality change with measurement error. Overall, corrected stability coefficients suggested that the stability of personality across adulthood is high, with only modest change. By contrast, personality during childhood is significantly more changeable. Both normal personality and personality disorders were highly stable across the life span, and patients in therapy experienced no more personality change than did nonpatients. Cross-cultural comparisons suggested relatively similar levels of personality stability cross-culturally, although personality stability among people in South Pacific nations is slightly lower than among those in the United States, Canada, or European nations. Keywords: personality traits, personality development, personality disorders, life span, personality change Debate about the stability of both normal personality and per- sonality disorders across the life span continues to be an issue of considerable interest. Some scholars have concluded that person- ality is largely stable and unchanging, particularly after approxi- mately age thirty years (Costa & McCrae, 2006; McCrae & Costa, 1982), whereas others have emphasized that personality may con- tinue to experience at least moderate change throughout the life span (Ardelt, 2000; Clark, 2009; Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006). One issue that has not been fully discussed is the degree to which stability estimates are conflated with measurement error. The current article seeks to build upon the work of others by considering personality stability across the life span, across per- sonality traits (including general, nongeneral, and disordered traits), and across nations. The influence of correcting for attenu- ation due to measurement error on estimates of personality stabil- ity is also examined. The issue of personality stability is one that is important beyond the scientific and public debates. Many decisions made in therapy as well as by persons in normal life may hinge upon this issue. For example, patients and therapists may set personality change as a goal of therapy. If personality is highly stable, this may not be a realistic goal. Similarly, many personal decisions are made in hopes that individuals—ranging from failed employees to abusive spouses—can “change.” Elucidating the degree to which change is
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This note was uploaded on 10/03/2010 for the course MATH Math 211 taught by Professor Sarahleyden during the Spring '10 term at Shoreline.

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psp-98-4-659 - Journal of Personality and Social Psychology...

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