Robins+et+al.++2001 - A Longitudinal Study of Personality...

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A Longitudinal Study of Personality Change in Young Adulthood Richard W. Robins University of California, Davis R. Chris Fraley University of Illinois, Chicago Brent W. Roberts University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Kali H. Trzesniewski University of California, Davis ABSTRACT The present research examined personality continuity and change in a sample of young men and women assessed at the beginning and end of college. Two-hundred seventy students completed measures of the Big Five personality traits when they first entered college and then 4 years later. Analyses indicate small- to medium-sized normative (i.e., mean-level) changes, large rank-order stability correlations, high levels of stability in personality structure, and moderate levels of ipsative (i.e. profile) stability. Overall, the findings are consistent with the perspective that personality traits exhibit considerable con- tinuity over time, yet can change in systematic ways. This research was funded by a Faculty Research Grant from the University of California at Davis, an Office of Educational Research Grant from the University of California at Berkeley, and a National Institute of Mental Health grant (MH – 61829). We thank Jennifer Pals, Sanjay Srivastava, and Jessica Tracy for their comments on a draft of this paper, and Keith Widaman for his statistical advice. Journal of Personality 69:4, August 2001. Copyright © 2001 by Blackwell Publishers, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JF, UK.
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Young adulthood is a period of considerable opportunity and challenge. Many young adultsmoveaway from homefor thefirsttime,begincollege and full-time jobs, or marry and have children. Personality theorists and developmental psychologists have highlighted the importance of this period, describing the complex challenges that young adults face and the patterns of adaptation that follow from their resolution (Arnett, 2000; Erikson, 1963; Helson, 1983; White, 1966). Given the transitional nature of these years, young adulthood may be a time during which personality is especially susceptible to change. The present study examined personality continuity and change in young adulthood, using longitudinal data on a large sample of young adults followed through their college years. Participants completed a measure of the Big Five personality dimensions during the 1st week of college and then 4 years later. These data provide a unique opportunity to learn more about personality change during an important developmen- tal transition. Previous Research on Personality Stability and Change in Young Adulthood There is ongoing debate concerning when in the life course personality traits stop changing (e.g., Block, 1993; Costa & McCrae, 1994a; Heatherton & Weinberger, 1994; Helson & Stewart, 1994; Roberts & DelVecchio, 2000). Costa and McCrae (1994a) have argued that personality is “set like plaster” by age 30. Although this assertion has been debated, it nonetheless raises the question: What happens before age 30? Most theorists agree that personality continues to develop during
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