Rank Order Stability in Adulthood

Many studies have been conducted on the stability of adult personality . Longitudinal studies have been conducted spanning as many as four decades of life. Furthermore, many age brackets have been examined, from age 18 through older cohorts ranging up to age 84.

A summary of these data is shown in Table 5.4, assembled by Costa and McCrae (1994). This table categorizes the measures of personality into the five-factor model o traits, described in Chapter 3. The time intervals between the first and last personalit assessments for each sample range from a low of 3 years to a high of 30 years. The results yield a strong general conclusion: across self-report measures of personality , conducted by different investigators, and over differing time intervals of adulthood, the traits of neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness all show moderate to high levels of stability . The average correlation across these traits, scales, and time intervals is roughly + .65.

These studies all rely on self-report. What are the stability coef ficients whe other data sources are used? In one six-year longitudinal study of adults using spouse ratings, stability coef ficients were + .83 for neuroticism, + .77 for extraversion, and + .80 for openness (Costa & McCrae, 1988). Another study used peer ratings of personality to study stability over a seven-year interval. Stability coef ficients ranged fro + .63 to + .81 for the five-factor taxonomy of personality (Costa & McCrae, 1992) In sum, moderate to high levels of personality stability , in the individual dif ferences sense, are found whether the data source is self-report, spouse-report, or peer -report.

Recent studies continue to confirm the rank order stability of personality durin the adult years. In one study, Richard Robins and his colleagues (Robins, Fraley, Roberts, & Trzesniewski, 2001) examined 275 college students during their freshman year , and then again four years later in their senior year . They used the NEO-PI scales to measure the Big Five. Across the four years of college, the rank order stability obtained was: .63 for Extraversion, .60 for Agreeableness, .59 for Conscientiousness, .53 for Neuroticism, and .70 for Openness, all of which were highly statistically significant. In sum, the mod erate levels of rank order stability of the Big Five found earlier by Costa and McCrae appear to be highly replicable across dif ferent populations and investigators.

Similar findings eme ge for personality dispositions that are not strictly subsumed by the Big Five. In a massive meta-analytic study of the stability of self-esteem—how good people feel about themselves—Trzesniewski, Donnellan, and Robins (2003) found high levels of continuity over time. Summarizing 50 published studies involving 29,839 individuals and four lar ge national studies involving 74,381 individuals, they found

Table 5.4 Stability Coefficients for Selected Personality Scales

in Adult Samples

Factor/Scale

Interval

r

Neuroticism

NEO-PI N

6

.83

16PF Q4: Tense

10

.67

ACL Adapted Child

16

.66

Neuroticism

18

.46

GZTS Emotional Stability (low)

24

.62

MMPI Factor

30

.56

Median:

.64

Extraversion

NEO-PI E

6

.82

16PF H: Adventurous

10

.74

ACL Self-Confidence

16

.60

Social Extraversion

18

.57

GZTS Sociability

24

.68

MMPI Factor

30

.56

Median:

.64

Openness

NEO-PI O

6

.83

16PF I: Tender-Minded

10

.54

GZTS Thoughtfulness

24

.66

MMPI Intellectual Interests

30

.62

Median:

.64

Agreeableness

NEO-PI A

3

.63

Agreeableness

18

.46

GZTS Friendliness

24

.65

MMPI Cynicism (low)

30

.65

Median:

.64

Conscientiousness

NEO-PI C

3

.79

16PF G: Conscientious

10

.48

ACL Endurance

16

.67

Impulse Control

18

.46

GZTS Restraint

24

.64

Median:

.67

Note: Interval is given in years; all retest correlations are significant at p < .01. NEO-PI = NEO Personality Inventory, ACL = Adjective Check List, GZTS = Guilford Zimmerman Temperament Survey, MMPI = Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.

Note: Interval is given in years; all retest correlations are significant at p < .01. NEO-PI = NEO Personality Inventory, ACL = Adjective Check List, GZTS = Guilford Zimmerman Temperament Survey, MMPI = Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.

stability correlations ranging from the .50s to the .70s. How people feel about themselves—their level of self-confidence—appears very consistent over time. Simila findings have been obtained with measures of prosocial orientation and interpersona empathy (Eisenberg, Guthrie, Cumberland, Murphy, Shepard, Zhou, & Carlo, 2002). In sum, personality dispositions, whether the standard Big Five or other dispositions, show moderate to considerable rank order stability over time in adulthood.

Researchers have posed an intriguing question about rank order personality stability in the individual dif ferences sense—when does personality consistency peak? That is, is there a point in life when people' s personality traits become so firm tha sc

1 sc

"N^

-C (n.s.K A

i i

Age (years)

N = Neuroticisim, E = Extraversión, O = Openness, A = Agreeableness, C = Conscientiousness sc

7c sc

4c sc

2c sc

50 60

Age (years)

N = Neuroticisim, E = Extraversión, O = Openness, A = Agreeableness, C = Conscientiousness

Figure 5.2

The figure shows the mean level of five traits over the life span Although the average scores on each trait are quite stable over time, Openness, Extraversion, and Neuroticism show a gradual decline from age 30 to 50. In contrast, Agreeableness shows a gradual increase over these ages.

they don't change much relative to those of other people? To address this fascinating question, Roberts and DelVecchio (2000) conducted a meta-analysis of 152 longitudinal studies of personality . Recall that a meta-analysis is a set of statistical procedures for discovering trends across a large number of independent empirical studies. The key variable Roberts and DelV ecchio (2000) examined was "personality consistency ," which was defined as the correlation between Time 1 and Time 2 measures of personality (e.g., the correlation between a personality trait at age 15 and the same trait at age 18). Only time intervals of at least one year were included in the study .

Roberts and DelVecchio (2000) found two key results when they looked across all these studies. First, personality consistency tends to increase in a stepwise fashion with increasing age. For example, the average personality consistency during the teenage years was + .47. This jumped to + .57 during the decade of the twenties and + .62 during the thirties. Personality consistency peaked during the decade of the fifties at + .75. As the authors conclude, "trait consistency increases in a linear fashion from infancy to middle age where it then reaches its peak after age 50" (Roberts & DelV ecchio, 2000, p. 3). As people age, apparently , personality appears to become more and more "set."

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  • Marcho
    What is rank order stability in personailty?
    1 year ago

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