Personality trait change in the transition to college life

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Description: Developmental changes in personality are often studied using estimates of mean-level stability, or differences in mean trait scores, throughout the course of life (B.W. Roberts & W.F. DelVecchio, 2000; R.R. McCrae & P.T. Costa, 2003). Change in personality can result from either intrinsic or extrinsic factors. A. Caspi and T.E. Moffit (1993) propose the paradoxical theory of personality coherence, in which expected environmental changes facilitate personality change. The current study assesses whether the transition into college, an expected environmental change, is associated with changes in basic personality traits. Personality was assessed at two time points using the revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R; P.T. Costa & R.R. McCrae, 1992), a measure of the Five Factor Model of personality (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, Neuroticism). Participants who had just graduated from high school with the intent to attend college were recruited and assessed at two time points, before and after their first year of college (separation group, N = 84). This group was compared with a control group of first-year college students who were assessed at the end of their first year and again at the end of their second year (N = 75). The first hypothesis was that the separation group would show greater overall personality change than the control group. The second and third hypotheses were that the separation group would increase more in Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience than the control group. The fourth hypothesis was that the two groups would not differ in trait levels and stability of Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Agreeableness. The first hypothesis was not supported; neither the separation nor the control group showed significant personality change. The second and third hypotheses were therefore also not supported. The fourth hypothesis, that the remaining three traits would remain stable, was supported by the results. The findings of this study do not support the paradoxical theory of personality change. Nonetheless, the substantial stability of NEO-PI-R scores in both groups provides strong validation for the trait conception of personality.
Language: English
Format: Degree Work