Adversity in adolescence predicts personality trait change from childhood to adulthood

Rebecca L. Shiner, Timothy A. Allen, Ann S. Masten

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39 Scopus citations


This study examined whether cumulative adversity in adolescence predicted changes in the Big Five traits from childhood to adulthood in the Project Competence Longitudinal Study sample (N = 205) followed from childhood (age 10) through adolescence into adulthood (age 30). Personality traits were measured in childhood through multiple methods and in adulthood by self-report. Cumulative adversity, assessed in adolescence, differentiated independent adversity (likely unrelated to participants’ behavior) from dependent adversity (resulting from participants’ own behavior). Participants’ personality traits were modestly stable over 20 years, although Openness showed greater stability. Independent and dependent adversity predicted increases in Negative Emotionality/Neuroticism, and dependent adversity predicted decreases in Constraint/Conscientiousness and Agreeableness from childhood to adulthood, suggesting that cumulative adversity shapes personality development in young people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Work on this paper was supported by the Irving B. Harris Professorship held by Masten. The results were based on data collected as part of the Project Competence longitudinal study, which has been supported through grants to Ann Masten, Auke Tellegen, and Norman Garmezy from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH #MH33222), the William T. Grant Foundation (WTG), the National Science Foundation (NSF # SBR-9729111), and the University of Minnesota. Any conclusions or views expressed in this chapter are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NIMH, NSF, or WTG.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Adversity
  • Agreeableness
  • Big Five traits
  • Conscientiousness
  • Life events
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness
  • Personality change
  • Personality development
  • Stress


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