Externalizing Behavior and the Higher Order Factors of the Big Five

Colin G. DeYoung, Jordan B. Peterson, Jean R. Séguin, Richard E. Tremblay

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    75 Scopus citations


    The comorbidity of various externalizing behaviors stems from a broad predisposition that is strongly genetically determined (R. F. Krueger, B. M. Hicks, C. J. Patrick, S. R. Carlson, W. G. Iacono, & M. McGue, 2002). This finding raises the question of how externalizing behavior is related to broad personality traits that have been identified in normal populations and that also have a genetic component. Using structural equation modeling, the authors applied a hierarchical personality model based on the Big Five and their two higher order factors, Stability (Neuroticism reversed, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness) and Plasticity (Extraversion and Openness). Cognitive ability was included to separate variance in Openness associated with Extraversion (hypothesized to be positively related to externalizing behavior) from variance in Openness associated with cognitive ability (negatively related to externalizing behavior). This model was used to predict a latent externalizing behavior variable in an adolescent male sample (N = 140) assessed through self- and teacher reports. As hypothesized, externalizing behavior was characterized by low Stability, high Plasticity, and low cognitive ability.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)947-953
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Nov 2008


    • Plasticity
    • Stability
    • cognitive ability
    • externalizing behavior
    • higher order factors

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