A random walk down university avenue: Life paths, life events, and personality trait change at the transition to university life

Oliver Lüdtke, Brent W. Roberts, Ulrich Trautwein, Gabriel Nagy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This longitudinal study examined the relation between continuity and change in the Big Five personality traits and life events. Approximately 2,000 German students were tracked from high school to university or to vocational training or work, with 3 assessments over 4 years. Life events were reported retrospectively at the 2nd and 3rd assessment. Latent curve analyses were used to assess change in personality traits, revealing 3 main findings. First, mean-level changes in the Big Five factors over the 4 years were in line with the maturity principle, indicating increasing psychological maturity from adolescence to young adulthood. Second, personality development was characterized by substantive individual differences relating to the life path followed; participants on a more vocationally oriented path showed higher increases in conscientiousness and lower increases in agreeableness than their peers at university. Third, initial level and change in the Big Five factors (especially Neuroticism and Extraversion) were linked to the occurrence of aggregated as well as single positive and negative life events. The analyses suggest that individual differences in personality development are associated with life transitions and individual life experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)620-637
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume101
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2011

Keywords

  • Five-factor model
  • Life events
  • Personality development
  • Stability
  • Young adulthood

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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