Adolescent Big Five personality and pubertal development: Pubertal hormone concentrations and self-reported pubertal status

Alithe L Van den Akker, Daniel A Briley, Andrew D Grotzinger, Jennifer L Tackett, Elliot M Tucker-Drob, K Paige Harden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In early adolescence, levels of conscientiousness and agreeableness have been found to temporarily decrease, with levels of neuroticism increasing, indicating a dip in personality maturation. It is unknown whether these changes are related to the process of puberty, a major developmental milestone with numerous changes for children. Here, we first replicated the dip in personality maturity in early adolescence (N = 2640, age range 8-18, 51% girls, 65% non-Hispanic white, 21% Hispanic/Latino, 10% African American, 9% other, roughly 33% of families received means-tested public assistance) and tested associations between the Big Five personality dimensions and pubertal development and timing across late childhood and adolescence (n = 1793). Pubertal development was measured using both hormonal assays (DHEA, testosterone, and progesterone) and self-reports of secondary sex characteristics. Of hormonal measures, only higher DHEA concentrations were associated with lower conscientiousness and openness. Nonparametric moderation analyses using LOSEM indicated Complex Age × Sex interactions involving all three hormones. Self-reported pubertal development was associated with lower extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness. More advanced pubertal timing was also related to lower levels of extraversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. All associations were small. As some evidence was found for small associations between pubertal development and lower levels of conscientiousness and agreeableness, a dip in personality maturation in these personality traits may be partly due to pubertal development in early adolescence. Overall, results did not indicate that pubertal development was the primary explanation of the maturity dip in adolescent personality. Many small influences likely accumulate to explain the dip in personality maturity in early adolescence. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)60-72
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • DHEA
  • personality
  • progesterone
  • puberty
  • testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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