Genetic and environmental continuity in personality development: A meta-analysis

Daniel A. Briley, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The longitudinal stability of personality is low in childhood but increases substantially into adulthood. Theoretical explanations for this trend differ in the emphasis placed on intrinsic maturation and socializing influences. To what extent does the increasing stability of personality result from the continuity and crystallization of genetically influenced individual differences, and to what extent does the increasing stability of life experiences explain increases in personality trait stability? Behavioral genetic studies, which decompose longitudinal stability into sources associated with genetic and environmental variation, can help to address this question. We aggregated effect sizes from 24 longitudinal behavioral genetic studies containing information on a total of 21,057 sibling pairs from 6 types that varied in terms of genetic relatedness and ranged in age from infancy to old age. A combination of linear and nonlinear meta-analytic regression models were used to evaluate age trends in levels of heritability and environmentality, stabilities of genetic and environmental effects, and the contributions of genetic and environmental effects to overall phenotypic stability. Both the genetic and environmental influences on personality increase in stability with age. The contribution of genetic effects to phenotypic stability is moderate in magnitude and relatively constant with age, in part because of small-to-moderate decreases in the heritability of personality over child development that offset increases in genetic stability. In contrast, the contribution of environmental effects to phenotypic stability increases from near zero in early childhood to moderate in adulthood. The life-span trend of increasing phenotypic stability, therefore, predominantly results from environmental mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1303-1331
Number of pages29
JournalPsychological bulletin
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral genetics
  • Cumulative continuity
  • Meta-analysis
  • Personality
  • Rank-order stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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