Who Belongs to Me? Social Relationship and Personality Characteristics in the Transition to Young Adulthood

Jenny Wagner, Oliver Lüdtke, Brent W. Roberts, Ulrich Trautwein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Not much is known about how social network characteristics change in the transition out of school and what role Big Five personality plays in this context. The aim of this paper was twofold. First, we explored changes in social network and relationship characteristics across the transition out of secondary school. Second, we examined within-person and between-person effects of personality on these social network changes. Results based on a series of multilevel models to a longitudinal sample of 2287 young adults revealed four main findings. First, social networks increased in size, and this increase was mainly due to a larger number of nonkin. Stable social networks during the transition consisted mainly of family ties but were generally characterized by high closeness. Second, extraversion and openness consistently predicted network size, whereas agreeableness predicted network overlap. Third, increases in emotional closeness were found only for kin; closeness was generally lower for unstable relationships. Fourth, changes in emotional closeness were related to personality, particularly neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness for stable relationships; for unstable relationships, however, closeness was related to extraversion and openness. The article concludes by discussing the role of personality for social relationship development and the active moulding of social networks in young adulthood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)586-603
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Between-person and within-person effects
  • Big Five personality
  • Emerging adulthood
  • Longitudinal multilevel analyses
  • Social network development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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