Article Being Reviewed
Wright, A.G.C., Pincus, A.L., & Lenzenweger, M.F. (2012). Interpersonal development, stability and change in early adulthood. Journal of Personality 80/5, 1340-1372. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2012.00761.x . Retrieved 22 Nov 2014, from EBSCOHost database.
The paper aims to research the ‘development of the interpersonal system’ mapped by the ‘interpersonal circumplex’ in early adulthood (ages 18-22).
The paper recounts the considerable body of previous research studying the personality changes that occur across the life span of a human being. Researchers have observed that personality traits are highly stable in adulthood, barring exceptions. The mean rate of change in personality traits remains minimal, and the differences amongst the various traits are maintained. The authors have identified prior research that corroborates this aspect (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
Researchers have identified early adulthood as the time for marked personality development. The period of early adulthood, when people go to college, is the time they imbibe the traits for ‘getting ahead’, while simultaneously retaining social characteristics to ‘get along’ with others (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
Using the IPC model as a framework, the authors carried out descriptive research to examine the development, stability and change of the interpersonal system. They further explored changes in lower order traits to understand personality development in the early adulthood stage. The research complements prior research on personality development as it addresses the IPC framework, which has not been done by previous researchers. Because the nature of research is descriptive, the researchers do not have a hypothesis in the study (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
The researchers have drawn a sample for their study from the ‘Longitudinal Study of Personality Disorders (LPSD)’, a prior study of personality, temperament and personality pathology. The LPSD has captured three waves of data from 258 young adults over the years 18-22, and was the only one that used the IPC as a framework. The participants completed self-reported measures of personality in their first, second and fourth years of college (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
The researchers treated the data captured from the LPSD with the ‘Revised Interpersonal Adjective Scale (IAS-R)’. The IAS-R consists of eight scales, each addressing a different quadrant of the IPC. Using standard weights, the quadrants were transposed to the two primary domains of ‘Dominance’ and ‘Affiliation’. Participants responded to each trait-descriptive adjective on an eight-point scale on each wave of the LPSD. The researchers analyzed the results (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
Overview of Results
The researchers tested the data for structural stability amongst the IPC over time, and found that the Interpersonal Adjective Scale was invariant over time. This indicated that the participants referred to traits in the same manner over time. Once the researchers had established that there was stability in the response of participants, further analysis became relevant (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
The researchers then tested rank order stability amongst the traits, and found that the rank ordered traits of participants remained stable. The most stable characteristics were ‘Aloof-Introverted’ and ‘Gregarious-Extroverted,’ while the least stable was ‘Cole-Hearted’ and ‘Unassuming – Ingenuous’ (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
The researchers next analyzed lower order traits, by testing for mean and individual level stability. They found that over time, ‘Assured – Dominance’ increased while ‘Unassured Submissiveness’ decreased. Similarly, ‘Unassuming- Ingenuousness’ increased while ‘Arrogance-Calculatingness’ decreased. It was thus observed that over time, young adults became ‘more assertive, self assured and confident’, while becoming less ‘ boastful, cocky and argumentative’ (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
The researchers treated the data to assess ipsative stability, a measure to understand the stability in overall personality profile. They found that half the respondent’s personalities shifted by less than 40% of an octant over the three years (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
The next test was to assess whether the structures of the respondents’ profiles were related to development and stability. They found that individuals with more typical personality profiles showed a decreased rate of increase in ‘Warmth and Agreeableness’ over time. Individuals with more diverse profiles continued to remain divergent over time (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
The researchers finally analyzed the relationship between Dominance and Affiliation, and the stability of this relationship over time. They found the results to be non-symptomatic and modest (Wright, Pincus & Lenzenweger, 2012).
Major Conclusions and Implications
The researchers found rank order stability in personality traits to be very high in college years. Amongst lower order traits, Dominance remained stable, while Affiliation increased. Overall, participants showed increased levels of social dominance, while remaining stable in social vitality. All scales further showed heterogeneity in the individual rates of change amongst various traits. While overall personality profiles did not alter by more than 40% of an octant, a few individuals had a diametrically opposite change in personality profile.
The study implies that young adults become more socially mature and less infantile. This corroborates with previous work on the subject.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The main strength of the study is that it draws its results from a homogenous and continuous dataset. It is difficult to conduct longitudinal studies, as there is a risk of participants to migrate over a period of time. This drawback has been overcome by the data obtained for the study.
As a corollary, the source of data may well be construed as a weakness. The participants were college going, and therefore may not have been representative of the entire young adult population. Economic profiles may also have been skewed in the study.
The study was an important step in the understanding of development of personality profile of young adults. The analysis and methodology to arrive at conclusions are representative of the scientific rigor required in social science. The conclusions are encouraging, as the prognosis indicates that young adults are likely to transform into responsible and assertive adults who would be mature enough to cut down on boastfulness and aggressive behavior.