Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Gregory T. Smith

Abstract

While the overall stability of personality across the lifespan has been well-documented, there is also evidence of meaningful personality change. This is particularly true when individuals are going through periods of developmental transition. Over time, one sees incremental changes not just in behavior but in basic personality as well. 1,906 early adolescents were assessed for urgency scores, levels of maladaptive behavior engagement (drinking, smoking, and binge eating), and pubertal status every six months for four years. Zero-Inflated Poisson structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to test the model of reciprocal influence between behavior and personality. Across most six-month intervals over the course of the four-year study, urgency predicted increased engagement in the maladaptive behaviors. Strikingly, the reverse was true as well: engagement in behaviors predicted subsequent increases in urgency, which is otherwise a stable personality trait. This study is the first to find reciprocal prediction between engagement in maladaptive, risky behaviors and endorsement of the maladaptive personality trait of urgency during the early adolescent years. One implication of these findings is the apparent presence of a positive feedback loop of risk, in which maladaptive behaviors increase high-risk personality traits, which in turn further increase the likelihood of maladaptive behaviors.

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