Longitudinal Coupling of Momentary Stress Reactivity and Trait Neuroticism: Specificity of States, Traits, and Age Period

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Cornelia Wrzus, Gloria Luong, Gert G. Wagner, Michaela Riediger

In: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2021), im Ersch. [online first: 2021-07-29]

Abstract

Personality traits like neuroticism show both continuity and change across adolescence and adulthood, with most pronounced changes occurring in young adulthood. It has been assumed, but insufficiently examined, that trait changes occur gradually over the years through the accumulation of daily experiences. The current longitudinal measurement burst study examined (a) how changes in average momentary stress reactivity are coupled with changes in trait neuroticism, (b) the extent to which this coupling is specific to stress reactivity and neuroticism, and (c) the extent to which there are age differences in the association between changes in stress reactivity and changes in neuroticism. Participants (N = 581; 50% male) between 14 and 86 years of age completed up to 3 waves (T1–T3) of Big Five trait questionnaires and experience-sampling assessments during 6 years. During each three-week experience-sampling period, participants reported their momentary affect and occurrences of hassles on average 55 times. Latent change models showed that increases over time in affective reactivity to daily hassles were associated with increases in neuroticism. This effect was consistent from T1 to T2 as well as from T2 to T3, and most pronounced in young adulthood. Importantly, the results were specific to associations between stress reactivity and neuroticism because changes in frequency of hassles in daily life did not predict changes in neuroticism, and stress reactivity did not consistently predict changes in the other Big Five traits. The findings help to inform theoretical models that outline how short-term states might contribute to gradual longer-term changes in traits like neuroticism.

Gert G. Wagner

Senior Research Fellow in the German Socio-Economic Panel study Department

Topics: Personality, Family



Keywords: ambulatory assessment, Big Five, lifespan personality development, state-trait association, stress
DOI:
https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000308
Supplemental materials
https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000308.supp

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