, Volume 42, Issue 11, pp 1661-1673
Date: 13 Nov 2012

Personality Traits, Interpersonal Identity, and Relationship Stability: Longitudinal Linkages in Late Adolescence and Young Adulthood

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Adolescence and young adulthood are characterized by important changes in personality, changes toward a more stable identity, and the establishment of intimate relationships. We examined the role of personality traits in establishing intimate relationships, the interplay between personality traits and interpersonal identity processes during these relationships, and the role of interpersonal identity processes and personality traits in the dissolution thereof. For this purpose, we used longitudinal data on 424 female college students (mean age at T1 = 18.6 years; Sample 1) and 390 late adolescents drawn from a community sample (56.7 % female; mean age at T1 = 19.7 years; Sample 2). Especially highly extraverted individuals were likely to become involved in a relationship. Neuroticism was associated negatively, and Agreeableness and Conscientiousness were associated positively with a stronger sense of interpersonal identity within intimate relationships. Finally, the importance of interpersonal identity processes was underscored by the fact that these processes, and not so much personality traits, predicted relational breakups. Overall, the present study provides important insights into the role of personality and identity in the initiation, maintenance, and dissolution of intimate relationships in late adolescence and young adulthood.

Theo A. Klimstra, Koen Luyckx are postdoctoral researchers at the Fund for Scientific Research Flanders (FWO).