Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 11, pp 1661–1673 | Cite as

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

  • Theo A. KlimstraEmail author
  • Koen Luyckx
  • Susan Branje
  • Eveline Teppers
  • Luc Goossens
  • Wim H. J. Meeus
Empirical Research


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.


Personality Identity formation Relationships Big five Adolescence Longitudinal 



TK conceived of the study, drafted the manuscript, and conducted the analyses; KL coordinated data collection of Sample 1 and helped in drafting the manuscript; SB participated in the design of the study from which Sample 2 data was drawn and helped in drafting the manuscript; ET helped in drafting the manuscript; LG designed the study from which the data for Sample 1 was drawn and helped drafting the manuscript; WM designed the study from which Sample 2 data was drawn and helped in drafting the manuscript.


  1. Ahmetoglu, G., Swami, V., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2010). The relationship between dimensions of love, personality, and relationship length. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1181–1190.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Berry, D. S., & Miller, K. M. (2001). When boy meets girl: Attractiveness and the Five-Factor Model in opposite-sex interactions. Journal of Research in Personality, 35, 62–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bollen, K. (1989). Structural equations with latent variables. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Bosma, H. A. (1985). Identity development in adolescence: Coping with commitments. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  5. Branje, S. J. T., van Aken, M. A. G., van Lieshout, C. F. N., & Mathijssen, J. J. J. P. (2003). Personality judgments in adolescents’ families: The perceiver, the target, their relationship, and the family. Journal of Personality, 71, 49–81.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Briggs, S. R. (1992). Assessing the Five-Factor Model of personality description. Journal of Personality, 60, 253–293.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burkholder, G. J., & Harlow, L. L. (2003). An illustration of a longitudinal cross-lagged design for larger structural equation models. Structural Equation Modeling, 10, 465–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen, F. F. (2007). Sensitivity of goodness of fit indexes to lack of measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 14, 464–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cheung, G. W., & Rensvold, R. B. (2002). Evaluating goodness-of-fit indexes for testing measurement invariance. Structural Equation Modeling, 9, 233–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Costa, P. T., Jr, & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO personality inventory (NEO-PI-R) and the five factor inventory (NEO-FFI): Professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  11. Crocetti, E., Rubini, M., Luyckx, K., & Meeus, W. (2008a). Identity formation in early and middle adolescents from various ethnic groups: From three dimensions to five statuses. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37, 983–996.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crocetti, E., Rubini, M., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2008b). Capturing the dynamics of identity formation in various ethnic groups: Development and validation of a three-dimensional model. Journal of Adolescence, 31, 207–222.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Donald, M., Dower, J., Correa-Velez, I., & Jones, M. (2006). Risk and protective factors for medically serious suicide attempts: A comparison of hospital-based with population-based samples of young adults. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 40, 87–96.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Engel, G., Olson, K. R., & Patrick, C. (2002). The personality of love: Fundamental motives and traits related to components of love. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 839–853.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Erikson, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  16. Goldberg, L. R. (1992). The development of markers for the Big-Five factor structure. Psychological Assessment, 4, 26–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Grotevant, H. D. (1987). Toward a process model of identity formation. Journal of Adolescent Research, 2, 203–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Grotevant, H. D., Thorbecke, W., & Meyer, M. L. (1982). An extension of Marcia’s identity status interview into the interpersonal domain. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 11, 33–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hoekstra, H. A., Ormel, J., & De Fruyt, F. (1996). NEO persoonlijkheids vragenlijsten: NEO-PI-R, NEO-FFI. Handleiding [NEO personality questionnaires: NEO-PI-R and NEO-FFI-Manual]. Lisse, The Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger.Google Scholar
  20. Klimstra, T. A., Luyckx, K., Germeijs, V., Meeus, W. H. J., & Goossens, L. (2012). Personality traits and educational identity formation in late adolescents: Longitudinal associations and academic progress. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 346–361.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Klimstra, T. A., Luyckx, K., Goossens, L., Teppers, E., & De Fruyt, F. (in press). Associations of identity dimensions with Big Five personality domains and facets. European Journal of Personality. doi: 10.1002/per.1853.
  22. Klimstra, T. A., Luyckx, K., Hale, W. W., Frijns, T., van Lier, P. A. C., & Meeus, W. H. J. (2010). Short-term fluctuations in identity: Introducing a micro-level approach to identity formation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99, 191–202.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kline, R. B. (2005). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  24. Kotov, R., Gamez, W., Schmidt, F., & Watson, D. (2010). Linking “big” personality traits to anxiety, depressive, and substance use disorders: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 768–821.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Le, B., Dove, N. L., Agnew, C. R., Korn, M. S., & Mutso, A. A. (2010). Predicting non-marital romantic relationship dissolution: A meta-analytic synthesis. Personal Relationships, 17, 377–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lehnart, J., Neyer, F. J., & Eccles, J. (2010). Long-term effects of social investment: The case of partnering in young adulthood. Journal of Personality, 78, 639–670.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Little, R. (1988). A test of missing completely at random for multivariate data with missing values. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 83, 1198–1202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lodi-Smith, J., & Roberts, B. W. (2007). Social investment and personality: A meta-analysis of the relationship of personality traits to investment in work, family, religion, and volunteerism. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 68–86.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Luyckx, K., Goossens, L., & Soenens, B. (2006a). A developmental-contextual perspective on identity construction in emerging adulthood: Change dynamics in commitment formation and commitment evaluation. Developmental Psychology, 42, 366–380.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Luyckx, K., Goossens, L., Soenens, B., & Beyers, W. (2006b). Unpacking commitment and exploration: Preliminary validation of an integrative model of late adolescent identity formation. Journal of Adolescence, 29, 361–378.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Luyckx, K., Schwartz, S. J., Berzonsky, M. D., Soenens, B., Vansteenkiste, M., Smits, I., et al. (2008). Capturing ruminative exploration: Extending the four-dimensional model of identity formation in late adolescence. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 58–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Marcia, J. E. (1966). Development and validation of ego-identity status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 551–558.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meeus, W. H. J. (1996). Studies on identity development in adolescence: An overview of research and some new data. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 25, 569–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Meeus, W. H. J., Akse, J., Branje, S. J. T., Ter Bogt, T. F. M., Crommelin, P. M., Delsing, M. J. M. H., et al. (2006). Codebook of the research project CONflict And Management Of RElationships (CONAMORE). Unpublished manuscript, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  35. Meeus, W. H. J., Branje, S. J. T., van der Valk, I., & de Wied, M. (2007). Relationships with intimate partner, best friend, and parents in adolescence and early adulthood: A study of the saliency of intimate partnership. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 31, 569–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Meeus, W., & Dekovic, M. (1995). Identity development, parental and peer support in adolescence: Results of a national, Dutch survey. Adolescence, 30, 931–944.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Meeus, W., Oosterwegel, A., & Vollebergh, W. (2002). Parental and peer attachment and identity development in adolescence. Journal of Adolescence, 25, 93–106.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2007). Mplus user’s guide (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  39. Neyer, F. J., & Asendorpf, J. B. (2001). Personality-relationship transaction in young adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1190–1204.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Neyer, F. J., & Lehnart, J. (2007). Relationships matter in personality development: Evidence from an 8-year longitudinal study across young adulthood. Journal of Personality, 75, 535–568.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Roberts, B. W., Kuncel, N. R., Shiner, R., Caspi, A., & Goldberg, L. R. (2007). The power of personality: The comparative validity of personality traits, socioeconomic status, and cognitive ability for predicting important life outcomes. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 313–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Roberts, B. W., Walton, K. E., & Viechtbauer, W. (2006). Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 1–25.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Roberts, B. W., & Wood, D. (2006). Personality development in the context of the neo-Socioanalytic Model of personality. In D. Mroczek & T. Little (Eds.), Handbook of personality development (pp. 11–39). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  44. Satorra, A., & Bentler, P. M. (2001). A scaled difference Chi square test statistic for moment structure analysis. Psychometrika, 66, 507–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vermulst, A. A., & Gerris, J. R. M. (2005). QBF: Quick Big Five persoonlijkheidstest handleiding [Quick Big Five personality test manual]. Leeuwarden, The Netherlands: LDC Publications.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theo A. Klimstra
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Koen Luyckx
    • 2
  • Susan Branje
    • 3
  • Eveline Teppers
    • 2
  • Luc Goossens
    • 2
  • Wim H. J. Meeus
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Developmental and Clinical PsychologyTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  2. 2.School Psychology and Child and Adolescent DevelopmentCatholic University LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Research Centre Adolescent DevelopmentUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations