Low Life Course Socioeconomic Status (SES) is Associated with Negative NEO PI-R Personality Patterns

  • Charles R. Jonassaint
  • Ilene C. Siegler
  • John C. Barefoot
  • Christopher L. Edwards
  • Redford B. Williams



Low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with poor health. One potential pathway accounting for this relationship may be an association between low SES and personality characteristics that affect health.


Associations among parent's education, current SES (education and income), and personality were examined among 233 African Americans and Caucasian, male and female community volunteers.


Using multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) to model neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness simultaneously, participant's education, household income, and father's and mother's education each had significant main effects on personality. When examining the life course—the combination of both current and childhood SES—distinctive patterns emerged for each domain, depending upon whether mother's or father's education was used to index childhood SES. When using mother's education as a childhood SES index, a high life course SES (high participant's SES/high mother's education) was associated with high extraversion and openness. Using father's education as a childhood SES index, a low life course SES (low participant's SES/low father's education) was associated with disproportionately high neuroticism and low conscientiousness. These effects did not differ by race or sex.


The implications of these findings for the role of personality in the SES–health relationship are discussed.


Socioeconomic factors Social class Personality Education 



This study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant P01HL36587, National Institute of Mental Health grant K05MH79482, Clinical Research Unit grant M01RR30, and the Duke University Behavioral Medicine Research Center.


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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles R. Jonassaint
    • 1
  • Ilene C. Siegler
    • 1
    • 2
  • John C. Barefoot
    • 2
  • Christopher L. Edwards
    • 2
    • 3
  • Redford B. Williams
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry, Behavioral Medicine Research CenterDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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