Influence of Personality on Well-Being

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11th Sep 2017 Psychology Reference this

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Using psychological research, critically assess the influence of personality factors on well-being though the lifespan

Personality factors have consistently been investigated to determine what relationship they have within the field of wellbeing. Also, researchers have tried to conclude to what extent personality can influence wellbeing, and they have attempted to examine what personality traits are most influential within different age categories. Within wellbeing research, and as Carr (2011) states, wellbeing refers to an individual’s state of being healthy, comfortable and happy. Moreover, personality factors can refer to the personal characteristics that influence affect, cognition and behaviour (Matthews, Deary and Whiteman, 2009). These personal characteristics present themselves as personality traits. Implicit personality trait theories such as the Five-Factor Model of Personality (McCrae & Costa, 2008) suggest that an individual’s rating on such traits can provide personal strengths or weaknesses that have an influence upon wellbeing. For example, some research suggests that those who present the personality trait extraversion to a high degree, are indeed more inclined to be ‘happy’ than those who do not (Steel, Schmidt & Shultz, 2008). Additionally, these 5 personality traits are comprised of particular components that can be measured to relate to wellbeing. Research has represented that these personality traits can be particularly stable over time, yet they do have certain influences upon wellbeing aspects of cognition, health, subjective wellbeing and success in life. Furthermore, in the current field of wellbeing, there is debate to what extent personality actually influences wellbeing at different ages. Therefore this essay will investigate how personality traits influence wellbeing throughout the lifespan, and critically examine to what extent personality can be used to explain the influence upon wellbeing at different ages.

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McCrae and Costa (2008) Five-Factor Model of Personality represents five major factors that comprise the basic fundamentals of personality. Taken from other trait theories such as Cattell (1965) 16 Personality Factor Model, and Eysenck (1967) Extraversion-Stability Model, McCrae and Costa suggest that the five personality traits specified are universal, across lifespan. They consist of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. To capture an individual’s true personality, psychological and behavioural testing and direct observation can be carried out. The Five-Factor Model also suggests subcategories that relate to one of the five traits. Much research literature has provided evidence for both stability and change within these personality traits over time (Caspi & Roberts, 1999). For example, Eysenck (1990) found that extraversion tended to be relatively stable from childhood into adulthood. Self-esteem, which could be suggested to be a part of neuroticism, was found to have strong stability (Trzeniewski et al, 2003). Costa and McCrae (2002) longitudinal and cross-sectional research found that agreeableness and conscientiousness increased with age, yet extraversion, neuroticism and openness represented a decline from late teen to the age of 30. Other research from Larson and Buss (2003) supports these findings by presenting similar findings of mean level stability of their given population over time.

More specifically, Soto (2016) investigated personality development in childhood and adolescents. Using a sample of 16,000 children and adolescents ranging from age 3 to 20, they found a curvilinear u-shaped age trend for openness, consciousness and agreeableness. This meant that these three traits decreased during young adolescence and subsequently increased as they got older. Srivastava, John, Gosling, and Potter (2003) examined personality change within adulthood. Using a sample of adults aged between 21 and 60, they found that agreeableness and conscientiousness increased over time, whereas neuroticism declined only within females over time. Additionally, Allemand, Zimprich and Hertzog (2007) explored the changes in personality in older aged participants. They found that neuroticism declined, along with openness. However, a meta-analysis of 152 studies by Roberts and Del Vecchio (2000) suggests that on average, personality consistency is still largely apparent and increases through childhood, to adulthood. They reported a peak in personality consistency at the age of 50, whereby personality becomes very stable. The above research suggests that personality is subject to change over the lifespan to a certain extent, however it can be relatively stable. Yet, how these personality stabilities and changes affect wellbeing has been widely examined in literature.

Firstly, as Izard, Libero, Putnam and Haynes (1993) highlight, two specific personality traits that can directly influence wellbeing. Neuroticism, is described as being made up of components of anxiety, hostility, self-consciousness, impulsiveness and vulnerability, and is reported to be linked with depression. For example, Roelofs, Huibers, Peeters, and Arntz (2008) found in a sample of 192 non-clinical undergraduate students, that their reported level of neuroticism subsequently correlated to their reported symptoms of depression. For wellbeing, it can be wise to assume that an individual with a high score on neuroticism as a personality trait, may in fact have a lower wellbeing. Evidence to support this is provided by Costa and McCrae (1980) who investigated the relationship between neuroticism and wellbeing. They found that neuroticism was correlated to dissatisfaction and negative affect in participants aged between 35 and 85, also providing evidence for consistency of personality traits across ages. Izard, Libero, Putnam and Haynes also highlight extraversion as having a direct influence upon wellbeing. Extraversion is described as encompassing components of warmth, activity, assertiveness, positive emotions and excitement seeking, and as Diener, Sandvik, Pavot and Fujita (1992) suggest in their findings, participants who scored more highly on levels of extraversion, reported a higher level of wellbeing. These personality traits, along with others, have been reported to affect certain aspects of wellbeing. For example, the cognitive impact these personality traits have upon participants has been reported by Anusic, Schimmack, Pinkus and Lockwood (2009). They investigated extraversion and neuroticism in relation to subjective wellbeing, which comprises aspects of life satisfaction and positive affect, and found similar findings to the above. However, they did suggest that as a whole, depression itself was a higher predictor of subjective wellbeing than neuroticism. Moreover, they also found that positive affect has a higher correlation with life satisfaction then that of extraversion, so it is clear to see that even though personality does have an influence upon wellbeing, other aspects may indeed influence wellbeing more. Nonetheless, Abbott et al (2008) used a British sample of 2,547 females to investigate the impact of extraversion and neuroticism on wellbeing at different ages. They found that from the age of 16 to 26, ratings of extraversion and neuroticism stayed relatively the same. Also, higher extraversion was again correlated to a higher wellbeing, whereas a higher neuroticism score correlated to lower wellbeing.

Additionally, personality factors have been reported to influence aspects of wellbeing in future success and health. For example, Caughlin, Huston and Houts (2000) investigated the impact of neuroticism on marriage satisfaction. They carried out a longitudinal study over 13 years starting from participants being newlyweds. They originally measured the participant’s personality traits and found that participants that scored highly on neuroticism and anxiety, were more likely to experience martial negativity and dissatisfaction. Moreover, Kelly and Conley (1987) investigated similar variables with engaged couples in the 1930’s, as a longitudinal study until the 1980’s. They again found that high levels of dissatisfaction in both men and women were correlated to a higher rating of neuroticism, which consequently led to divorce. However, to what extent neuroticism can be completely reliable for marriage dissatisfaction has been debated. For example, Karney (2001) suggests that personality only influences future success of a marriage to a small degree, and other aspects such as marital stress, have a higher effect. Other aspects of personality such as consciousness has been found to relate to positive affect and success in academic achievement (Carr, 2011). Furthermore, high conscientiousness was also related to less risk taking activities in school children (Hampson & Goldberg, 2006), as well as helping to promote positive health behaviours such as exercise and a good diet. Ozer and Benet-Martinez (2006) also found that high extraversion and conscientiousness were also related to positive health outcomes and a lowered risk of illness such as cardiovascular disease. Even though all this wealth of research suggests that personality does have an impact upon wellbeing throughout different ages, it is still not clear to what extent personality can be said to serve wellbeing. Research into twin studies has given light to this question.

Twin studies are greatly explanatory as they can compare the resemblance of personality traits between monozygotic and dizygotic siblings (Lykken, 2006). Much research has suggested that monozygotic twins are much more likely to share similar personality traits than that of dizygotic twins. For example, Riemann, Angleitner and Strelau (1997) investigated personality trait similarities in identical and non-identical twins. They found a higher genetic influence for the identical twins representations of similar personality traits, than that of the non-identical twins. Yet, there is much debate in such research that monozygotic twins might actually share such similar behavioural responses and personality traits due to their upbringing, such as caregivers treating them more similarly, giving them similar experiences and environments, compared to dizygotic twins that are recognised as different (Carr, 2011). In this case, twin studies can be used instead to investigate twins that are reared together, compared to those reared apart. Bouchard and McGue (1990) carried out the Minnesota Twin Study in which they investigated 8,000 pairs of monozygotic twins from 1936 to 1955 that were reared apart. They found around 50% similarity in personality traits for the twins, meaning around 50% of the personality traits that serve an individual could be said to be based upon genetics. This research suggests that regardless of upbringing, genetics do play an important role in personality trait representation, yet it has also left questions about what serves the other 50% of influence upon personality and still fails to explain how such an influence can affect wellbeing.

Instead, Lykken and Tellgen (1996) used a personality trait test and a wellbeing questionnaire on 5,945 twins to examine the relationship between each variable. The wellbeing questionnaire was given to 79 monozygotic and 48 dizygotic twin pairs at age 20 and age 30. They found that monozygotic twins wellbeing correlation to be significantly higher than that of the dizygotic twins over the period, and they concluded that around 50% of wellbeing is genetic. They suggested that it is more likely to predict an individual’s happiness by looking at their twin, rather than their environmental influences. This suggests that genetics do indeed have an important influence upon personality traits, which effect wellbeing consistently over a time period. Additionally, Weiss, Bates and Luciano (2008) investigated the wellbeing of 973 monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs from the age of 16 to 40. They found a consistently similar influence of personality traits towards the wellbeing of the monozygotic twins throughout the study and suggest that personality traits are relatively stable over time, and contribute to around 50% of an individual’s wellbeing. Similarly, Røysamb, Harris, Magnus, Vittersø and Tambs (2002) investigated 5,140 Norwegian twins and found equal findings, in that 50% of the twin’s wellbeing was accounted for by genetics, and the other 50% from their environment. Nonetheless, some studies such as that by Stubbe, Posthuma, Boomsma and Geus (2005) suggest that genetics are overemphasised in previous literature, and their findings advocate that actually only around 38% of genetics can be used to explain personality trait contribution towards wellbeing, and the other 62% is due to the environment. This leads to the debate as to what else can be accounted for if genetics are not the main contributor.

Some research suggests that environmental influences may have more of an impact upon an individual’s personality, and therefore wellbeing overtime, compared to other advocates. For example, for an infant, having a secure attachment with a primary care giver may be an important forerunner to develop more positive adjustment on each of the personality traits, subsequently increasing wellbeing (Kerns, 2008). Other research such as that by Darling and Steinberg (1993) suggests that caregivers who moderate their attachment style from showing care and affection with a moderate amount of control, are more likely to promote positive adjustment within their child. Moreover, as Ozer and Benet-Martinez (2006) suggests, this childhood attachment to a caregiver can benefit as a social aid throughout adolescence and adulthood. For example, a child that has a secure attachment type will score highly on extraversion, agreeableness and openness and will be more adapted to the facilitation of the development of friendships in later life. Research into other environmental influences such as cultural differences, socio-economic status and education are also debated to have a large impact upon personality, serving wellbeing. For example, Dolan, Peasgood and White (2008) suggest that individuals who are highly extraverted might aim to achieve a higher socio-economic status, yet this has been largely reported in research to only temporarily serve wellbeing. Moreover, as Carr (2011) reports, regardless of an individual’s personality trait representation, if they suffer a negative major life event, their wellbeing is likely to decrease. Carr also reports that individuals from eastern collectivist cultures are less likely to recognise personal traits as a basis for wellbeing, and are much more influenced by interpersonal and community based components. Moreover, a further explanation for the influence upon wellbeing in regards to personality can be Lyubomirsky (2007) wellbeing set point. This theory suggests that individuals have a set point of wellbeing, which is served by at least 50% of the personality traits an individual holds. Wellbeing can then be increased by circumstantial happenings, such as winning some money, or by intentional activities, such as doing the things that individual loves. Lyubomirsky’s theory not only provides an explanation for how wellbeing and personality traits interact, but also gives a clarification for other influences that can serve wellbeing also.

To conclude, it is clear to see that there is a debate in research as to how much personality can really influence wellbeing in different ages of life. The general consensus firstly assumes that personality is stable throughout the lifespan, so an individual who scores highly on a trait in young adulthood, will still represent that trait through to older age. Research has sufficiently produced evidence to suggest that some particular personality traits influence wellbeing to a greater degree, for example neuroticism and extraversion. Yet, the previous literature does debate to what extent these personality traits can serve wellbeing, and much research does point to personality traits serving a genetic factor of influence upon wellbeing at around 50%. This therefore suggests that other factors can be as influential, and if not more influential than personality itself. Environmental factors have been regularly reported on, along with childhood experiences altering representations of personality factors. Overall, it is clear to see that to an extent, personality does have an influence upon wellbeing throughout the lifespan, yet other factors must also be accounted for to also serve wellbeing.

References:

Abbott, R. A., Croudace, T. J., Ploubidis, G. B., Kuh, D., Richards, M., & Huppert, F. A. (2008). The relationship between early personality and midlife psychological well-being: evidence from a UK birth cohort study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43(9), 679-687.

Allemand, M., Zimprich, D., & Hertzog, C. (2007). Cross‐Sectional Age Differences and Longitudinal Age Changes of Personality in Middle Adulthood and Old Age. Journal of personality, 75(2), 323-358.

Anusic, I., Schimmack, U., Pinkus, R. T., & Lockwood, P. (2009). The nature and structure of correlations among Big Five ratings: the halo-alpha-beta model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97(6), 1142.

Carr, A. (2011). Positive psychology: The science of happiness and human strengths.UK: Routledge.

Cattell, R.B. (1965). The scientific analysis of personality. Chicago, IL: Aldine.

Caughlin, J. P., Huston, T. L., & Houts, R. M. (2000). How does personality matter in marriage? An examination of trait anxiety, interpersonal negativity, and marital satisfaction. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(2), 326.

Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1980). Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being: happy and unhappy people. Journal of personality and social psychology, 38(4), 668.

Darling, N., & Steinberg, L. (1993). Parenting style as context: An integrative model. Psychological bulletin, 113(3), 487.

Diener, E., Sandvik, E. D., Pavot, W., & Fujita, F. (1992). Extraversion and subjective well-being in a US national probability sample. Journal of research in personality, 26(3), 205-215.

Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of economic psychology, 29(1), 94-122.

Eysenck, H.J. (1967). The biological basis of personality. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.

Hampson, S. E., & Goldberg, L. R. (2006). A first large cohort study of personality trait stability over the 40 years between elementary school and midlife. Journal of personality and social psychology, 91(4), 763.

Izard, C. E., Libero, D. Z., Putnam, P., & Haynes, O. M. (1993). Stability of emotion experiences and their relations to traits of personality. Journal of personality and social psychology, 64(5), 847.

Karney, B. R. (2001). Personality and Marriage. Oxford UK: Elsevier Ltd.

Kelly, E. L., & Conley, J. J. (1987). Personality and compatibility: a prospective analysis of marital stability and marital satisfaction. Journal of personality and social psychology, 52(1), 27.

Kerns, K. A. (2008). Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications.

Lykken, D. T. (2006). Psychopathic personality: The scope of the problem. Handbook of psychopathy, 3-13.

Lykken, D., & Tellegen, A. (1996). Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon. Psychological science, 7(3), 186-189.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The how of happiness: A practical approach to getting the life you want. UK: Sphere.

Matthews, G., Deary, I., & Whiteman, M. (2009). Personality traits. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (2008). Empirical and theoretical status of the five-factor model of personality traits. The SAGE handbook of personality theory and assessment, 1, 273-294.

Ozer, D. J., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2006). Personality and the prediction of consequential outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 401-421.

Riemann, R., Angleitner, A., & Strelau, J. (1997). Genetic and environmental influences on personality: A study of twins reared together using the self‐and peer report NEO‐FFI scales. Journal of Personality, 65(3), 449-475.

Roberts, B. W., & DelVecchio, W. F. (2000). The rank-order consistency of personality traits from childhood to old age: a quantitative review of longitudinal studies. Psychological bulletin, 126(1), 3.

Roelofs, J., Huibers, M., Peeters, F., & Arntz, A. (2008). Effects of neuroticism on depression and anxiety: Rumination as a possible mediator. Personality and Individual differences, 44(3), 576-586.

Røysamb, E., Harris, J. R., Magnus, P., Vittersø, J., & Tambs, K. (2002). Subjective well-being. Sex-specific effects of genetic and environmental factors. Personality and individual differences, 32(2), 211-223.

Soto, C.J. (2016). The little six personality dimensions from early childhood to early adulthood: Mean-level age and gender differences in parents’ reports. Journal of Personality, 84(4), 409-422.

Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2003). Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: set like plaster or persistent change?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(5), 1041.

Steel, P., Schmidt, J., & Shultz, J. (2008). Refining the relationship between personality and subjective well-being. Psychological bulletin, 134(1), 138.

Stubbe, J. H., Posthuma, D., Boomsma, D. I., & De Geus, E. J. (2005). Heritability of life satisfaction in adults: A twin-family study. Psychological medicine, 35(11), 1581-1588.

Weiss, A., Bates, T. C., & Luciano, M. (2008). Happiness is a personal (ity) thing the genetics of personality and well-being in a representative sample. Psychological Science, 19(3), 205-210.

Using psychological research, critically assess the influence of personality factors on well-being though the lifespan

Personality factors have consistently been investigated to determine what relationship they have within the field of wellbeing. Also, researchers have tried to conclude to what extent personality can influence wellbeing, and they have attempted to examine what personality traits are most influential within different age categories. Within wellbeing research, and as Carr (2011) states, wellbeing refers to an individual’s state of being healthy, comfortable and happy. Moreover, personality factors can refer to the personal characteristics that influence affect, cognition and behaviour (Matthews, Deary and Whiteman, 2009). These personal characteristics present themselves as personality traits. Implicit personality trait theories such as the Five-Factor Model of Personality (McCrae & Costa, 2008) suggest that an individual’s rating on such traits can provide personal strengths or weaknesses that have an influence upon wellbeing. For example, some research suggests that those who present the personality trait extraversion to a high degree, are indeed more inclined to be ‘happy’ than those who do not (Steel, Schmidt & Shultz, 2008). Additionally, these 5 personality traits are comprised of particular components that can be measured to relate to wellbeing. Research has represented that these personality traits can be particularly stable over time, yet they do have certain influences upon wellbeing aspects of cognition, health, subjective wellbeing and success in life. Furthermore, in the current field of wellbeing, there is debate to what extent personality actually influences wellbeing at different ages. Therefore this essay will investigate how personality traits influence wellbeing throughout the lifespan, and critically examine to what extent personality can be used to explain the influence upon wellbeing at different ages.

McCrae and Costa (2008) Five-Factor Model of Personality represents five major factors that comprise the basic fundamentals of personality. Taken from other trait theories such as Cattell (1965) 16 Personality Factor Model, and Eysenck (1967) Extraversion-Stability Model, McCrae and Costa suggest that the five personality traits specified are universal, across lifespan. They consist of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. To capture an individual’s true personality, psychological and behavioural testing and direct observation can be carried out. The Five-Factor Model also suggests subcategories that relate to one of the five traits. Much research literature has provided evidence for both stability and change within these personality traits over time (Caspi & Roberts, 1999). For example, Eysenck (1990) found that extraversion tended to be relatively stable from childhood into adulthood. Self-esteem, which could be suggested to be a part of neuroticism, was found to have strong stability (Trzeniewski et al, 2003). Costa and McCrae (2002) longitudinal and cross-sectional research found that agreeableness and conscientiousness increased with age, yet extraversion, neuroticism and openness represented a decline from late teen to the age of 30. Other research from Larson and Buss (2003) supports these findings by presenting similar findings of mean level stability of their given population over time.

More specifically, Soto (2016) investigated personality development in childhood and adolescents. Using a sample of 16,000 children and adolescents ranging from age 3 to 20, they found a curvilinear u-shaped age trend for openness, consciousness and agreeableness. This meant that these three traits decreased during young adolescence and subsequently increased as they got older. Srivastava, John, Gosling, and Potter (2003) examined personality change within adulthood. Using a sample of adults aged between 21 and 60, they found that agreeableness and conscientiousness increased over time, whereas neuroticism declined only within females over time. Additionally, Allemand, Zimprich and Hertzog (2007) explored the changes in personality in older aged participants. They found that neuroticism declined, along with openness. However, a meta-analysis of 152 studies by Roberts and Del Vecchio (2000) suggests that on average, personality consistency is still largely apparent and increases through childhood, to adulthood. They reported a peak in personality consistency at the age of 50, whereby personality becomes very stable. The above research suggests that personality is subject to change over the lifespan to a certain extent, however it can be relatively stable. Yet, how these personality stabilities and changes affect wellbeing has been widely examined in literature.

Firstly, as Izard, Libero, Putnam and Haynes (1993) highlight, two specific personality traits that can directly influence wellbeing. Neuroticism, is described as being made up of components of anxiety, hostility, self-consciousness, impulsiveness and vulnerability, and is reported to be linked with depression. For example, Roelofs, Huibers, Peeters, and Arntz (2008) found in a sample of 192 non-clinical undergraduate students, that their reported level of neuroticism subsequently correlated to their reported symptoms of depression. For wellbeing, it can be wise to assume that an individual with a high score on neuroticism as a personality trait, may in fact have a lower wellbeing. Evidence to support this is provided by Costa and McCrae (1980) who investigated the relationship between neuroticism and wellbeing. They found that neuroticism was correlated to dissatisfaction and negative affect in participants aged between 35 and 85, also providing evidence for consistency of personality traits across ages. Izard, Libero, Putnam and Haynes also highlight extraversion as having a direct influence upon wellbeing. Extraversion is described as encompassing components of warmth, activity, assertiveness, positive emotions and excitement seeking, and as Diener, Sandvik, Pavot and Fujita (1992) suggest in their findings, participants who scored more highly on levels of extraversion, reported a higher level of wellbeing. These personality traits, along with others, have been reported to affect certain aspects of wellbeing. For example, the cognitive impact these personality traits have upon participants has been reported by Anusic, Schimmack, Pinkus and Lockwood (2009). They investigated extraversion and neuroticism in relation to subjective wellbeing, which comprises aspects of life satisfaction and positive affect, and found similar findings to the above. However, they did suggest that as a whole, depression itself was a higher predictor of subjective wellbeing than neuroticism. Moreover, they also found that positive affect has a higher correlation with life satisfaction then that of extraversion, so it is clear to see that even though personality does have an influence upon wellbeing, other aspects may indeed influence wellbeing more. Nonetheless, Abbott et al (2008) used a British sample of 2,547 females to investigate the impact of extraversion and neuroticism on wellbeing at different ages. They found that from the age of 16 to 26, ratings of extraversion and neuroticism stayed relatively the same. Also, higher extraversion was again correlated to a higher wellbeing, whereas a higher neuroticism score correlated to lower wellbeing.

Additionally, personality factors have been reported to influence aspects of wellbeing in future success and health. For example, Caughlin, Huston and Houts (2000) investigated the impact of neuroticism on marriage satisfaction. They carried out a longitudinal study over 13 years starting from participants being newlyweds. They originally measured the participant’s personality traits and found that participants that scored highly on neuroticism and anxiety, were more likely to experience martial negativity and dissatisfaction. Moreover, Kelly and Conley (1987) investigated similar variables with engaged couples in the 1930’s, as a longitudinal study until the 1980’s. They again found that high levels of dissatisfaction in both men and women were correlated to a higher rating of neuroticism, which consequently led to divorce. However, to what extent neuroticism can be completely reliable for marriage dissatisfaction has been debated. For example, Karney (2001) suggests that personality only influences future success of a marriage to a small degree, and other aspects such as marital stress, have a higher effect. Other aspects of personality such as consciousness has been found to relate to positive affect and success in academic achievement (Carr, 2011). Furthermore, high conscientiousness was also related to less risk taking activities in school children (Hampson & Goldberg, 2006), as well as helping to promote positive health behaviours such as exercise and a good diet. Ozer and Benet-Martinez (2006) also found that high extraversion and conscientiousness were also related to positive health outcomes and a lowered risk of illness such as cardiovascular disease. Even though all this wealth of research suggests that personality does have an impact upon wellbeing throughout different ages, it is still not clear to what extent personality can be said to serve wellbeing. Research into twin studies has given light to this question.

Twin studies are greatly explanatory as they can compare the resemblance of personality traits between monozygotic and dizygotic siblings (Lykken, 2006). Much research has suggested that monozygotic twins are much more likely to share similar personality traits than that of dizygotic twins. For example, Riemann, Angleitner and Strelau (1997) investigated personality trait similarities in identical and non-identical twins. They found a higher genetic influence for the identical twins representations of similar personality traits, than that of the non-identical twins. Yet, there is much debate in such research that monozygotic twins might actually share such similar behavioural responses and personality traits due to their upbringing, such as caregivers treating them more similarly, giving them similar experiences and environments, compared to dizygotic twins that are recognised as different (Carr, 2011). In this case, twin studies can be used instead to investigate twins that are reared together, compared to those reared apart. Bouchard and McGue (1990) carried out the Minnesota Twin Study in which they investigated 8,000 pairs of monozygotic twins from 1936 to 1955 that were reared apart. They found around 50% similarity in personality traits for the twins, meaning around 50% of the personality traits that serve an individual could be said to be based upon genetics. This research suggests that regardless of upbringing, genetics do play an important role in personality trait representation, yet it has also left questions about what serves the other 50% of influence upon personality and still fails to explain how such an influence can affect wellbeing.

Instead, Lykken and Tellgen (1996) used a personality trait test and a wellbeing questionnaire on 5,945 twins to examine the relationship between each variable. The wellbeing questionnaire was given to 79 monozygotic and 48 dizygotic twin pairs at age 20 and age 30. They found that monozygotic twins wellbeing correlation to be significantly higher than that of the dizygotic twins over the period, and they concluded that around 50% of wellbeing is genetic. They suggested that it is more likely to predict an individual’s happiness by looking at their twin, rather than their environmental influences. This suggests that genetics do indeed have an important influence upon personality traits, which effect wellbeing consistently over a time period. Additionally, Weiss, Bates and Luciano (2008) investigated the wellbeing of 973 monozygotic and dizygotic twin pairs from the age of 16 to 40. They found a consistently similar influence of personality traits towards the wellbeing of the monozygotic twins throughout the study and suggest that personality traits are relatively stable over time, and contribute to around 50% of an individual’s wellbeing. Similarly, Røysamb, Harris, Magnus, Vittersø and Tambs (2002) investigated 5,140 Norwegian twins and found equal findings, in that 50% of the twin’s wellbeing was accounted for by genetics, and the other 50% from their environment. Nonetheless, some studies such as that by Stubbe, Posthuma, Boomsma and Geus (2005) suggest that genetics are overemphasised in previous literature, and their findings advocate that actually only around 38% of genetics can be used to explain personality trait contribution towards wellbeing, and the other 62% is due to the environment. This leads to the debate as to what else can be accounted for if genetics are not the main contributor.

Some research suggests that environmental influences may have more of an impact upon an individual’s personality, and therefore wellbeing overtime, compared to other advocates. For example, for an infant, having a secure attachment with a primary care giver may be an important forerunner to develop more positive adjustment on each of the personality traits, subsequently increasing wellbeing (Kerns, 2008). Other research such as that by Darling and Steinberg (1993) suggests that caregivers who moderate their attachment style from showing care and affection with a moderate amount of control, are more likely to promote positive adjustment within their child. Moreover, as Ozer and Benet-Martinez (2006) suggests, this childhood attachment to a caregiver can benefit as a social aid throughout adolescence and adulthood. For example, a child that has a secure attachment type will score highly on extraversion, agreeableness and openness and will be more adapted to the facilitation of the development of friendships in later life. Research into other environmental influences such as cultural differences, socio-economic status and education are also debated to have a large impact upon personality, serving wellbeing. For example, Dolan, Peasgood and White (2008) suggest that individuals who are highly extraverted might aim to achieve a higher socio-economic status, yet this has been largely reported in research to only temporarily serve wellbeing. Moreover, as Carr (2011) reports, regardless of an individual’s personality trait representation, if they suffer a negative major life event, their wellbeing is likely to decrease. Carr also reports that individuals from eastern collectivist cultures are less likely to recognise personal traits as a basis for wellbeing, and are much more influenced by interpersonal and community based components. Moreover, a further explanation for the influence upon wellbeing in regards to personality can be Lyubomirsky (2007) wellbeing set point. This theory suggests that individuals have a set point of wellbeing, which is served by at least 50% of the personality traits an individual holds. Wellbeing can then be increased by circumstantial happenings, such as winning some money, or by intentional activities, such as doing the things that individual loves. Lyubomirsky’s theory not only provides an explanation for how wellbeing and personality traits interact, but also gives a clarification for other influences that can serve wellbeing also.

To conclude, it is clear to see that there is a debate in research as to how much personality can really influence wellbeing in different ages of life. The general consensus firstly assumes that personality is stable throughout the lifespan, so an individual who scores highly on a trait in young adulthood, will still represent that trait through to older age. Research has sufficiently produced evidence to suggest that some particular personality traits influence wellbeing to a greater degree, for example neuroticism and extraversion. Yet, the previous literature does debate to what extent these personality traits can serve wellbeing, and much research does point to personality traits serving a genetic factor of influence upon wellbeing at around 50%. This therefore suggests that other factors can be as influential, and if not more influential than personality itself. Environmental factors have been regularly reported on, along with childhood experiences altering representations of personality factors. Overall, it is clear to see that to an extent, personality does have an influence upon wellbeing throughout the lifespan, yet other factors must also be accounted for to also serve wellbeing.

References:

Abbott, R. A., Croudace, T. J., Ploubidis, G. B., Kuh, D., Richards, M., & Huppert, F. A. (2008). The relationship between early personality and midlife psychological well-being: evidence from a UK birth cohort study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 43(9), 679-687.

Allemand, M., Zimprich, D., & Hertzog, C. (2007). Cross‐Sectional Age Differences and Longitudinal Age Changes of Personality in Middle Adulthood and Old Age. Journal of personality, 75(2), 323-358.

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