Research has previously linked personality traits to psychological issues in teens, specifically depression and anxiety. But a new study led by Jason M. Prenoveau of Loyola University in Maryland, examined the stability of such issues as related to personality traits developed by teens during the transitional time in their lives. “People undergo more life-changing roles and are faced with more identity decisions during this span of life than during any other,” said Prenoveau. Because of this, adolescents experience personality changes that influence the relative stability of psychological issues, including depression and anxiety. Prenoveau added, “Also, it is important to understand the longitudinal structure of depression and anxiety during this emerging adulthood because many people first develop anxiety and depressive disorders during this period.”
For the study, Prenoveau and his colleagues evaluated several hundred high school juniors over three years. They measured their levels of depression and anxiety and also assessed their moods and personality traits. They found that after one year, depression appeared to be the least stable trait, with anxiety second and personality traits being the most stable. At year two, depression again remained the least stable of all of the traits, but the personality traits, anxiety and phobia all appeared similar in stability. At year three, anxiety stability had dropped to levels equal to depression, while all other traits remained stable. The researchers said, “Over three years, the percentages of variance explained by the trait component for the anxiety and personality constructs (73–84%) were significantly greater than that explained by the trait component for depression (46%). These findings indicate that symptoms of depression are more episodic in nature, whereas symptoms of anxiety are more similar to personality variables in their expression of stability.” They added, “This is an indication that situational factors, such as life stressors, may play a larger role in determining depression symptoms at a given time than anxiety symptoms.”
Prenoveau, J. M., Craske, M. G., Zinbarg, R. E., Mineka, S., Rose, R. D., & Griffith, J. W. (2011, May 23). Are Anxiety and Depression Just as Stable as Personality During Late Adolescence? Results From a Three-Year Longitudinal Latent Variable Study. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0023939
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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