Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Negative and positive life events are associated with small but lasting change in neuroticism

  • B. F. Jeronimus (a1), J. Ormel (a1), A. Aleman (a1) (a2), B. W. J. H. Penninx (a3) and H. Riese (a1) (a4)...
Abstract
Background

High neuroticism is prospectively associated with psychopathology and physical health. However, within-subject changes in neuroticism due to life experiences (LEs) or state effects of current psychopathology are largely unexplored. In this 2-year follow-up study, four hypotheses were tested: (1) positive LEs (PLEs) decrease and negative LEs (NLEs) increase neuroticism; (2) LE-driven change in neuroticism is partly long-lasting; and (3) partly independent of LE-driven changes in anxiety/depression; and (4) childhood adversity (before age 16 years) moderates the influence of NLEs/PLEs on neuroticism scores in adult life.

Method

Data came from the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety [NESDA, n = 2981, mean age 41.99 years (s.d. = 13.08), 66.6% women]. At follow-up (T2) we assessed PLEs/NLEs with the List of Threatening Experiences (LTE) over the prior 24 months and categorized them over recent and distant PLE/NLE measures (1–3 and 4–24 months prior to T2 respectively) to distinguish distant NLE/PLE-driven change in trait neuroticism (using the Dutch version of the Neuroticism–Extroversion–Openness Five Factor Inventory, NEO-FFI) from state deviations due to changes in symptoms of depression (self-rated version of the 30-item Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology, IDS-SR30) and anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory, BAI).

Results

Distant NLEs were associated with higher and distant PLEs with lower neuroticism scores. The effects of distant LEs were weak but long-lasting, especially for distant PLEs. Distant NLE-driven change in neuroticism was associated with change in symptoms of anxiety/depression whereas the effect of distant PLEs on neuroticism was independent of any such changes. Childhood adversity weakened the impact of distant NLEs but enhanced the impact of distant PLEs on neuroticism.

Conclusions

Distant PLEs are associated with small but long-lasting decreases in neuroticism regardless of changes in symptom levels of anxiety/depression. Long-lasting increases in neuroticism associated with distant NLEs are mediated by anxiety/depression.

Copyright
Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: B. F. Jeronimus, M.Sc., The Interdisciplinary Center Psychopathology and Emotion regulation (ICPE), Department of Psychiatry, University Medical Centre Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands. (Email: B.F.Jeronimus@umcg.nl)
References
Hide All
Asendorpf, JB (1992). Beyond stability: predicting inter-individual differences in intra-individual change? European Journal of Personality 6, 103117.
Bagby, RM, Joffe, RT, Parker, JDA, Kalemba, V, Harkness, KL (1995). Major depression and the five-factor model of personality? Journal of Personality Disorders 9, 223234.
Baumeister, RF, Bratslavsky, E, Finkenauer, C, Vohs, KD (2001). Bad is stronger than good? Review of General Psychology 5, 323370.
Beck, AT, Brown, G, Epstein, N, Steer, RA (1988). An inventory for measuring clinical anxiety: psychometric properties? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 56, 893897.
Berntsen, D, Rubin, DC, Siegler, IC (2011). Two versions of life: emotionally negative and positive life events have different roles in the organization of life story and identity? Emotion 11, 11901201.
Bleidorn, W, Kandler, C, Riemann, R, Angleitner, A, Spinath, FM (2009). Patterns and sources of adult personality development: growth curve analyses of the NEO PI-R scales in a longitudinal twin study? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 97, 142155.
Bosch, NM, Riese, H, Reijneveld, SA, Bakker, MP, Verhulst, FC, Ormel, J, Oldehinkel, AJ (2012). Timing matters: long-term effects of adversities from prenatal period up to adolescence on adolescents’ cortisol stress response? The TRAILS study. Psychoneuroendocrinology 37, 14391447.
Brickman, P, Coates, D, Janoff-Bulman, R (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36, 917927.
Brilman, E, Ormel, J (2001). Life events, difficulties and onset of depressive episodes in later life? Psychological Medicine 31, 859869.
Brown, GW, Harris, T (1978). The Social Origins of Depression. Tavistock Publications: London.
Brugha, TS, Cragg, D (1990). The List of Threatening Experiences: the reliability and validity of a brief life events questionnaire? Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 82, 7781.
Caspi, A, Roberts, BW, Shiner, RL (2005). Personality development: stability and change? Annual Review of Psychology 56, 453484.
Chan, SWY, Goodwin, GM, Harmer, CJ (2007). Highly neurotic never-depressed students have negative biases in information processing? Psychological Medicine 37, 12811291.
Clark, L, Vittengl, J, Kraft, D, Jarrett, R (2003). Separate personality traits from states to predict depression? Journal of Personality Disorders 17, 152172.
Cohen, J (1992). A power primer? Psychological Bulletin 112, 155159.
Costa, PT, Bagby, RM, Herbst, JH, McCrae, RR (2005). Personality self-reports are concurrently reliable and valid during acute depressive episodes? Journal of Affective Disorders 89, 4555.
Costa, PT, McCrae, RR (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). Psychological Assessment Resources: Lutz, FL.
Courvoisier, DS, Nussbeck, FW, Eid, M, Geiser, C, Cole, DA (2008). Analyzing the convergent and discriminant validity of states and traits: development and applications of multimethod latent state-trait models? Psychological Assessment 20, 270280.
De Fruyt, F, Van Leeuwen, K, Bagby, RM, Rolland, J, Rouillon, F (2006). Assessing and interpreting personality change and continuity in patients treated for major depression? Psychological Assessment 18, 7180.
Dohrenwend, BP (2006). Inventorying stressful life events as risk factors for psychopathology: toward resolution of the problem of intra-category variability? Psychological Bulletin 132, 477495.
Dohrenwend, BS (1978). Social stress and community psychology? American Journal of Community Psychology 6, 114.
Du, L, Bakish, D, Ravindran, A, Hrdina, P (2002). Does fluoxetine influence major depression by modifying five-factor personality traits? Journal of Affective Disorders 71, 235241.
Eysenck, HJ, Eysenck, MW (1985). Personality and Individual Differences: A Natural Science Approach (Perspectives on Individual Differences). Plenum Press: New York.
Faravelli, C, Catena, M, Scarpato, A, Ricca, V (2007). Epidemiology of life events: life events and psychiatric disorders in the Sesto Fiorentino study? Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 76, 361368.
Fleeson, W (2001). Toward a structure- and process-integrated view of personality: traits as density distributions of states? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 80, 10111027.
Fredrickson, B, Losada, M (2005). Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing? American Psychologist 60, 678686.
Garland, EL, Fredrickson, B, Kring, AM, Johnson, DP, Meyer, PS, Penn, DL (2010). Upward spirals of positive emotions counter downward spirals of negativity: insights from the broaden-and-build theory and affective neuroscience on the treatment of emotion dysfunctions and deficits in psychopathology? Clinical Psychology Review 30, 849864.
Glaser, J, van Os, J, Portegijs, PJM, Myin-Germeys, I (2006). Childhood trauma and emotional reactivity to daily life stress in adult frequent attenders of general practitioners? Journal of Psychosomatic Research 61, 229236.
Grant, KE, Compas, BE, Thurm, AE, McMahon, SD, Gipson, PY (2004). Stressors and child and adolescent psychopathology: measurement issues and prospective effects? Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology 33, 412425.
Haan, N, Millsap, R, Hartka, E (1986). As time goes by: change and stability in personality over fifty years? Psychology and Aging 1, 220232.
Harmer, CJ, Goodwin, GM, Cowen, PJ (2009). Why do antidepressants take so long to work? A cognitive neuropsychological model of antidepressant drug action? British Journal of Psychiatry 195, 102108.
Headey, B (2010). The set-point theory of well-being has serious flaws: on the eve of a scientific revolution? Social Indicators Research 97, 721.
Headey, B, Wearing, A (1989). Personality, life events, and subjective well-being: toward a dynamic equilibrium model? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57, 731739.
Heim, C, Plotsky, PM, Nemeroff, CB (2004). Importance of studying the contributions of early adverse experience to neurobiological findings in depression? Neuropsychopharmacology 29, 641648.
Hobson, C, Kamen, J, Szostek, J, Nethercut, C, Tiedmann, J, Wojnarowicz, S (1998). Stressful life events: a revision and update of the social readjustment rating scale? International Journal of Stress Management 5, 123.
Hoekstra, HA, Ormel, J, Fruyt, F (1996). Manual of the Dutch NEO-PI-R and NEO-FFI Personality Inventory. Swets Test Services: Lisse.
Holmes, TH, Rahe, RH (1967). Social readjustment rating scale? Journal of Psychosomatic Research 11, 213218.
Hovens, JGFM, Wiersma, JE, Giltay, EJ, van Oppen, P, Spinhoven, P, Penninx, BWJH, Zitman, FG (2010). Childhood life events and childhood trauma in adult patients with depressive, anxiety and comorbid disorders vs? controls. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 122, 6674.
Isen, AM, Shalker, TE, Clark, M, Karp, L (1978). Affect, accessibility of material in memory, and behavior-cognitive loop? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 36, 112.
Jacobs, N, van Os, J, Derom, C, Thiery, E, Delespaul, P, Wichers, M (2011). Neuroticism explained? From a non-informative vulnerability marker to informative person-context interactions in the realm of daily life? British Journal of Clinical Psychology 50, 1932.
John, OP, Robins, R, Pervin, LA (2008). Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research. Guilford Press: New York.
Jorm, AF (1989). Modifiability of trait anxiety and neuroticism: a meta-analysis of the literature? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 23, 2129.
Kendler, K, Karkowski, L, Prescott, C (1999). Causal relationship between stressful life events and the onset of major depression? American Journal of Psychiatry 156, 837841.
Kendler, KS, Gardner, CO (2011). A longitudinal etiologic model for symptoms of anxiety and depression in women? Psychological Medicine 41, 20352045.
Kendler, KS, Gardner, CO, Prescott, CA (2002). Toward a comprehensive developmental model for major depression in women? American Journal of Psychiatry 159, 11331145.
Kendler, KS, Kuhn, JW, Prescott, CA (2004). Childhood sexual abuse, stressful life events and risk for major depression in women? Psychological Medicine 34, 14751482.
Koskenvuo, M, Langinvainio, H, Kaprio, J, Sarna, S (1984). Health related psychosocial correlates of neuroticism: a study of adult male twins in Finland? Acta Geneticae Medicae et Gemellologiae 33, 307320.
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, 768821.
Kraemer, H, Stice, E, Kazdin, A, Offord, D, Kupfer, D (2001). How do risk factors work together? Mediators, moderators, and independent, overlapping, and proxy risk factors? American Journal of Psychiatry 158, 848856.
Lahey, BB (2009). Public health significance of neuroticism? American Psychologist 64, 241256.
Lamers, F, Hoogendoorn, AW, Smit, JH, van Dyck, R, Zitman, FG, Nolen, WA, Penninx, BWJH (2012). Sociodemographic and psychiatric determinants of attrition in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA)? Comprehensive Psychiatry 53, 6370.
Lehnart, J, Neyer, FJ (2006). Should I stay or should I go? Attachment and personality in stable and instable romantic relationships? European Journal of Personality 20, 475495.
Lewinsohn, PM, Graf, M (1973). Pleasant activities and depression? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 41, 261268.
Löckenhoff, CE, Terracciano, A, Costa, PT Jr. (2009). Five-factor model personality traits and the retirement transition: longitudinal and cross-sectional associations? Psychology and Aging 24, 722728.
Lucas, RE (2007). Adaptation and the set-point model of subjective well-being? Current Directions in Psychological Science 16, 7579.
Lüdtke, O, Roberts, BW, Trautwein, U, Nagy, G (2011). A random walk down university avenue: life paths, life events, and personality trait change at the transition to university life? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101, 620637.
Malouff, JM, Thorsteinsson, EB, Schutte, NS (2005). The relationship between the five-factor model of personality and symptoms of clinical disorders: a meta-analysis? Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment 27, 101114.
Masuda, M, Holmes, TH (1978). Life events: perceptions and frequencies? Psychosomatic Medicine 40, 236261.
McCartney, K, Harris, MJ, Bernieri, F (1990). Growing up and growing apart: a developmental meta-analysis of twin studies? Psychological Bulletin 107, 226237.
McGue, M, Bacon, S, Lykken, DT (1993). Personality stability and change in early adulthood: a behavioral genetic analysis? Developmental Psychology 29, 96109.
Middeldorp, CM, Cath, DC, Beem, AL, Willemsen, G, Boomsma, DI (2008). Life events, anxious depression and personality: a prospective and genetic study? Psychological Medicine 38, 15571565.
Monroe, SM (2008). Modern approaches to conceptualizing and measuring human life stress? Annual Review of Clinical Psychology 4, 3352.
Mroczek, DK, Spiro, A (2003). Modeling intra-individual change in personality traits: findings from the Normative Aging Study? Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 58B, 153165.
Neeleman, J, Oldehinkel, AJ, Ormel, J (2003). Positive life change and remission of non-psychotic mental illness: a competing outcomes approach? Journal of Affective Disorders 76, 6978.
Neyer, FJ, Lehnart, J (2007). Relationships matter in personality development: evidence from an 8-year longitudinal study across young adulthood? Journal of Personality 75, 535568.
Oldehinkel, AJ, Ormel, J, Neeleman, J (2000). Predictors of time to remission from depression in primary case patients: do some people benefit more from positive life change than others? Journal of Abnormal Psychology 109, 299307.
Ormel, J, Oldehinkel, AJ, Vollebergh, W (2004 a). Vulnerability before, during, and after a major depressive episode: a 3-wave population-based study? Archives of General Psychiatry 61, 990996.
Ormel, J, Riese, H, Rosmalen, JGM (2012). Interpreting neuroticism scores across the adult life course: immutable or experience-dependent set points of negative affect? Clinical Psychology Review 32, 7179.
Ormel, J, Rijsdijk, FV (2000). Continuing change in neuroticism during adulthood: structural modelling of a 16-year, 5-wave community study? Personality and Individual Differences 28, 461478.
Ormel, J, Rosmalen, J, Farmer, A (2004 b). Neuroticism: a non-informative marker of vulnerability to psychopathology? Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 39, 906912.
Ormel, J, Schaufeli, WB (1991). Stability and change in psychological distress and their relationship with self-esteem and locus of control: a dynamic equilibrium model? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60, 288299.
Ormel, J, Stewart, R, Sanderman, R (1989). Personality as modifier of the life change-distress relationship: a longitudinal modelling approach? Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 24, 187195.
Ormel, J, Wohlfarth, T (1991). How neuroticism, long-term difficulties, and life situation change influence psychological distress: a longitudinal model? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60, 744755.
Overbeek, G, Vermulst, A, de Graaf, R, ten Have, M, Engels, R, Scholte, R (2010). Positive life events and mood disorders: longitudinal evidence for an erratic life-course hypothesis? Journal of Psychiatric Research 44, 10951100.
Peeters, F, Nicolson, N, Berkhof, J, Delespaul, P, deVries, M (2003). Effects of daily events on mood states in major depressive disorder? Journal of Abnormal Psychology 112, 203211.
Penninx, BWJH, Beekman, ATF, Smit, JH, Zitman, FG, Nolen, WA, Spinhoven, P, Cuijpers, P, de Jong, PJ, van Marwijk, HWJ, Assendelft, WJJ, van der Meer, K, Verhaak, P, Wensing, M, de Graaf, R, Hoogendijk, WJ, Ormel, J, van Dyck, R (2008). The Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA): rationale, objectives and methods? International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research 17, 121140.
Penza, KM, Heim, C, Nemeroff, CB (2003). Neurobiological effects of childhood abuse: implications for the pathophysiology of depression and anxiety? Archives of Women's Mental Health 6, 1522.
Plomin, R, Nesselroade, JR (1990). Behavioral genetics and personality change? Journal of Personality 58, 191220.
Preacher, K, Hayes, A (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models? Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers 36, 717731.
Quilty, LC, de Fruyt, F, Rolland, J, Kennedy, SH, Rouillon, PF, Bagby, RM (2008). Dimensional personality traits and treatment outcome in patients with major depressive disorder? Journal of Affective Disorders 108, 241250.
Roberts, BW, Caspi, A, Moffitt, TE (2001). The kids are alright: growth and stability in personality development from adolescence to adulthood? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 81, 670683.
Robins, RW, Caspi, A, Moffitt, TE (2002). It's not just who you're with, it's who you are: personality and relationship experiences across multiple relationships? Journal of Personality 70, 925964.
Roberts, BW, Caspi, A, Moffitt, TE (2003). Work experiences and personality development in young adulthood? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84, 582593.
Roberts, BW, Chapman, CN (2000). Change in dispositional well-being and its relation to role quality: a 30-year longitudinal study? Journal of Research in Personality 34, 2641.
Roberts, BW, DelVecchio, WF (2000). The rank-order consistency of personality traits from childhood to old age: a quantitative review of longitudinal studies? Psychological Bulletin 126, 325.
Roberts, BW, Kuncel, NR, Shiner, R, Caspi, A, Goldberg, LR (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, 313345.
Robins, RW, Fraley, RC, Roberts, BW, Trzesniewski, KH (2001). A longitudinal study of personality change in young adulthood? Journal of Personality 69, 617640.
Ruiz-Caballero, JA, Bermudez, J (1995). Neuroticism, mood, and retrieval of negative personal memories? Journal of General Psychology 122, 2935.
Rush, AJ, Gullion, CM, Basco, MR, Jarrett, RB, Trivedi, MH (1996). The Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology (IDS): psychometric properties? Psychological Medicine 26, 477486.
Rutter, M (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 57, 316331.
Sanchez, M, Ladd, C, Plotsky, P (2001). Early adverse experience as a developmental risk factor for later psychopathology: evidence from rodent and primate models? Development and Psychopathology 13, 419449.
Schwarz, N (2007). Cognitive aspects of survey methodology? Applied Cognitive Psychology 21, 277287.
Scollon, CN, Diener, E (2006). Love, work, and changes in extraversion and neuroticism over time? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 91, 11521165.
Small, BJ, Hertzog, C, Hultsch, DF, Dixon, RA (2003). Stability and change in adult personality over 6 years: findings from the Victoria Longitudinal Study? Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 58, P166P176.
Soto, CJ, John, OP (2011). Development of Big-Five domains and facets in adulthood: mean-level age trends and broadly versus narrowly acting mechanisms? Journal of Personality 80, 881914.
Specht, J, Egloff, B, Schmukle, SC (2011). Stability and change of personality across the life course: the impact of age and major life events on mean-level and rank-order stability of the Big Five? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101, 862882.
Spinhoven, P, Roelofs, K, Hovens, JG, Elzinga, BM, van Oppen, P, Zitman, FG, Penninx, BW (2011). Personality, life events and the course of anxiety and depression? European Journal of Personality 25, 443452.
Steer, RA, Rissmiller, DJ, Ranieri, WF, Beck, AT (1993). Structure of the computer-assisted Beck Anxiety Inventory with psychiatric inpatients? Journal of Personality Assessment 60, 532542.
Suh, E, Diener, E, Fujita, F (1996). Events and subjective well-being: only recent events matter? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70, 10911102.
Sutin, AR, Costa, PT Jr. (2010). Reciprocal influences of personality and job characteristics across middle adulthood? Journal of Personality 78, 257288.
Tang, TZ, DeRubeis, RJ, Hollon, SD, Amsterdam, J, Shelton, R, Schalet, B (2009). Personality change during depression treatment: a placebo-controlled trial? Archives of General Psychiatry 66, 13221330.
Weisberg, YJ, DeYoung, CG, Hirsh, JB (2011). Gender differences in personality across the ten aspects of the Big Five? Frontiers in Psychology 2, 178.
Widiger, TA (2009). Neuroticism. In Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior (ed. Leary, M. R. and Hoyle, R. H.), pp. 129146. Guilford Press: New York.
Wiersma, JE, Hovens, JGFM, van Oppen, P, Giltay, EJ, van Schaik, DJF, Beekman, ATF, Penninx, BWJH (2009). The importance of childhood trauma and childhood life events for chronicity of depression in adults? Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 70, 983989.
Wray, NR, Birley, AJ, Sullivan, PF, Visscher, PRM, Martin, NG (2007). Genetic and phenotypic stability of measures of neuroticism over 22 years? Twin Research and Human Genetics 10, 695702.
Zhao, X, Lynch, JG Jr., Chen, Q (2010). Reconsidering Baron and Kenny: myths and truths about mediation analysis? Journal of Consumer Research 37, 197206.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0033-2917
  • EISSN: 1469-8978
  • URL: /core/journals/psychological-medicine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed