Essay On The Development of Personality Extremity from Childhood to Adolescence

The big five approach is used to categorize people broadly according to their personality traits[1]. The method is useful in foretelling a child’s fortunes and the developmental issues they are likely to encounter. In the present paper, the development of personality extremity[2] in children was studied as well as the probability of causing adjustment problems later. The researchers noted that children that displayed extreme characters were susceptible to experience more externalizing and internalizing problems as adolescents and noticeable adjustment problems. Development psychology is concerned with the scientific analysis of why and how human beings develop over time. The main aim of the developmental scientific research is to explain, describe, and optimize development (Hjelle & Ziegler, 2006). It is important to explain the development of patterns of behavior over time with regards to the contribution of both nurture and nature to provide recommendations.

The big five approach is a widely used theory in psychology that is used to describe the varying human personality. The dimensions used in the classification based on this theory include extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness to imagination, neuroticism, and agreeableness. Over the years, this approach has been increasingly used to describe the behavior of children and young adolescents too (Ellis, Abrams & Abrams, 2009). The research was based on results that indicate that the five personality traits translate similarly to children and thus they can be studied in a single framework.

The researchers hypothesized that personality extremity could be used as a crucial identifier for children who are at risk of experiencing adjustment problems as early adolescents. Based on the extremity of a child the researchers believed that could find a link that shows a direct correlation to the type of development problems developed as young adults (Van den Akker et al., 2013).

The study was conducted using a sample size of 598 children that included four cohorts of children aged 9, 8, 7, and six during the first measurement. As part of the research, guardians were expected to report any externalizing and internalizing problems they noticed about the child at the beginning and the conclusion of the study (Van den Akker et al., 2013).

In summary, the researchers were able to determine that there is a subgroup of children that has a tendency to display continuously extreme personalities as they transition from childhood to adolescence. According to Van den Akker et al., (2013) this group of children is at a high risk of experiencing externalizing and internalizing problems during adolescence. As a case in point, children low on conscientiousness and agreeableness are likely to experience externalizing problems in adolescence, while emotionally unstable children are more liable to develop internalization difficulties. Furthermore, using vector length as a measure in recording the personality extremity, it was possible to determine adjustment problems based on the numerical extremity.

The major strength of the research was the longitudinal design of the research that allowed the researchers to study the children over an extended period (6-17yrs). Also, the study involved a large number of participants, and the mixture modeling appears to make it easier to identify class memberships while taking the error into account (Ployhart & Vandenberg, 2009). On the other hand, the limitations faced include the use of other-reports only. Reports made by those close to the participant may not be as accurate as those provided by the member (self-reports). Other-reports are still efficient, especially when supplied by a respondent who is very close to the child.

In the present paper, the researcher can show a link between personality extremity and externalizing and internalizing problems in adolescents and young adults. Internalizing and externalizing problems can be very problematic for young adults. Externalizing problems manifest themselves through anti-social behavior, violence, and delinquency. Internalizing problems are usually a predecessor for complications such as depression, eating disorders or suicide. Since suicide is the third most common cause of death among the adolescents within the age group, it would be very beneficial to advance the area of research into the identification of factors that may lead to these ubiquitous development concerns (Plener, Libal, Keller, Fegert & Muehlenkamp, 2009).

In development psychology, it is important to be able to describe the environment that will most likely result in such adjustment problems. According to the researchers, a total of 13.2% (mother-reported) and 15.3 % (father-reported) of the children had extreme personalities. This data is in line with the estimates used for the prevalence of personality disorders. This is a clear indicator that this research can provide the framework to be used in the description of the personality disorders among adolescents based on their personality extremity. In particular the group of children (mother reported: 6.5% and farther reported: 4.9% who show the highest level of extremity after starting out an average level underscored the importance of this study to development psychology (Harwood, Miller & Vasta, 2008). In essence, this showed that the degree of personality extremity in children is not as important as their development over time in predicting future development difficulties.

It is important to take into account the development of a child when attempting to predict future internalization and externalization children and adolescents will experience. The study was used to establish a correlation between personality extremity and adjustment problems. The big five approach was used to describe the personalities of the participants of the study. Their advancement over time was reported by their guardians over a period of 6-17 years. In summary, the study concluded that children who displayed personality extremity were more susceptible to developing externalizing and internalizing problems as young adolescents. The study highlights the importance of using developmental considerations in the analysis of the development of adolescents and children.

Ellis, A., Abrams, M., & Abrams, L. (2009). Personality theories. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.
Harwood, R., Miller, S., & Vasta, R. (2008). Child psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Hjelle, L., & Ziegler, D. (2006). Personality theories: Basic assumptions, research, and applications (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Plener, P., Libal, G., Keller, F., Fegert, J., & Muehlenkamp, J. (2009). An international comparison of adolescent non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicide attempts: Germany and the USA. Psychological Medicine39(09), 1549.
Ployhart, R., & Vandenberg, R. (2009). Longitudinal Research: The Theory, Design, and Analysis of Change. Journal Of Management36(1), 94-120.
Van den Akker, A., Prinzie, P., Deković, M., De Haan, A., Asscher, J., & Widiger, T. (2013). The development of personality extremity from childhood to adolescence: Relations to internalizing and externalizing problems. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology105(6), 1038-1048.
[1] Personal traits differentiate people based on their behavior pattern, emotion, and cognition.
[2] Personality extremity is the deviation of an average midpoint of all major personality traits cumulatively.