Kids becoming less alike: A behavioral genetic analysis of developmental increases in personality variance from childhood to adolescence

René Mõttus*, Daniel A. Briley, Anqing Zheng, Frank D. Mann, Laura E. Engelhardt, Jennifer L. Tackett, K. Paige Harden, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent work in personality development has indicated that the magnitude of individual differences in personality increases over child development. Do such patterns reflect the differentiation of individuals by genotype, an increasing influence of environmental factors, or some (interactive) combination of the two? Using a population-based sample of over 2,500 twins and multiples from the Texas Twin Project, we estimated age trends in the variances in self- and parent-reported measures of the Big Five personality traits between Ages 8 and 18 years. We then estimated age trends in the genetic and environmental components of variance in each measure. Individual differences in personality increased in magnitude from childhood through mid-adolescence. This pattern emerged using both children's self-reports and ratings provided by their parents, and was primarily attributable to increases in the magnitude of genetic influences. Most of the increasing genetic variance appeared nonadditive, pointing to the possibility that developmental processes tend to make genetically similar individuals disproportionately more alike in their personality traits over time. These findings could reflect increasing or accumulating effects of trait-by-trait interactions; person-by-environment transactions, whereby genetically similar people are disproportionally likely to experience similar environments; the activation of dominant genes across developmental transitions (e.g., puberty); or some combination of these three processes, among other factors. Theories of personality development will need to accommodate these descriptive findings, and longitudinal, genetically informed designs are needed to test some of the specific hypotheses springing from this study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-658
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Volume117
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2019

Keywords

  • Behavioral genetics
  • Development
  • Nonadditive
  • Personality
  • Variance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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