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The Shadow of the Past: Does Personality Change After Lifetime Traumas?

Alessandro Bucciol () and Luca Zarri

No 15/2016, Working Papers from University of Verona, Department of Economics

Abstract: Using large-scale survey data from the four 2006-2012 waves of the US Health and Retirement Study, we shed light on the stability of personality traits by exploring the relationship between individuals’ personality and the occurrence of negative life events out of their control. Our results show that, after controlling for standard socio-demographic variables, i) Openness to Experience is positively correlated with having been victim of physical attacks, personal or familiar illnesses or accidents; ii) Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism are also correlated with negative life events; iii) Conscientiousness is unaltered by traumas; iv) a child death has no bearings on personality. We also offer evidence that the timing of the event matters, as a physical attack becomes relevant only after 20 or more years. Our findings indicate that, even though one’s personality traits are relatively stable, they are not set in stone, as some negative life events can affect one’s personality.

Keywords: Personality Traits; Negative Lifetime Events; Stability of Personality. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D03 D12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016-08
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