Extremely Adverse Life Events and Personality Change

Published: 21 November 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/nwstbpdgpx.1
Alessandro Bucciol,


Although prior research has shed light on the impact of selected life events on personality trait change, less is known about the role of major negative life events and the possible role of individual sources that could buffer their impact on personality. Using US secondary data from the HRS (N =3,232, Mean age = 68.73, 61% females), a large-scaled, nationally representative (people between age 50 and 100 years) prospective panel study, we estimated latent change score models to examine effects of extremely adverse life events on personality development and tested for moderating effects of self-regulatory resources (control beliefs) in middle and late adulthood. Overall, we detect significant effects of losing a child on change in Openness, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness and of experiencing a physical attack on change in Conscientiousness. Furthermore, results suggest that perceived constraints in control beliefs could be beneficial in dealing with severe life events. Both our findings on life events and control beliefs substantially differ by gender, with the detected effects of life events on personality trait change being mainly driven by females. The experience of extreme life events and the role of self-regulatory resources for personality research are discussed.



Universita degli Studi di Verona, Universitat Hamburg


Psychology, Economics