Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (Ph.D)



First Advisor

William F Chaplin

Second Advisor

Melissa Peckins

Third Advisor

Raymond DiGiuseppe


Historically, a defining feature of personality characteristics has been their stability and consistency across time. However, research over the past decade has established patterns of personality change across the lifespan, with the most mean-level trait change occurring between 20 to 40 years old (Roberts & Mroczek, 2009), making young adulthood a fruitful developmental period to study personality change. There are several factors that can influence personality trait change and some literature has suggested that major life events such as childhood adversity can impact the stability and change of personality traits across time. The present study uses two waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; n=4,764) to assess the moderating effects of different types and varying exposure levels of child maltreatment on rank-order stability and mean-level change in personality from adolescence (ages 12-17) to young adulthood (ages 28-32). Moderation analyses revealed that child maltreatment decreases the stability of conscientiousness and emotional stability and leads to lower mean-levels of extraversion, conscientiousness, and emotional stability. The impact of maltreatment on some of these traits seem to be more pronounced in adolescence and to diminish in young adulthood, which suggests children who experience maltreatment might show some resilience as they age. However, we also found that the impact of maltreatment persisted into adulthood for some traits, which might explain the deleterious effects of childhood caregiver-related trauma on general well-being and quality of life across time. The findings of this research contribute to our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of personality stability and change as well as the conceptualization and operationalization of child maltreatment.