Comparing Methods to Model Stability and Change in Personality and its Pathology

Open Access
Wright, Aidan Gregory
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 09, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Aaron Lee Pincus, Dissertation Advisor
  • David E Conroy, Committee Member
  • Kenneth Levy, Committee Member
  • D Wayne Osgood, Committee Member
  • Personality Disorders
  • Personality Traits
  • Interpersonal Theory
  • Longitudinal Modeling
As it stands now, the psychopathology of personality disorders (PD) is at a crossroads, and there is little agreement on the best way to conceptualize and define PD. This lack of consensus has led to problems not only in the basic definition of PD, including the accurate description of the structure, course, and risk/protective factors of the disorders, but this disagreement also threatens the advance of future science, and imperils attempts to develop appropriate assessment and effective interventions for this debilitating group of disorders. The current work builds on past cross-sectional work that has shown that PD and personality traits are consistently and significantly related, and longitudinal work that has shown that both PD and personality are plastic and change across time. Three studies using the Longitudinal Study of Personality Disorders were conducted to address questions about the long-term stability of interpersonal aspects of personality, the implications of PD symptom distribution on models relating personality and PD, and the longitudinal relationship between personality and PD. Each of these questions has important bearing on the manner in which we understand the development of personality, PD, and the relationship between the two. The results of these studies demonstrate that 1) interpersonal style is highly stable but mutable, depending in part on how change and stability are operationalized; 2) non-normal distributional assumptions provide a better fit for models of the relationship between PD and normative personality structure; and 3) individual growth in personality is associated with concurrent growth in avoidant PD symptoms. Results of the proposed study have implications for the ongoing efforts to establish the appropriate definition, diagnosis, and treatment of PD.