Comparing Personality Scales Across Time: An Illustrative Study of Validity and Consistency in Life-Span Archival Data



The goals of this study were: (a) to examine whether personality scales, meaningful in contemporary terms, could be derived from archival data; and (b) to use these scales to aid our understanding of the relation of personality to mortality. NEO PI-R data and a battery of archival items, taken from Terman's Life Cycle Study, were collected on two new samples (sample 1 mean age = 11.9, n = 167; sample 2 mean age = 22.2, n = 203). Measurement invariance of the archival scales was assessed, and validity was examined using both rational analyses and associations with the Five Factor Model. It was demonstrated that interpretable scales can be derived from 50- to 70-year-old archival data. The archival adult personality data were then used to predict mortality. Conscientiousness remains the strongest personality predictor of longevity. Criteria for establishing the validity of archivally derived scales are suggested.