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Personality Over Time: Methodological Approaches to the Study of Short-Term and Long-Term Development and Change


  • Jeremy C. Biesanz, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Stephen G. West, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, and Oi-Man Kwok, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University.
    We thank Avshalom Caspi, William Graziano, John Nesselroade, Daniel Ozer, and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

should be addressed to Jeremy C. Biesanz, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1202 West Johnson Street, Madison, WI 53706-1696. E-mail:


Abstract Although theories of personality emphasize the integrative, enduring, and dynamic nature of personality, the current modal research design in personality ignores the dimension of time. We consider a variety of recent methods of longitudinal data analysis to examine both short-term and long-term development and change in personality, including mean-level analyses both across and within individuals across time, variance structures across time, and cycles and dynamic models across time. These different longitudinal analyses can address classic as well as new questions in the study of personality and its development. We discuss the linkages among different longitudinal analyses, measurement issues in temporal data, the spacing of assessments, and the levels of generalization and potential insights afforded by different longitudinal analyses.