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Personal Characteristics and Resilience to Economic Hardship and Its Consequences: Conceptual Issues and Empirical Illustrations


  • We thank Ming Cui, Monica Martin, and Tom Schofield for help in constructing some of the variables used in this report. This research is currently supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Mental Health (HD047573, HD051746, and MH051361). Support for earlier years of the study also came from multiple sources, including the National Institute of Mental Health (MH00567, MH19734, MH43270, MH59355, MH62989, and MH48165), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA05347), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD027724), the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health (MCJ-109572), and the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Adolescent Development Among Youth in High-Risk Settings.

concerning this article should be addressed to M. Brent Donnellan, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823. E-mail:


ABSTRACT This article describes a theoretical model that links personal characteristics with resilience to economic hardship and its psychological and interpersonal consequences. This transactional model integrates social influence and social selection perspectives concerning the relation between socioeconomic circumstances and the development of individuals and families. In addition, this article discusses methodological and conceptual issues related to investigating the effects of personal characteristics in this context. Finally, initial empirical support for some of the key predictions from the proposed model are provided using longitudinal data collected from a sample of Midwestern families. Specifically, adolescent academic achievement, self-reports of Conscientiousness, and self-reports of low Neuroticism during adolescence predicted relevant outcomes in adulthood such as less economic pressure, more satisfying romantic relationships, and less harsh parenting behaviors. These preliminary findings support the hypothesized model and extend research concerning the life course outcomes associated with personal characteristics.