Stability and Change of Social Goals in Adolescence


  • This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA019631) awarded to Craig R. Colder and the National Institute of Mental Health (T32 MH018269) awarded to Aidan G. C. Wright. We thank the UB Adolescent and Family Development Project staff for their help with data collection, and all the families who participated in the study.


This study provides a comprehensive analysis of continuity and change in social goals using the interpersonal circumplex (IPC) model across adolescence (ages 11–16). Five complementary definitions of stability were examined: structural, rank-order, absolute, individual, and ipsative. Data were taken from a longitudinal study of early adolescent problem behavior. Social goals were assessed during each wave, with data collection occurring at three annual intervals (Wave 1, ages 10–12). A community sample of adolescents (N = 387) was recruited. Adolescents were evenly split on gender, and a majority (82.7%) was White. Results suggest a modest increase in stability across social goals, yet significant interindividual heterogeneity. Although levels of Agentic and Communal factors increase over time, these patterns were driven by decreases in the Submissive and Separate octants. This offers evidence for the utility of examining lower-order facets of interpersonal dispositions, as it provides a nuanced picture of adolescent personality development. Furthermore, findings suggest that change and continuity in social goals may both be relevant in this developmental period. The difficulty is accounting for trait stability as well as change, and the IPC model may be particularly useful for meeting this challenge.