Personality Traits in Adolescence as Predictors of Religiousness in Early Adulthood: Findings From the Terman Longitudinal Study
Michael E. McCullough University of Miami Jo-Ann Tsang Baylor University Sharon Brion Boston College The authors examined the associationsof the Big Five personality factors with religiousness in adulthood for a 19-year longitudinal sample of 492 adolescents age 12 to 18. Among the Big Five, Conscientiousness in adolescence was uniquely related to higher religiousness in early adulthood. For adolescents high in Emotional Stability, the link between strength of religious upbringing and religiousness in adulthood was weaker than itwas for adolescents who were less emotionally stable. These findings replicate the work of others demonstrating the importance of Conscientiousness as a predictor of religiousness and suggest that emotionally unstable adolescents might be more likely to adopt levels of religiousness that are similar to those of their parents. and the scientific study of religion appears to be warming. Personalityresearchers from diverse theoretical camps (e.g., Kirkpatrick, 1999; Piedmont, 1999; Saucier & Goldberg, 1998) have begun to view religiousness and spirituality as potentially fruitful areas for personality theory and research. Indeed, a recent issue of Journal of Personality was devoted to the topic of religion (Emmons & McCullough, 1999).
RELIGIOUSNESS, THE BIG THREE, AND THE BIG FIVEKeywords: religion; personality; traits; Big Five; longitudinal; Terman If we ask what psychology has contributed to our understanding of the religious nature of man, the answer is, “Less than we might wish.” —Allport (1955, p. 93)
Determining how religiousness is related to the major dimensions of human personality has been an important starting point for improving relations between personalitypsychology and the scientific study of religion. In the last decade, many researchers have investigated whether individual differences in religiousness are associated
Authors’ Note: This research used The Terman Life Cycle Study of Children With High Ability 1922-1986 data set (made accessible in 1990 through machine-readable data files and microfiche data). These data were collected by L. Terman, R.Sears, L. Cronbach, and P. Sears and are available through the archive of the Henry A. Murray Research Center of Radcliffe College, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts (Producer and Distributor). This research was generously supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and funds given by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to the Murray Research Center of RadcliffeCollege. We are grateful to Deborah Laible for her thoughtful comments on a previous version of this article. Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to Michael E. McCullough, Department of Psychology, University of Miami, PO Box 248185, Coral Gables, FL 33124-2070; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. PSPB, Vol. 29 No. 8, August 2003 980-991 DOI: 10.1177/0146167203253210 © 2003 by the Societyfor Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
Personality psychology has had a longstanding, if somewhat estranged, relationship with the scientific study of religion. On one hand, some of personality psychology’s most noteworthy pioneers, including Galton, Freud, Jung, Allport, and McClelland, viewed religious phenomena as interesting and worthwhile topics of scientific inquiry. On the other hand,even during Allport’s era, mainstream personality researchers devoted scant empirical attention to religiousness. Forty-five years later, the relationship between personality psychology 980
McCullough et al. / PERSONALITY AND RELIGIOUSNESS with individual differences in the personality traits of the Big Three, or P-E-N (i.e., Psychoticism, Extraversion, and Neuroticism) taxonomy, and the...