Personality Traits

By Gerald Matthews; Ian J. Deary et al. | Go to book overview

11
Abnormal personality traits?

Dimensions of personality describe variations in behavioural dispositions in the population. Because most personality dimensions are normally distributed, it is easy to assume that 'abnormality' lies at the tails of the distributions. For example, people with very high Neuroticism scores might suffer much from anxiety, and those with very high Conscientiousness scores might be disablingly rigid. However, might there be qualitative, as opposed to statistical, differences between the bulk of the population and a few individuals with very unusual personalities? The concept of personality disorder or abnormal personality lies within the domain of psychiatry and clinical psychology. Strangely, although it alludes to human personality variation, until the 1990s personality disorder attracted relatively little interest from differential psychologists studying normal personality. Conversely, the largely medically oriented researchers in the field of personality disorders have until recently shown little interest in either normal personality dimensions or the techniques of differential psychology.

Instead of benefiting from progress in the taxonomy of normal personality traits, psychiatric nosologists turned to medicine and biology rather than psychology for models for classifying psychopathology. They continue to do so because the philosophical assumptions underlying current psychiatric nosology…stipulate that psychiatry is a branch of medicine, that discrete categories of mental disorder exist, and that there is a clear distinction between normality and pathology. (Livesley, 2001b, p. 278–9)

It is commonplace for books on personality to make little or no mention of the research on personality disorders, let alone try to integrate normal and abnormal personality research, though there are exceptions (Buss and Larsen, 2002).

The research landscape of personality disorder that shapes this chapter is complex, and needs some sketching. Some of the main landmarks in this area are as follows.

Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists work with personality disorder concepts that form a typology. The principal taxonomic schemes for these typologies are described. Research work within this typological tradition, which supports and criticises it, is described.

There are several problems with these typologies that are becoming clearer and more serious as empirical research findings accumulate. Some key problems are described.

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Personality Traits
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Figures x
  • Tables xiii
  • Boxes xvi
  • Preface to the First Edition xix
  • Preface to the Second Edition xxiii
  • I - The Nature of Personality Traits 1
  • 1 - The Trait Concept and Personality Theory 3
  • 2 - Persons, Situations and Interactionism 39
  • 3 - Personality Across the Life Span 58
  • 4 - Stable Traits and Transient States 77
  • 5 - Alternatives to Trait Theory 112
  • II - Causes of Personality Traits 133
  • 6 - Genes, Environments and Personality Traits 135
  • 7 - The Psychophysiology of Traits 166
  • 8 - The Social Psychology of Traits 204
  • III - Consequences and Applications 239
  • 9 - Stress 241
  • 10 - Traits and Health 273
  • 11 - Abnormal Personality Traits? 294
  • 12 - Personality, Performance and Information-Processing 325
  • 13 - Applications of Personality Assessment 357
  • 14 - Conclusions 391
  • References 411
  • Author Index 482
  • Subject Index 487
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