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Psychol Assess. 2010 Sep;22(3):539-45. doi: 10.1037/a0019580.

The impact of NEO PI-R gender norms on the assessment of personality disorder profiles.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, West Haven, CT, USA.


Many personality assessment inventories provide gender-specific norms to allow comparison of an individual's standing relative to others of the same gender. In some cases, this means that an identical raw score produces standardized scores that differ notably depending on whether the respondent is male or female. Thus, an important question is whether unisex-normed scores or gender-normed scores more validly assess personality. Gender-normed and unisex-normed scores from the NEO Personality Inventory--Revised (P. T. Costa & R. R. McCrae, 1992) were examined in a large clinical sample, using 2 measures of personality disorder as validating criteria. Gender-normed scores did not obtain significantly higher correlations. In fact, for 2 personality disorders (antisocial and narcissistic), gender-normed scores yielded significantly lower correlations, suggesting that personality disorder pathology relates most closely to one's absolute level of a personality trait, rather than one's standing relative to others of the same gender. Ramifications of this finding for personality research and clinical assessment are discussed.

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