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Psychiatry Investig. 2012 Dec;9(4):361-7. doi: 10.4306/pi.2012.9.4.361. Epub 2012 Nov 14.

State effect of traumatic experience on personality structure.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Kangnam Sacred Heart Hospital, Hallym University Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea.



Personality is defined as the trait-like qualities of a person. However, it has been recently suggested that the state effect of a situation leads to changes in scores on personality assessments. We predicted that traumatic experiences would induce changes not only in personality scores but also in the factor structures of personality assessments.


MethodsaaWe conducted a cross-sectional, case-controlled study using two data sets: a traumatized adolescent sample (n=71) and a non-traumatized adolescent sample (n=296). Personality factor structures were compared between the two samples using exploratory factor analyses for 25 lower-ordered subscales of the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI). In the non-traumatized sample, evaluation of the scree plot suggested a five-factor solution supporting TCI's original seven-factor model.


The traumatized sample showed a three-factor structure representing a biological factor, a social factor and an existential factor. This decrease in number of personality factors was caused by strengthened correlations among personality subscales related to coping with traumatic situations. Cloninger's psychobiological model of personality (i.e., temperament-character) was adequate in capturing personality traits of non-traumatized adolescents, but the tripartite view of existential psychology (i.e., body-mind-spirit) clearly corresponded to the factor structure of the traumatized adolescents.


The three-factor solution of the present traumatized group is consistent with the tripartite model of personality (i.e., body-mind-spirit), while the five-factor solution of the non-traumatized group corresponds to Cloninger's seven-factor model. This is the first study to describe the state effects of traumatic experiences on personality structure.


Adolescent; Character; Personality; TCI; Temperament; Trauma

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