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Youth aggression is a serious global issue, but research identifying personality traits associated with aggression has focused on adults. Little is known about whether similar associations exist during adolescence; even less is known about these associations across cultures. This study examined links between personality and physical aggression in U.S. and Chinese adolescents, and tested whether temper mediates these associations. U.S. (N = 250) and Chinese (N = 199) young adolescents (X age = 13.43 years) completed self-reports describing personality, temper, and aggression. Path analyses demonstrated that temper significantly mediated associations from agreeableness and neuroticism to aggression in both samples. The mediating effect of temper was marginally stronger in the Chinese sample than in the U.S. sample, suggesting temper plays a more important role in youth
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Journal of Early Adolescence
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DOI: 10.1177/0272431615588953
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Article
Associations Between
Personality and Physical
Aggression in Chinese
and U.S. Adolescents:
The Mediating Role of
Temper
Jennifer M. Wang1, Amy C. Hartl2,
Brett Laursen2, Cathryn Booth-LaForce3,
and Kenneth H. Rubin4
Abstract
Youth aggression is a serious global issue, but research identifying personality
traits associated with aggression has focused on adults. Little is known about
whether similar associations exist during adolescence; even less is known
about these associations across cultures. This study examined links between
personality and physical aggression in U.S. and Chinese adolescents, and
tested whether temper mediates these associations. U.S. (N = 250) and
Chinese (N = 199) young adolescents ( X age = 13.43 years) completed
self-reports describing personality, temper, and aggression. Path analyses
demonstrated that temper significantly mediated associations from
agreeableness and neuroticism to aggression in both samples. The mediating
effect of temper was marginally stronger in the Chinese sample than in
the U.S. sample, suggesting temper plays a more important role in youth
1Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
2Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, USA
3University of Washington, Seattle, USA
4University of Maryland, College Park, USA
Corresponding Author:
Amy C. Hartl, Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Road, Boca
Raton, FL 33431, USA.
Email: amy.hartl@live.com
588953JEAXXX10.1177/0272431615588953Journal of Early AdolescenceWang et al.
research-article2015
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2 Journal of Early Adolescence
aggression in China than in the United States. Findings highlight the universal
role of affect in aggression and demonstrate the importance of cultural
context in understanding links between personality and youth aggression.
Keywords
aggression, personality, temper, adolescence, culture
Youth aggression is a serious global issue (Rubin, Cheah, & Menzer, 2009).
An extensive body of research has linked youth aggression to aspects of mal-
adjustment, such as school dropout, criminal offenses, substance abuse, and
mental health disorders (Rothon, Head, Klineberg, & Stansfeld, 2011).
Substantial evidence from adult personality research shows that personality
traits are particularly relevant for understanding individual differences in
aggressive and violent behaviors (Miller & Lynam, 2001). Although much is
known about what personality predicts (e.g., aggression), little is known
about the mechanisms underlying these links. Cultural differences in these
personality processes are poorly understood. The goal of the present study
was to examine the associations between personality traits, temper, and
aggressive behavior in young adolescents from the United States and China.
Given that youth aggression peaks in early adolescence (Rubin et al., 2009),
and because personality is highly malleable during adolescence (Shiner,
2009), such an examination is particularly relevant for identifying culturally
specific and culturally consistent mechanisms of aggression.
Personality and Aggression
Substantial evidence from the adult personality literature suggests that the
“Big Five” personality traits of extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness,
conscientiousness, and openness are associated with a wide range of
aggressive and violent behaviors (John, Robins, & Pervin, 2008).
Agreeableness, the tendency to be prosocial and cooperative (Graziano &
Tobin, 2009), has been the strongest negative personality correlate of
aggression across age groups and cultures (Miller & Lynam, 2001). Low
agreeableness has been linked with bullying in youth (Bollmer, Harris, &
Milich, 2006; Laursen, Hafen, Rubin, Booth-LaForce, & Rose-Krasnor,
2010; Pursell, Laursen, Rubin, Booth-LaForce, & Rose-Krasnor, 2008)
and physical assaults, violent crimes, and criminal arrests in adults
(Laursen, Pulkkinen, & Adams, 2002; Skeem, Miller, Mulvey, Tiemann, &
Monahan, 2005). Neuroticism, the tendency to experience negative
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Wang et al. 3
emotions such as anxiety, anger, and depression (Widiger, 2009), has been
tied to aggression (Miller & Lynam, 2001). High neuroticism predicts both
proactive/instrumental aggression and reactive/defensive aggression
(Meesters, Muris, & Van Rooijen, 2007; Widiger, 2009). Conscientiousness,
the tendency to be responsible and dependable (John et al., 2008), has been
found to be negatively associated with physical aggression in adults
(Miller & Lynam, 2001) and, to a lesser extent, in adolescents (Gleason,
Jensen-Campbell, & Richardson, 2004). Openness, the tendency to be
independently minded and creative (John et al., 2008), is typically unre-
lated to aggressive behavior (Gleason et al., 2004). Finally, the associa-
tions between extraversion, the tendency to be active and sociable (John et
al., 2008), and aggression are mixed (Miller & Lynam, 2001). High extra-
version has been associated with both lower and higher levels of physical
aggression in North American youth and adults (Sharpe & Desai, 2001),
and higher levels of aggressive behavior and externalizing problems in
East Asian youth (Chen, Rubin, & Li, 1995; Soga, Shimai, & Otake, 2002).
Meta-analytic studies indicate that, of the five personality dimensions,
agreeableness and neuroticism are the strongest predictors of aggressive
and antisocial behavior (Miller & Lynam, 2001).
Personality, Aggressive Emotions, and Aggression
Although much is known about which personality traits predict aggression,
much less is known about the processes underlying these links. Social-
cognitive theories and models (Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Crick & Dodge,
1994) posit that personality traits are differentially related to aggressive
behavior because they are related to aggressive emotions in different ways.
Aggressive emotions are intense and explosive affective states that activate
“hot” cognitions, such as hostility, frustration, and contempt; those display-
ing these emotions have been described as having a “temper” (Giesbrecht,
Miller, & Müller, 2010). Social-cognitive theories suggest that personality
may either enhance or inhibit the development and accessibility of aggressive
emotions, thereby increasing or decreasing the likelihood of aggressive
behavior. Indeed, hostility and frustration are some of the strongest predictors
of aggressive and violent behaviors (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). Among
adults, there is strong evidence that neuroticism and agreeableness differen-
tially predict aggressive emotions, such that anger, contempt, and hostility
are positively associated with neuroticism (Widiger, 2009) and negatively
associated with agreeableness (Graziano & Tobin, 2009). Adolescents have
been the focus of less personality research, but there is some evidence for
similar associations (Gleason et al., 2004; Laursen et al., 2010).
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4 Journal of Early Adolescence
It follows that aggressive emotions may mediate associations between
personality and behavior. Specifically, neuroticism should increase the likeli-
hood of aggressive behavior through its positive associations with aggressive
emotions, whereas agreeableness should decrease the likelihood of aggres-
sive behavior through its negative associations with aggressive emotions.
Consistent with this claim, one study found that agreeableness was indirectly
and negatively related to physical aggression through anger and hostility;
neuroticism was indirectly and positively related to physical aggression
through anger and hostility. (Barlett & Anderson, 2012). The participants
were adults, so it remains to be seen whether similar relations exist during
earlier periods of development.
Considering Culture in Personality, Aggressive
Emotions (Temper), and Aggression
Culture may moderate the links between personality and aggression.
Sociocultural theories (Chen & French, 2008; Rogoff, 2003) argue that social
evaluations and responses are guided by cultural norms and values. Culture
influences personality development and guides the evaluation and responses
to these characteristics and behaviors; the same behavior or attribute may be
viewed differently depending on the culture. A cultural bias toward individu-
alism emphasizes the socialization of independence and assertiveness.
Children in individualistic cultures such as the United States are taught to
value the unique needs of each individual (Triandis, 1995). A cultural bias
toward collectivism, by contrast, emphasizes the socialization of interdepen-
dence and social harmony (Chen & French, 2008). Children in collectivistic
cultures such as China are taught to value conformity and to put the needs of
others ahead of the self (Triandis, 1995).
We suspect that differences in cultural values may shape more than
mean-level differences in personality traits. Differences in cultural values
may also affect the links between personality and behavior. Agreeableness
and neuroticism tend to be higher in China than in the United States
(Ahadi, Rothbart, & Ye, 1993; Burton, Greenberger, & Hayword, 2005;
McCrae, Yik, Trapnell, Bond, & Paulhus, 1998), consistent with the cul-
tural emphasis on conformity and social harmony (Chen & French, 2008).
Agreeableness enhances social harmony and relationships (McCrae &
Terracciano, 2005), whereas neuroticism promotes vigilance and confor-
mity (Fong & Yuen, 2011). There appears to be more room for interindi-
vidual variation in personality in North America than in China (Cervone
& Shoda, 1999), suggesting that personality may be a stronger predictor
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Wang et al. 5
of aggressive behavior in the former than in the latter (Church, 2000). In
other words, cultural expectations of conformity may limit individual
expressions of personality in China relative to the United States, which in
turn may give rise to cultural differences in associations between person-
ality and aggression.
Culture may also moderate the mediated links between personality and
aggression via aggressive, dysregulated emotions (e.g., temper). Compared
with personality, temper may represent a more accurate reflection of innate
temperament in Chinese cultures. Whereas societal values dictate personality
(Chen & French, 2008), temper () is considered a fundamental characteris-
tic of humans to be embraced (Slingerland, 2014). Temper (or emotionally
dysregulated anger) is therefore considered a “true” reflection of an internal
disposition rather than a product of societal norms and expectations in China.
Accordingly, the impact of personality on aggression may be entirely
accounted for by temper in Chinese youth because emotionally dysregulated
anger is less constricted by societal values than personality and is therefore a
truer representation of internal dispositions. In contrast, temper may not
account for the entire impact of personality on aggression in North American
youth. Because personality development and individual uniqueness are
emphasized in North American cultures, personality is likely to remain an
important indicator of aggression, even after accounting for temper.
Consistent with this view, Barlett and Anderson (2012) found that among
North American adults, agreeableness and neuroticism remained signifi-
cantly associated with aggression even after accounting for the mediating
effects of aggressive emotions.
Present Study
The goal of this study was to examine the links between personality traits,
temper, and physical aggression in young adolescents from the United States
and China. Despite rapid urbanization, meta-analytic studies have consis-
tently demonstrated that Chinese individuals score lower on individualism
and higher on collectivism when compared with their European American
counterparts (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002). This contrast pro-
vides an ideal opportunity to examine culture-specific and universal corre-
lates of aggressive behaviors.
In addition to specifying patterns of association in each sample, we
examined the potential mediating role of temper and determined whether
direct and indirect associations differed by country. Based on previous
personality research (Barlett & Anderson, 2012; John et al., 2008; Miller
& Lynam, 2001), we hypothesized that, across the United States and China,
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6 Journal of Early Adolescence
(a) agreeableness and neuroticism would be associated with physical
aggression; (b) temper would mediate the relation between each personal-
ity trait and physical aggression, such that agreeableness would be associ-
ated with less temper, neuroticism would be associated with greater temper,
and in each case, temper would in turn be associated with greater physical
aggression; and (c) culture would moderate the direct and indirect associa-
tions between personality and physical aggression, such that the mediated
(indirect) effects would be stronger in the Chinese sample than in the U.S.
sample.
Method
Participants
The Chinese participants were 199 eighth graders (91 boys; X age = 13.21
years) attending a single middle school in Beijing, China. All of these partici-
pants were ethnic Chinese. The percentage of youth from two-parent families
was 85%. The participants were drawn from a school that served primarily
middle and upper middle class neighborhoods.
The U.S. participants were 250 eighth graders (113 boys; X age = 13.43
years) attending three middle schools in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan
area. The sample was diverse, with 53.9% of the adolescents self-identifying
as Caucasian, 15.9% as African American, 13.3% as Asian, 11.4% as Latino/a,
and 5.5% as bi- or multiracial. The percentage of youth from two-parent fam-
ilies was 70%. The participants were drawn from schools that served primar-
ily middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Study characteristics did
not differ significantly as a function of schools.
Procedure
Across both samples, data were collected during the spring (April-June).
Participants were first contacted by telephone; if both parents and adoles-
cents expressed interest, parental consent and adolescent assent forms were
mailed to the home with preaddressed and stamped return envelopes, along
with questionnaire measurements (see below).
The Western-based measures were examined and translated carefully by
several members of the research team who were fluent in both English and
Mandarin. The measures were then backtranslated to ensure comparability
with the English versions. A variety of formal and informal strategies (e.g.,
repeated discussion in the research group, interviews with youth, psychomet-
ric analysis) were applied to maximize the validity of the items.
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Wang et al. 7
Measures
Participants completed the Big Five Inventory (BFI; John & Srivastava,
1999), a 44-item measure of five dimensions of personality: Agreeableness (9
items; for example, has a forgiving nature), Conscientiousness (9 items; for
example, does things efficiently), Extraversion (8 items; for example, talk-
ative), Neuroticism (8 items; for example, worries a lot), and Openness (10
items; for example, curious about many different things). Items are rated on
a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
Participants completed the Youth Self Report (YSR; Achenbach, 1991), a
112-item measure on a scale of 0 (not true) to 2 (very true) that assesses
behavior and adjustment. Temper was measured with a single item (“I have a
hot temper”). Previous research has demonstrated the reliability and validity
of single-item assessments of psychological constructs (Grice, Mignogna, &
Badzinski, 2011; Youngblut & Casper, 1993). Physical aggression was mea-
sured with four items that directly assessed physically aggressive behaviors
(“I destroy my own things,” “I destroy things belonging to others,” “I physi-
cally attack people,” and “I get into many fights”; China: α = .73; the United
States: α = .72). Temper did not load significantly on the narrowband
Aggression scale in either sample, although it did load on the broadband
Externalizing scale in both samples.
Plan of Analysis
Missing data were minimal. Across study variables, missingness ranged from
0.0% to 1.5% ( X = 0.5%, SD = 0.5%). Little’s Missing Completely At
Random (MCAR) test indicated that the data were missing completely at
random, χ2(12) = 14.74, p = .26. Full information maximum likelihood
(FIML) was used to handle missing data.
Multiple-group Confirmatory Factor Analyses (CFA) tested the measure-
ment invariance of aggression and personality measures between the Chinese
and U.S. samples using Mplus v7.3 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2014).
Maximum likelihood estimation was used to derive all model parameters.
Factor loading differential item functioning (DIF) was tested for
Agreeableness, Extraversion, Openness, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness,
and Aggression to establish measurement invariance following the procedure
described by Church and colleagues (2011). A more conservative alpha level
of .01 was used in these analyses due to the number of statistical tests
performed.
The latent variable in each CFA was Agreeableness, Extraversion,
Openness, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, and Aggression. The items for
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8 Journal of Early Adolescence
the corresponding scale were the observed indicators. First, a CFA that
allowed all item factor loadings to be freely estimated in both cultures was
conducted. Next, a CFA that constrained all item factor loadings to be equal
across cultures was conducted. A chi-square difference test was used to com-
pare these two models. A nonsignificant chi-square difference indicates that
DIF is absent. A significant chi-square difference (p < .01) indicates DIF is
present, and thus each item should be individually tested for factor loading
DIF. To do this, each item’s factor loading is constrained to be equal across
cultures, while the remaining items are freely estimated. A chi-square differ-
ence test comparing models with one item constrained to a model with all
items freely estimated determines whether an item exhibits factor loading
DIF. A nonsignificant chi-square difference indicates the item does not
exhibit factor loading DIF. A significant chi-square difference indicates the
item exhibits factor loading DIF, and thus the item loads differently on the
factor between cultures. Item loading DIF can reflect a difference in an item’s
relevance to a scale between cultures. To ensure measurement invariance
between cultures, items with factor loading DIF should be removed from the
scale (Huang, Church, & Katigbak, 1997; Nye, Roberts, Saucier, & Zhou,
2008). Items are removed until a nonsignificant chi-square difference between
a CFA with all items freely estimated and all items constrained to be equal
across cultures is obtained.
Path analyses described the degree to which personality variables uniquely
predicted concurrent aggression. Multiple-group mediation models were
tested with Mplus v7.3 (Muthén & Muthén, 1998-2014). Statistically signifi-
cant correlations between the potential mediator variable (temper) and both
the predictor variable (personality) and the outcome variable (aggression) are
a necessary precondition for mediation (Preacher & Hayes, 2008). Temper
satisfied this precondition for Agreeableness, Neuroticism, and
Conscientiousness in both samples but not for Openness or Extraversion. As
a consequence, Openness and Extraversion were not tested as indirect predic-
tors of Aggression.
Two sets of multiple-group path analyses were conducted. The first analyses
identified unique associations between personality variables and Aggression,
after accounting for variance attributed to Temper. Each personality variable
was the predictor variable, Aggression was the outcome variable, and Temper
was the mediator variable (e.g., Figure 1). Paths were included from the predic-
tor variable (personality) to the mediator (temper) and the outcome (aggres-
sion) variables. A path was also included from the mediator variable (temper)
to the outcome variable (aggression). To confirm the directionality of effects, a
second set of analyses was conducted (Pursell et al., 2008). The second analy-
ses examined an alternative model that identified unique associations between
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Wang et al. 9
Temper and Aggression, after isolating variance attributed to personality vari-
ables. Multiple-group analyses determined whether culture moderated associa-
tions. Full and partial mediation were considered. In full mediation, associations
between predictor and outcome variables are rendered nonsignificant by the
inclusion of a mediator variable (Preacher & Hayes, 2008). In partial media-
tion, the inclusion of a mediator variable reduces but does not eliminate asso-
ciations between the predictor and outcome variable. Because boys tend to
display greater physical aggression than girls (Card, Stucky, Sawalani, & Little,
Temper
Agreeableness -.38**
[-.49, -.27]
(-.46** [-.55, -.35])
Aggression
-.38**
[-.49, -.28]
U.S.A.
(n=250)
R
2
=.24** (.21**)
R
2
=.15**
Sex
-.02 [-.12, .09]
(-.02 [-.13, .09])
.18*
[.07, .30]
-.21** [-.33, -.09]
(-.18* [-.31, -.05])
Temper
-.13
[-.26, .01]
(-.26**[-.39, -.13])
Aggression
China
(n=199)
R
2
=.22** (.10*)
R
2
=.14*
Sex
-.37**
[-.49, -.25]
.35**
[.23, .48]
Agreeableness
Figure 1. Direct and indirect associations from agreeableness to aggression in
China and the United States.
Note. Final standardized regression weights and R2 are reported, with initial standardized
regression weights and R2 in parentheses. The R2 values indicate the percentage of variance
accounted for in the outcome variable by the predictor variables. Brackets indicate 95%
confidence intervals.
*p < .05. **p < .001, two-tailed.
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10 Journal of Early Adolescence
2008), gender was included as a control on aggression in all analyses. Gender
differences were also considered in separate multiple-group analyses, wherein
gender was removed from the model as a control and instead treated as a mul-
tiple-group moderator.
Three fit indices were used to assess how well the model fit the data: the
chi-square value (χ2), comparative fit index (CFI), and root mean square error
of approximation (RMSEA). The χ2 should be small and nonsignificant, CFI
should exceed .90 and preferably .95, and RMSEA should be less than .08.
Results
Determining Cross-Cultural Measurement Invariance
Final item factor loadings for each of the personality traits are described in Table 1.
To evaluate the equivalence of the measures of Agreeableness, Extraversion,
Openness, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, and Aggression across the Chinese
and U.S. samples, multiple-group CFAs were conducted. Freely estimated and
constrained CFAs were compared using the chi-square difference criterion out-
lined by Church and colleagues (2011). The 9-item Agreeableness, Δχ2(9) =
15.78, p > .01; 8-item Extraversion, Δχ2(8) = 11.35, p > .01; 10-item Openness,
Δχ2(10) = 8.40, p > .01; and 4-item Aggression, Δχ2(3) = 3.62, p > .01, factors
were similar across cultures. The 8-item scale of Neuroticism was significantly
different across cultures, Δχ2(8) = 24.38, p < .01. DIF was detected in a single
item: “Can be tense,” χ2(1) = 11.75, p < .001. After removing this item, the
Neuroticism factor loaded similarly across cultures, Δχ2(7) = 14.55, p > .01. The
9-item scale of Conscientiousness was significantly different across cultures,
Δχ2(9) = 38.59, p < .01. DIF was detected in two items: “Tends to be disorga-
nized,” χ2(1) = 15.07, p < .001, and “Tends to be lazy,” χ2(1) = 13.84, p < .001.
After removing these items, the Conscientiousness factor loaded similarly
across cultures, Δχ2(7) = 17.20, p > .01.
Reliabilities for most traits were adequate after establishing measurement
invariance. For the Chinese sample, Cronbach’s α = .72, .71, .69, .63, .71, and
.73 for Agreeableness, Extraversion, Openness, Conscientiousness,
Neuroticism, and Aggression, respectively. For the U.S. sample, Cronbach’s
α = .83, .82, .69, .73, .79, and .72 for Agreeableness, Extraversion, Openness,
Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Aggression, respectively. The reliabil-
ity for Conscientiousness was unacceptably low in the Chinese sample (α =
.63). As a consequence, Conscientiousness was not tested as an indirect pre-
dictor of Aggression; only Agreeableness and Neuroticism were tested as
indirect predictors of Aggression. Bivariate correlations, means, and standard
deviations of variables are presented by country in Table 2.
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Wang et al. 11
Table 1. Final Factor Loadings From Multiple-Group CFA: U.S. and Chinese
Samples.
Personality variable/item
The United States China
B (SE)B (SE)
Agreeableness
Tends to find fault with others .42 (.06) .52 (.07)
Is helpful and unselfish with others .62 (.05) .57 (.06)
Starts quarrels with others (reversed) .49 (.05) .41 (.07)
Has a forgiving nature .70 (.04) .63 (.06)
Is generally trusting .67 (.04) .51 (.07)
Is cold and distant (reversed) .56 (.05) .13 (.09)
Is considerate and kind to almost everyone .68 (.04) .72 (.05)
Is sometimes rude to others (reversed) .49 (.05) .33 (.08)
Likes to cooperate with others .71 (.04) .34 (.08)
Neuroticism
Is depressed, blue .64 (.05) .74 (.05)
Is relaxed, handles stress well (reversed) .48 (.07) .48 (.07)
Worries a lot .75 (.04) .76 (.05)
Is emotionally stable and not easily upset
(reversed)
.49 (.06) .27 (.08)
Can be moody .59 (.05) .40 (.07)
Remains calm in tense situations (reversed) .47 (.06) .35 (.07)
Gets nervous easily .61 (.05) .46 (.07)
Extraversion
Is talkative .61 (.04) .57 (.06)
Is reserved (reversed) .38 (.06) .35 (.08)
Is full of energy .58 (.05) .38 (.08)
Generates a lot of enthusiasm .60 (.05) .58 (.06)
Tends to be quite (reversed) .72 (.04) .55 (.07)
Has an assertive personality .40 (.06) .37 (.07)
Is sometimes shy and inhibited (reversed) .66 (.04) .35 (.08)
Is outgoing and sociable .85 (.03) .70 (.06)
Conscientiousness
Does a thorough job .66 (.04) .54 (.07)
Can be somewhat careless (reversed) .45 (.05) .13 (.09)
Is a reliable worker .55 (.06) .33 (.08)
Perseveres until the task is finished .36 (.06) .57 (.07)
Does things efficiently .69 (.04) .65 (.07)
Makes plans and follows through with them .69 (.04) .56 (.07)
Is easily distracted (reversed) .26 (.06) .27 (.08)
(continued)
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12 Journal of Early Adolescence
Associations Between Agreeableness and Aggression
Figure 1 summarizes the results for Agreeableness and Aggression. The mod-
erated mediated model fit the data, χ2(2) = 1.46, p = .48, CFI = 1.00, RMSEA
= .00. The initial model revealed direct links between Agreeableness and
Aggression within each country. Subsequent analyses indicated that Temper
mediated this association for both samples. In each case, greater Agreeableness
was linked to less Temper, and less Temper was in turn associated with less
Aggression. Including Temper eliminated the initial association between
Agreeableness and Aggression in the Chinese sample, indicating full media-
tion (Sobel z = 3.99, p < .001). Including Temper attenuated the association
between Agreeableness and Aggression in the U.S. sample, indicating partial
mediation (Sobel z = 2.83, p < .05).
To determine cross-cultural differences in the mediated association
between Agreeableness and Aggression, the path from Agreeableness to
Aggression through Temper was constrained to be equal across samples. This
mediated path was marginally stronger in the Chinese sample than the U.S.
sample, χ2(1) = 2.82, p = .09. When including Temper as the mediator, the
association between Agreeableness and Aggression remained significant and
negative in the U.S. sample only.
Personality variable/item
The United States China
B (SE)B (SE)
Openness
Is original, comes up w/new ideas .63 (.05) .69 (.06)
Is curious about many different things .46 (.06) .37 (.07)
Is a creative problem solver and a deep
thinker
.52 (.06) .70 (.06)
Has an active imagination .66 (.05) .64 (.05)
Is inventive .63 (.05) .72 (.05)
Values artistic, aesthetic experiences .54 (.06) .41 (.08)
Prefers work that is routine (reversed) −.17 (.07) −.04 (.08)
Likes to reflect, play with ideas .54 (.06) .40 (.08)
Has few artistic interests (reversed) .34 (.07) .13 (.09)
Is sophisticated in art, music, or literature .40 (.06) .39 (.07)
Note. China N = 199, the United States N = 250. Estimates are standardized factor loadings.
CFA = confirmatory factor analysis.
Table 1. (continued)
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13
Table 2. Intercorrelations, Means, and Standard Deviations.
Variable
Intercorrelations
China/the United States Total sample China
The United
States
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 2 3 4 5 6
X
SD
X
SD
1. Openness .33** .23** .29** −.20** .01 −0.06 3.81b0.56 3.70a0.55
2. Conscientiousness .23** .31** .52** −.45** −.16* −.21** .24** 3.18a0.63 3.59b0.66
3. Extraversion .33** .14* .32** −.30** .00 −.13* .24** .29** 3.39a0.72 3.72b0.72
4. Agreeableness .27** .30** .21** −.53** −.38** −.46** .26** .45** .29** 3.71a0.64 3.92b0.65
5. Neuroticism −.20** −.42** −.34** −.56** .31** .25** −.18** −.46** −.35** −.55* 2.84b0.79 2.55a0.81
6. Temper .06 −.18* .17* −.37** .41** .33** .04 −.19** .06 −.38** .36** 0.58 0.70 0.46 0.69
7. Aggression .05 −.03 .17* −.26** .21** .39** .00 −.14** .00 −.37** .24** .36** 0.19 0.34 0.15 0.31
Note. China N = 199, the United States N = 250. Values below the diagonal reflect the Chinese sample; values above the diagonal reflect the U.S. sample. Superscripts indicate
statistically significant differences between samples in t tests.
aSmaller mean.
bLarger mean.
*p < .05. **p < .001, two-tailed.
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14 Journal of Early Adolescence
Associations Between Neuroticism and Aggression
Figure 2 summarizes the results for Neuroticism and Aggression. The moder-
ated mediated model fit the data, χ2(2) = 2.85, p = .24, CFI = .99, RMSEA =
.04. The initial model revealed direct links between Neuroticism and
Aggression within each country. Subsequent analyses indicated that Temper
significantly mediated this association for both samples. In each case, greater
Neuroticism was linked to more Temper, which in turn was linked to more
Aggression. Including Temper eliminated the initial positive association
between Neuroticism and Aggression in the Chinese sample, indicating full
mediation (Sobel z = 4.26, p < .05). Including Temper attenuated the initial
positive association between Neuroticism and Aggression in the U.S. sample,
indicating partial mediation (Sobel z = 3.44, p < .001).
To determine cross-cultural differences in the mediated association
between Neuroticism and Aggression, the path from Neuroticism to
Aggression through Temper was constrained to be equal across both samples.
This mediated path was marginally stronger in the Chinese sample than the
U.S. sample, χ2(1) = 3.08, p = .08. When including temper as the mediator,
the association between Neuroticism and Aggression remained significant
and positive in the U.S. sample only.
Supplemental Analyses
The same pattern of results emerged when YSR subscales of withdrawal,
anxiety/depression, social problems, thought problems, and attention prob-
lems were separately added to the models as controls. The same pattern of
results emerged when age, ethnicity, mother’s level of education, and father’s
level of education were included in the model. The same pattern of results
emerged when controlling for sex on all variables in the model. To test for
gender differences, gender was removed from the model as a control and
instead treated as a multiple-group moderator. The models were reanalyzed
separately by gender for each country. The same pattern of results emerged
across genders for both samples.
To confirm the direction of effects, Agreeableness and Neuroticism were
tested as mediators of the association between Temper and Aggression.
Model fit was adequate when Agreeableness was treated as the mediator,
χ2(2) = 1.72, p = .42, CFI = 1.00, RMSEA = .00, but agreeableness failed to
mediate associations between Temper and Aggression across cultures
(Chinese: initial β = .40, final β = .36; the United States: initial β = .33, final
β = .18). Model fit was inadequate when Neuroticism was treated as the
mediator, χ2(2) = 5.25, p = .07, CFI = .98, RMSEA = .09, and Neuroticism
by guest on June 15, 2015jea.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Wang et al. 15
also failed to mediate the associations between Temper and Aggression across
cultures (Chinese: initial β = .40, final β = .37; the United States: initial
β = .33, final β = .28).
Discussion
The overall goal of this study was to examine the relations between personal-
ity traits (agreeableness and neuroticism), temper, and physical aggression in
.07
[-.06, .21]
(.22* [.09, .35])
Temper
Neuroticism Aggression
China
(n=199)
R
2
=.20** (.08*)
R
2
=.17*
Sex
-.21* [-.33, -.09]
(-.19* [-.32, -.06])
.41**
[.29, .52]
.37**
[.25, .50]
U.S.A.
(n=250)
Temper
Neuroticism .17*
[.05, .29]
(.26** [.14, .37])
Aggression
.31**
[.19, .42]
R
2
=.13*(.07*)
R
2
=.09*
Sex
-.07 [-.18, .05]
(-.09 [-.21, .03])
.28**
[.16, .39]
Figure 2. Direct and indirect associations from neuroticism to aggression in China
and the United States.
Note. Final standardized regression weights and R2 are reported, with initial standardized
regression weights and R2 in parentheses. The R2 values indicate the percentage of variance
accounted for in the outcome variable by the predictor variables. Brackets indicate 95%
confidence intervals.
*p < .05. **p < .001, two-tailed.
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16 Journal of Early Adolescence
young adolescents in the United States and China. As hypothesized and con-
sistent with previous research (Miller & Lynam, 2001), agreeableness and
neuroticism were significantly associated with aggression. In each case,
lower agreeableness and higher neuroticism were tied to higher aggression.
Also as hypothesized, temper significantly mediated the effects of agreeable-
ness and neuroticism on aggression. Greater agreeableness was associated
with less temper, which in turn was associated with less aggression. As well,
greater neuroticism was associated with more temper, which in turn was
associated with more aggression. These results replicate previous findings
with adults that aggressive emotions like anger and hostility significantly
mediate the effects of agreeableness and neuroticism on physical aggression
(Zalewski, Lengua, Wilson, Trancik, & Bazinet, 2011).
Unique to the present study is the examination of cultural differences in
the associations between personality and physical aggression. Although
agreeableness and neuroticism were significantly associated with aggression
in both the United States and China, these relations were stronger in North
American youth than in Chinese youth. These differences in associations
may be due to differences in cultural values. Chinese cultures value interde-
pendence and social harmony (Triandis, 1995). Because agreeableness and
neuroticism enhance relationships and promote conformity, Chinese youth
and adults tend to score high on agreeableness and neuroticism (Ahadi et al.,
1993; Burton et al., 2005). It follows that agreeableness and neuroticism may
thus be more reflective of societal expectations than of internal dispositions.
By contrast, North American cultures value independence and self-expres-
sion—Personality is viewed as a unique and important representation of the
self (Triandis, 1995). Accordingly, levels of agreeableness and neuroticism
tend to vary widely across North Americans (Cervone & Shoda, 1999). In
this view, personality may be a stronger predictor of aggression in North
American youth compared with Chinese youth. These findings support previ-
ous research demonstrating that personality is more relevant to outcomes in
North American cultures compared with East Asian cultures (Masuda et al.,
2008).
Also unique to the present study are findings suggesting that culture mod-
erates the mediating effects of temper on personality and aggression.
Although temper significantly mediated the relations from agreeableness
and neuroticism to aggression across both countries, the mediated effect was
weaker in the United States and stronger in China; whereas both temper and
personality traits were significant correlates of aggression in the United
States, only temper was a unique correlate of aggression in China. Cultural
differences in views of temper may help account for these differences.
Temper is considered a fundamental part of humanity in East Asian cultures;
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Wang et al. 17
it is among the core characteristics of what it means to be human among
Chinese individuals (Slingerland, 2014). Accordingly, temper is seen as a
more relevant representation of individual disposition in Chinese cultures
compared with personality traits, which are considered to reflect societal
norms. By contrast, given the emphasis of individual uniqueness and self-
expression in North American cultures (Triandis, 1995), temper is viewed as
just one of the many other internal attributes that contribute to behavior—It
is just as important as personality in explaining interindividual differences in
North American cultures. From these perspectives, whereas temper may
contribute uniquely to Chinese youth’s aggression beyond the effects of per-
sonality, it may be less uniquely predictive of aggression among North
American youth. In other words, the effects of agreeableness and neuroti-
cism on aggression may be fully accounted for by temper in Chinese youth,
whereas the impact of these traits likely remains significant even after
accounting for temper in North American youth. Together, findings from
this research replicate previous research on agreeableness, neuroticism,
aggressive emotions, and aggression among adults (e.g., Barlett & Anderson,
2012), and highlight the importance of exploring the dynamic processes
between personality, temper, and culture in understanding the heterogeneity
of aggression across development.
Study Limitations and Research Implications
This study is not without limitations. First, the cross-sectional nature of this
study precludes conclusions about the direction of influence. Although we
hypothesized the direction of influence in both the United States and China to
primarily follow the pattern of flow from broader, stable traits (agreeableness
and neuroticism) to more specific affective processes (temper), bidirectional
associations among broad affective traits and social-cognitive processes are
possible. Although we did not find traits to better mediate associations
between temper and youth aggression, this does not mean temper cannot pre-
cede traits to influence behavior. Future longitudinal research is needed to
provide clarity on these relations.
Second, only physical aggression was examined in this study. Given that
there are many subtypes of aggression (Barlett & Anderson, 2012), it would
be interesting to see whether personality and temper would be similarly
related to different types of aggression and whether these relations would dif-
fer as a function of culture. Nevertheless, given that physical aggression often
has much more severe consequences for individuals and societies compared
with other forms of aggression (Connor, 2012), the results of this study pro-
vide important insights for understanding the global issue of youth violence.
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18 Journal of Early Adolescence
Relatedly, although we did not find significant gender differences in our
research models across both samples, much research has demonstrated sig-
nificant gender differences in different dimensions of aggression. For
instance, whereas physical aggression is more typical in boys, relational
aggression is more salient in girls (Card et al., 2008; Crick, 1997). Future
research on gender differences across different aggression dimensions is
needed to better understand the heterogeneity of aggression.
Furthermore, temper was measured with only one item. Although research
has demonstrated the reliability and validity of using single-item measures
(Grice et al., 2011; Youngblut & Casper, 1993), a broader range of items
would have yielded a more comprehensive measure of temper. Future
research is needed to replicate the findings of this study with a broader mea-
sure of temper.
Moreover, this study did not directly assess individualism and collectiv-
ism. Although research has shown that the Chinese culture remains higher on
collectivism and lower on individualism relative to North American and
European countries in spite of recent advances in industrialization (Oyserman
et al., 2002), future research that incorporates direct measures of individual-
ism and collectivism will better elucidate the role that culture plays in the
links between individual characteristics and aggression.
Along similar lines, temper was the only mediator examined in this study.
Given the complexity of aggression, other mediators are likely involved.
Future research on potential mediators of the links between personality and
aggression (e.g., relationship quality, relationship partner; Dishion & Piehler,
2009) will yield a more comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms
underlying individual characteristics and aggressive behavior.
Finally, all measures were derived from self-reports. Given the complexity
of youth aggression, researchers examining aggression during development
should utilize a multi-informant approach, such as including parent reports,
peer reports, and behavioral observations, in addition to self-reports.
Nevertheless, self-reports have been demonstrated to be the most reliable
form of measure for assessing individual characteristics such as personality
and emotions in adolescents and adults (Kazdin, 1986).
Clinical and Policy Implications
The findings of this study provide several important clinical and policy impli-
cations. First, given that agreeableness and neuroticism were both associated
with physical aggression in the U.S. and Chinese samples, special consider-
ation should be paid to intraindividual traits for understanding the heteroge-
neity of aggression. Given that traits are relatively stable across development
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Wang et al. 19
and that temper significantly mediated the effects of agreeableness and neu-
roticism on youth aggression in both the United States and China, interven-
tions aimed at increasing emotion regulation in youth may prove fruitful for
decreasing the prevalence of physical aggression across cultures. Indeed,
recent evidence has shown that emotion regulation can be trained and that
changes in emotion regulation can lead to changes in subsequent behavior
(John et al., 2008).
Importantly, findings suggest it may be fruitful to tailor interventions to
specific cultures. In particular, given that both temper and the traits of agree-
ableness and neuroticism were unique correlates of physical aggression in the
U.S. sample, combining interventions that modify personality and those that
modify emotion regulation may prove especially effective for this popula-
tion. In contrast, given that temper completely eliminated the effects of
agreeableness and neuroticism on physical aggression in the Chinese sample,
interventions that directly modify emotion regulation may prove more effec-
tive than interventions that attempt to modify personality, particularly given
the culture’s emphasis on self-control and self-regulation.
Declaration of Conflicting Interest
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This investigation was supported by an
Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) grant from the U.S. National
Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute Fellowship (OISE-
1107281) to Jennifer Wang and by a grant from the U.S. National Institute of Mental
Health (MH58116) to Kenneth H. Rubin.
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Author Biographies
Jennifer M. Wang is a postdoctoral research scientist at Teachers College–Columbia
University. She received a PhD in human development at the University of Maryland.
Her research focuses on personality, peer relationships, and youth adjustment across
different cultures.
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Wang et al. 23
Amy C. Hartl is a doctoral candidate in the psychology department at Florida Atlantic
University. Her research uses advanced developmental methodology to analyze ado-
lescent friendship dynamics and the effects of peer relationships on adolescent
adjustment.
Brett Laursen is a professor of psychology and director of graduate training at
Florida Atlantic University. His research focuses on parent-child and peer relation-
ships during childhood and adolescence, and the influence of these relationships on
social and academic adjustment. He is the editor-in-chief at the International Journal
of Behavioral Development.
Cathryn Booth-LaForce is the Charles and Gerda Spence endowed professor of
nursing and adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Washington. Her
research interests focus on the social-emotional development of children, parenting,
attachment security, and peer relationships.
Kenneth H. Rubin is a professor of human development and quantitative methodol-
ogy and director of the Center for Children, Relationships, and Culture at the
University of Maryland. His research interests focus on social, emotional, and person-
ality development, including social withdrawal/behavioral inhibition/shyness within
the peer network.
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... The FFM is arguably the most popular and widely used structural model of personality, and it comprises personality traits along five dimensions-Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness (e.g., Widiger, 2017). The FFM has exhibited strong reliability and validity across age ranges, gender, and different languages and cultures (e.g., McCrae et al., 2005;Wang et al., 2016). ...
... Specifically, Agreeableness tends to display a medium-to-large (i.e., r = −.20 to −.30), negative meta-analytic relations to selfreport and laboratory aggression. The relations for the other FFM traits tend to be smaller in magnitude, but large enough to suggest that they are also important trait-predictors of aggression (e.g., Miller et al., 2012;Wang et al., 2016). For example, Conscientiousness tends to display small (i.e., r = −.10 to −.15), negative relations to aggression, while Neuroticism tends to display small, positive relations. ...
... For example, Conscientiousness tends to display small (i.e., r = −.10 to −.15), negative relations to aggression, while Neuroticism tends to display small, positive relations. Although most of this work has been conducted in Western adults, recent evidence supports that (low) Agreeableness and Neuroticism are the strongest trait predictors of aggression in adolescents (Caprara et al., 2017;Tackett, 2006) in American and Chinese samples (Wang et al., 2016;Xie et al., 2016). ...
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Objective: The present study aimed to investigate the developmental trajectory of adolescents’ aggression and the role of the Five-Factor Model (FFM) traits during the transition to college. Method: A sample of 973 Chinese college freshmen (73.9% females) was recruited to complete the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness (NEO) Five-Factor Inventory and Aggression Questionnaire with a short-term longitudinal research design across four waves with an interval of 1 month between waves. We calculated bivariate relations between FFM traits and Physical and Verbal Aggression at each time point, and latent growth models were computed to examine the trajectory of aggression over the first 4 months of college. Results: Results indicated that (a) Agreeableness displayed large and negative bivariate relations to Physical and Verbal Aggression (r = −.32 to −.48 and r = −.38 to −.47, respectively); (b) Physical Aggression showed an increased linear trajectory across the four waves, while Verbal Aggression showed a decreased linear trajectory (S = .02 and S = −.02, respectively); (c) high Neuroticism was associated with a larger increase in Physical Aggression and a smaller decrease in Verbal Aggression over time (β = .21 and β = .16, respectively); and (d) males obtained larger relations between Neuroticism and trajectories of Verbal Aggression than females (β = .44 and β = .10, respectively). Conclusions: Our findings highlight the role of multiple personality traits in predicting aggressive behavior during a key transitional period.
... For longitudinal data, crosslagged analysis is better at determining the direction of the relationship between variables than correlation analysis (Burkholder and Harlow 2003;Newsom 2015). Secondly, most studies have focused on adolescents (Gleason et al. 2004;Klimstra et al. 2010;Wang et al. 2016). An examination into whether the longitudinal effect of agreeableness on aggression exists in other populations (e.g., undergraduate students) is warranted. ...
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A theory of individualism and collectivism The evolution of individualism and collectivism theory and research is reviewed. The antecedents of collectivism–individualism can be found in the ecology, family structure, wealth distribution, demography, history, cultural diffusion, and situational conditions. The consequences of collectivism–individualism include differences in attention, attribution, cognition, emotion, motivation, self-definitions, values, language use, and communication, as well as other kinds of social and organizational behavior. Applications of individualism and collectivism include improvements in conflict resolution, health, international relations, and cross-cultural training. Culture is to society what memory is to individuals (Kluckhohn, 1954). It consists of what “has worked” in the experience of a group of people so it was worth transmitting to peers and descendents. Another definition of culture was provided by anthropologist Redfield (1941): “Culture is shared understandings made manifest in act and artifact.” In short, culture is shared behavior and shared human-made aspects of the society. Thus, ...
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