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Personality Traits as Predictor of Self-esteem of University Students: Moderating Role of Openness to Experience.

Byline: Sadia Niazi and Babak Mehmood

The present study was aimed at investigating relationship among Big five Personality traits and self-esteem of university students. In addition, gender differences were also focus of interest. The sample of the study was conveniently drawn and it comprised of 240 students (120 men and 120 women) from different departments of University of Sargodha. Big Five Personality Trait Scale (John and Srivastava, 1999) and Self-esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965) were used in the study. Correlation matrix demonstrated that extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience was positively related. Whereas as, these variables were negatively related with neuroticism. Regression analysis revealed that extroversion, neuroticism and openness to experience were significant predictors of self-esteem.

Furthermore, t-test revealed significant gender differences in self-esteem and neuroticism. Moderation analysis was also performed revealing openness to experience as moderator between neuroticism and self-esteem. Implications of the study and suggestions for future research have also been discussed.

Keywords. Extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness to experience, conscientiousness, self esteem

Self-esteem is strongly influenced by individual differences of university students. Prior research focusing on self-esteem among university students provides no clear and consistent evidence regarding the extent to which personality traits relate to self-esteem. The current study addresses this by examining the relationship between the Big Five traits proposed by (Costa and McCrae, 1992) the Five Factor model of personality and self-esteem of university students. The Big Five model is a broad classification of personality that is composed of five major factors: neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness.

Personality traits are predispositions that can reflect individual's self-worth and perception (Costa and McCrae, 1992). DeYoung, Quilty, and Peterson (2007) proposed that all personality traits are interrelated with each other positively or negatively. They proposed that both agreeableness and extraversion reflect a positive orientation towards others. Students having such traits presumed to be altruistic, trusting, warm, emotionally positive and expressive. In another research, relationship among positive personality traits has been described by Zeigler-Hill et al., (2014), who claimed that extrovert students are stimulating, adventurous and impulsive and these traits can be attributed to those, who always like to experience new things. Jensen-Campbell, Adams, Perry, Workman, Furdella, and Egan (2002) described extrovert students as talkative and structured.

They also claimed that students having high level of agreeableness are also structured and well organized, which shows its positive correlation with extroversion. Lynn and Steel (2006) demonstrated the interactive effect of big five personality traits with each other. They postulated that extroverts are highly organized, excitement seeking, modest, friendly, active and have positive feelings about other. Their research results revealed positive relation among extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to experience. The role of openness to experience is particularly important because students having this trait are curious, active and more motivated to explore the external world (Johnson, 2005).

Neuroticism is negative personality trait reflecting intense emotional experiences. Neurotic students are tough minded and non-conformist (DeYoung, Peterson, and Higgins, 2002). DeYoung (2006) through his research proposed negative relationship of neuroticism with these personality traits. Because student high on neuroticism have negative emotions, few friends, not trust worthy, less achievement oriented and are introverts. Present study aimed at finding the relationship among these personality traits in order to determine their personality type and its influence on their self-esteem.

University for a student is mostly a constructive experience, as it offers lot of new opportunities but it also involves a hectic period for them. This can be related to their life style, responsibilities and specially their personality traits. All these factors can negatively and positively influence their self-esteem level. Study conducted on Iranian students by Joshanloo and Afshari (2011) demonstrated that student's personality traits reflect their personal and social dealings of affairs which can increase or decrease their self-esteem. Within the Big-Five Personality model personality traits are strongly associated academic achievement, personal growth and self-esteem. It is likely that students with high level of open to experiences may be more apt to learn because they appreciate knowledge and discovery, which is very helpful in flourishing their self-esteem level (Di Blas, and Carraro, 2011).

The present work, include all of the Big-Five traits in order to offer a compelling picture of the links between personality traits and self-esteem. Robins, Tracy, Trzesniewski, Potter, and Gosling (2001) claimed that self-esteem and personality traits share common developmental roots and self-esteem is more likely to relate with affective components of personality, which are very important for personal growth. These effective components are extroversion and neuroticism. On the basis of these findings present study hypothesized neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness as predictor of self-esteem and this is first hypothesis of current study.

Literature showed that the students who have healthier and mature thinking, they have high level of self-esteem (Judge and Ilies, 2002). This concept is supported by the Robins et al. (2001), who claimed that student high on openness to experience are open minded, curious and sensitive to emotions and these traits lead them to have high level of self-esteem. Such students have mature thinking and can perform healthier action, which is the sign of strong and positive global self-evaluation. Personality traits define individuals' tendencies toward stable patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions that are consistent across situations and life span (McCrae, 2002). Lucas and Diener, (2000) proposed that among Big five personality traits, neuroticism received much theoretical and research orientation in relation with self-esteem. As neurotic personality leads toward negative affect causing depression, anxiety and low self-esteem (Carver, Sutton, and Scheier, 2000).

They proposed self-esteem as a state that fluctuate on trait level. There is large number of studies focusing on high or low level of self-esteem. Crocker and Park (2004) on the basis of their findings linked high self-esteem with emotional stability and low self-esteem with neuroticism. Their finding is supported by most of previous studies reporting neuroticism to be a great predictor of unhappiness in life because neurotics are sensitive, anxious and recurrently experience more neurotic events, which negatively affect their self-esteem.

Schneider, Wubken, Linde, and Buhner, (2014) proposed that this low level of self-esteem due to neuroticism can be increased through positive excited feeling, positive imagination and unconventional approach. This finding is showing the pertinent role of openness to experience in neurotic students increasing the level of self-esteem. Because when neurotic student positively explore life events, become curious and imaginative, it helps in reducing anxiety and depression by increasing self-esteem.

In the present study, this entire literature play significant role in proposing moderation model of self-esteem, which is main hypothesis of current study. This model prevails that neurotic people have low self-esteem and their self-esteem can be increased through moderating role of openness to experience. The conceptual diagram of this hypothesized model is presented below.

This model based upon the research of Orth, Robins, and Roberts (2008) who claimed that stability and instability in self-esteem in due to depression and anxiety, which can be handled through positive personality traits. Present study aimed at exploring this model by testing the moderating influence of openness to experience in relation between neuroticism and self-esteem of university students.

In the present study the impact of gender differences on big five personality traits and self-esteem were also considered. There is pertinent literature available reporting different stereotypes about men and women regarding their personality traits and self-esteem. As Barrett and Bliss-Moreau (2009) reported that women are generally more emotional, shy, loving fearful, and sympathetic than men. On the other hand men are supposed to be more aggressive, confident and proud (Plant, Hyde, Keltner, and Devine, 2000). It is also general concept about women in universities that they are more emotional than men and there is instability in their emotions (Barrett and Bliss-Moreau, 2009). Women are also stereotyped as suffering from more remorse, disgrace, and awkwardness feelings, but less pride, than men, which can negatively influence their level of self-esteem (Else-Quest, Higgins, Allison, and Morton, 2012).

Such findings are indicating that women in university become embarrassed quickly as compared to men, which can negatively affect their self-esteem and can increase level of neuroticism in them. This neuroticism can further create lot of psychological problems in women.

Gender differences on traits have been consistently assessed in with women score higher on neuroticism and agreeableness and men score higher on extroversion, openness to experience and self-esteem. Sulea, van Beek, Sarbescu, Virga, and Schaufelin (2015) stated that women are more invested in house hold responsibilities than men even they are students. University students especially women are more conscious about their work as compared to men that's why their level of agreeableness is high as compared to men. But these house hold responsibilities and university tasks can create psychological problems in them which can make them more neurotic. Men are more mobile in Pakistani society and they are given more opportunities for study than women. These findings are suggesting that level of extroversion and openness to experience is high in men as compared to women (Niaz, 2004).

There are ample of social factors besides psychological factors that can influence women mind negatively such as patriarch environment especially in Pakistan. In Pakistan, social attitudes, norms and cultural practices (Karo Kari, exchange marriages, dowry, etc.), play a vibrant role in women's self-evaluation. Within Pakistan, at society level the women mobility is prohibited, which can negatively affect their self-esteem and can cause depression and anxiety in them. At the family level, birth of a baby boy is celebrated, while a baby girl birth is a source of guiltiness and misery in many families. Boys are given importance over girls for better food, care and education (Niaz, 2004). These all are leading cause of high level of neuroticism and low level of self-esteem in women as compared to men.

Period of adulthood is regarded as period of instability. This is time when young adults become independent and less reliant on their parents. This is time period which may bring various changes in personality especially self-esteem (Panda, 2016). The current study is conducted by keeping this in mind in order to get better understanding of self-esteem and its relationship with other personality traits so as to aid society from being its victim especially universities. Literature review showed few studies exploring relationship between self-esteem and personality traits especially predicting personality traits as moderator influencing self-esteem. Therefore, present study aimed at finding the relationship between personality traits and self-esteem and also focused on exploring moderating role of openness to experience in relationship between neuroticism and self-esteem.

On the basis of literature review following hypothesis are formulated.

* Neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness would be significant predictors of self-esteem.

* Openness to experience would moderate the relationship between neuroticism and self-esteem.

* There would be significant gender differences in neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience, and conscientiousness.



The sample comprised of 240 adults from Sargodha University, in which men (n = 120) and women (n = 120) have given equal representation. The education level of sample was MPhil and PhD students. Sample was approached through convenient sampling the mean age of the participants was 22.3 ranging from 20 to 30 years with standard deviation of 26.5 years.

The educated young adults were approached in the study, whereas adolescents, middle and late adults were not part of study. The sample comprised of educated people and their education was not less than masters.

Assessment Measures

All the constructs of the present study were measured through psychometrically sound self-report measures. Demographics like age, gender, and education were recorded through demographic sheet. The details of questionnaires used in this study are as follows:

Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. In accordance to the objectives of the study English version of Rosenberg's Self-Esteem Scale (1965) was used to measure self-esteem of the sample population. The scale comprised of 10-items having four-point Likert type scale format i.e., "1=strongly agree", "2=agree", "3=disagree" and "4=strongly disagree" and measuring both positive and negative feelings about the self. The scale contains some items that were reversely scored (strongly agree=4, agree=3, disagree=2 and strongly disagree=1).The item no 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 are positive items and 3, 5, 8, 9, 10 are negative items. Scale has demonstrated good reliability and validity: test-re-test reliability of a week is .85 and Cronbach's alpha for various samples are in the range of .77 to .88 (Martin-Albo, Nunez, Navarro, and Grijalvo, 2007). In present study reliability of Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale was also computed showing it highly consistent scale with [alpha] = .80 (See Table I).

Big Five Personality Inventory. The Big-Five personality inventory developed by John and Srivastava (1999) was used to assess an individual on Big Five factors of personality, which are extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience and neuroticism. Big Five Personality Inventory comprised of 44 items and its response format based upon 5-point rating scale (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree). The number of items for extroversion are 8, for agreeableness and conscientiousness 9, for neuroticism 8 and for openness to experience 10. The reported test-retest reliability of two week for each dimension of this scale is .82 for extroversion, .76 for agreeableness, .80 for conscientiousness, .82 for openness to experience and .76 for neuroticism (Gosling, Rentfrow, and Swann, 2003).

Reliability analysis of Big Five Personality Inventory was performed in present study depicted in Table 1 showing that all dimensions are highly reliable. The reliability of each dimension is .71 for extroversion, .84 for agreeableness, .72 for conscientiousness, .82 for openness to experience and .80 for neuroticism. These all reliability values are satisfactory and showing that all scales used in present study were highly internally consistent scales.


In order to assess relationship among personality traits and self-esteem the data was collected from the university students belonging to Sargodha District. Sample was personally contacted. Then the participants were asked to provide accurate and honest information and were also assured that the information taken from them will be kept confidential and will be used only for study purpose. There was no time limit for the completion of scales and participants were requested to give their response honestly and openly. All participants were selected on the basis of their convenience. Participation was voluntary and anonymous, and no incentives were offered to participants. The filled questionnaires were collected personally. At the end, participants of the study were thanked for their cooperation and support in the study.


The scales used to measure the focal constructs of the presents study were assessed in terms of their internal consistency and descriptive statistics. The proposed hypotheses were tested through hierarchical regression analyses. Results are presented in Table 1 to 5.

Findings in Table 1 present the bivariate zero-order correlations among various constructs operationalized in the present study, which was first goal of the present study to test the correlation among present study variables. The results in Table 1 showed positive correlation among extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience and self-esteem. On the other hand neuroticism shows negative correlation with other present study variable.

Table 1 Descriptive of Present Study Variables (N = 240)


###1. Self-esteem###22.05 4.6###.80###.23**###.04###-.13*###.12###.19**

###2. Extroversion###26.4###4.9###.71###---###.50** -.14*###.36**###.28**

###3. Conscientiousness###28.5###3.8###.72###___###___###-.34*###.42**###.35**

###4. Neuroticism###25.4###6.9###.80###---###___###___###-.14*###-.34*

###5. Agreeableness###29.8###5.6###.84###___###___###___###___###.45**

###6. Openness###27.7###5.1###.82###___###___###___###___###___

Table 2 portrayed significant gender difference in self-esteem and neuroticism. Furthermore the values of Mean and SD of women and men were reflecting that self-esteem of men is higher than women; M and SD of women and men for neuroticism showed that neuroticism level is high in women as compared to men. Table 2 also revealed non-significant gender differences in conscientiousness, agreeableness, extroversion and openness to experience.

Table 2 Gender Difference in Present Study Variables (N = 240)








Openness to experience###27.3(4.1)###28.1(5.9)###1.2###0

Table 3 showed the results of linear regression analysis depicting the effect of agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness to experience and extroversion on self-esteem. Results suggested that neuroticism negatively predicts self-esteem ([beta] = -.15, t = -2.1, p <. 05) and explained 2% variance in self-esteem {R2 =.02, F (1, 239) = 4.5, p <.05}, openness to experience positively predicts self-esteem ([beta] = .17, t = 2.7, p <. 01) and showed 3% variance in it{R2 =.03, F (1, 239) = 7.7, p <.01},and extroversion positively predicts self-esteem ([beta] = .14, t = 2.1, p <. 05) and showed 2% variance in it{R2 =.02, F (1, 239) = 5.5, p < .05}, On the other hand agreeableness and conscientiousness proved as non-significant predictor of self-esteem. These results were partially supporting first hypothesis of present study.

Table 3 Predictors of Self Esteem (N = 240)

Predictor variables###B###SEB###[beta]###R2




Openness to experience###.16###.06###.17**###.03**


Table 4 depicted openness to experience as significant moderating variable between neuroticism and self-esteem, these results were supporting second hypothesis of present study. Hierarchical regression analysis was used to determine its moderating role. Regression analysis was performed in four steps and all four models of this analysis were significant. In first step gender was controlled in order to determine variance in self-esteem due to gender. First model {R2 =.02, F (1, 238) = 3.6, p < .05} was significant model depicting 2% variance in self-esteem {R2 =.02, F (1, 239) = 4.5, p < .05} explained by gender.

The second model {R2 =.02, F (2, 237) = 3.6, p < .05} was overall significant model in which gender became non-significant predictor of self-esteem. Neuroticism is negatively predicting self-esteem ([beta] = -.12, t = -.12, p < .05) and it indicates 2% variance in neuroticism could be attributed to self-esteem.

In third model openness to experience was entered, this model was overall significant {F (3, 236) = 5.5, p < .01} in which gender showed non-significant prediction, neuroticism ([beta] = -.12, t = -1.9, p <. 05) showed significant negative prediction and openness ([beta] = .19, t = 3.0, p < .01) showed significant positive prediction of self-esteem. This model significantly added 3% variance in self-esteem {IR2 =.03, IF (1, 236) = 9.0, p < .01}.The positive prediction of self-esteem by openness to experience is supporting first hypothesis of present study.

Table 4 Moderating Role of Openness to Experience between Neuroticism and Self-esteem (N=240)


Step I###.02*


Step II###.02*



Step III###.03*



Openness to Experience###.20*

Step III###.04**



Openness to Experience###.28***

Neuroticism x###.24**

Openness to Experience

Total R2###.11***

The fourth model was overall significant model in which product of neuroticism and openness to experience was entered for testing the moderated influence of openness to experience in relationship between neuroticism and self-esteem. The overall model was significant {F (4, 235) = 7.1, p < .001} and showed significant interactive effect of neuroticism and openness to experience on self-esteem ([beta] = .24, t = 3.3, p < .01) .This interactive effect added 4% variance in self-esteem {R2 =.04, IF (1, 235) = 11, p < .001}

Figure 1 displays moderating effect of openness to experience in relation between neuroticism and self-esteem. For analysing moderating effect through figure Microsoft excel (2013) was used. This figure shows positive relationship between neuroticism and self-esteem at high level of openness to experience and negative relationship between neuroticism and self-esteem at the low levels of openness to experience.

The figure depicts negative prediction of self-esteem by neuroticism when level of openness to experience is low. But as the level of openness to experience increases, this negative prediction of self-esteem by neuroticism becomes positive due to its moderating effect.


Present study aimed at finding relationship among Big Five personality Traits (extroversion, introversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism) and self-esteem level of university students. This study also proposed and tested model of self-esteem specifying openness to experience as moderator of the relationship between neuroticism and self-esteem.

The results of present study indicated significant correlation among extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness to experience and neuroticism. These findings are are also supported on several fronts such as according to McCrae and Terracciano (2005) student behaviour involves an interaction between person's underlying personality traits and situational factors. This behaviour can be the outcome of interaction of more than one personality trait of students. They suggested that personality characters can occur together in many students. For example, sociable student tend to be exploring, straight forward and achievement oriented. This research shows the positive relationship among positive personality traits.

In another research Goddard, Patton, and Creed (2004) suggested that neurotic people have low level of personal achievement, curiosity and positive emotions, which is showing negative relationship of extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience with neuroticism. These findings are depicting that when the students are achievement oriented and their motivation level is high they will be more extrovert, agreeable, motivated and love to explore new things. These all personality traits make them confident and decrease the chances of depression and anxiety, which shows negative relation of neuroticism with other personality traits.

Findings of this study are consistent with Mohammed and Mohammed (2006) research proposing that students who scored lower in emotional stability and higher in neuroticism are tend to be less organized, introvert, careless, lazy and impulsive. These findings are depicting negative relationship of neuroticism with extroversion, agreeableness, openness to experience and conscientiousness. In another research, Elliot and Thrash's (2010) claimed that students who are emotionally stable, they have ability to effectively communicate with other people, to initiate motivational and excitement seeking activities. Such people are trust worthy, having soft corner for other people and less prone to psychological problems. According to them neuroticism is negative emotionality and agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience are positive emotionality. Emotional stable people are more confident, trust worthy, have ability to adjust in any society and enjoy life in appropriate manner (Aleem, 2005).

In the case of university students, if they are emotionally stable they have more adjustment ability, will be more confident, extrovert and can show appropriate positive emotions relevant to situations.

Present study result shows openness to experience and extroversion as positive predictor and neuroticism as negative predictor of self-esteem of university students. These results are partially supporting the first hypothesis of present study and are in line with Funder (2001) findings, who claimed that students' personality traits depict his/her self-evaluation, whether it is positive or negative. Neuroticism is emotional instability leading toward negative affect creating negative feelings about self. Such as neurotic students have low confidence level, they are pessimist and have poor self-worth. On the other hand extroversion and openness to experience tend toward positivity and high self-esteem (Trzesniewski, Donnellan, and Robins, 2003). Research findings depicted neurotic students as emotionally unstable.

They are people who do not have ability to delay responses, especially negative emotions, they cannot move actively in society, they have difficulty in making friends and they cannot explore the new things that can lead them toward innovation (Aleem, 2005).

Present study results depicted openness to experience as moderator between neuroticism and self-esteem. These results are in line with second hypothesis of present study supported by Sheldon, Elliot, Kim, and Kasser (2001), they claimed that self-esteem is key ingredient of most satisfying life events and there are different sources in life that effect self-esteem especially personality traits. Self-esteem can be influenced by high positive or negative affect. The high negative affect is neuroticism and it is predictor of low self-esteem. In another research Robins et al., (2001) stated that when a neurotic person has low level of self-esteem, his low level of self-esteem can be influenced by his curious, excitable and imaginative nature. This finding is indicating the moderating role of openness to experience in relation between neuroticism and self-esteem.

Self-esteem has been defined as a global affective orientation towards self and neurotic people have negative orientation towards self, due to emotional instability, anxiety, depression and hostility. But if a person is high on the level of openness to experience, it is protection against loneliness because it facilitates the new findings and enjoying new interests. Such activities pay important role in increasing self-esteem of students (Robins at al., 2001).

Current study also showed significant gender differences in neuroticism and self-esteem and non-significant gender differences in extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to experience. These findings are partially supporting third hypotheses of present study. Means in present study depicted that men have high level of self-esteem and women have high level of neuroticism. In Pakistan women have more society pressure as compared to men, whether they are educated or not. There is discriminating attitude with respect to gender in Pakistan .In society, women cannot move with confidence due to stereotypical attitude of male dominating society. These all factors are leading cause of low level of self-esteem and high level of neuroticism in women as compared to men. There are variety of norms and beliefs, which are particularly powerful perpetrators of cruelty against women.

In Pakistani society men are inherited superior to women and even education cannot change this concept because of which even in universities women self-esteem level is low than men (Niaz, 2004).

Non-significant gender differences in the level of extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to experience are supported by the findings of Aleem (2005), who claimed that within universities both genders are given equal responsibilities and opportunities that's why level of extroversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness and agreeableness is equal in both gender.

Conclusion. On the basis of current study results it has been concluded that individuals who are organized, motivational, sensation seeking they are also curious, excitable and imaginative in nature. But the anxious person don't have such skills. Current study also depicted high level of self-esteem in individuals who have positive personality traits such as extroversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness and agreeableness. Present study results revealed that anxious people with higher levels of openness, who are open to novel or unconventional ideas and viewpoints have positive self-evaluation. Such people are often more willing to try out new activities that they have not experienced previously have positive self-judgement and attitudes towards them. On the other hand neurotic people who have less active imagination, are not much attentiveness to inner feelings, lower level of aesthetic sensitivity, and intellectual curiosity have low self-esteem.

Limitations, suggestions and practical implications. In the present study sample was not much large and self-report measures were used which can lead toward common variance error. So in future large sample size should be taken in order to increase validity of research. There are lot psychological and social factors that can also influence self-esteem of students which are not measured in present research and should be considered in future studies.

Future research should take a closer look on more moderating and mediating variables in order to explore and expand various aspects of self-esteem.

This study revealed that high level of psychological problems in university women are due to particular stereotypic attitude with women in universities or at home. This attitude should be changed through guidance and counselling in order to create awareness in men that how should they treat women. This can be very helpful for decreasing psychological problem in women.


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Publication:Journal of Behavioural Sciences
Date:Dec 31, 2017
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