Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Mark Whisman


Previous research into the associations and interactions of personality, life stress, and depression have produced sometimes inconsistent results. The current study was conducted to sharpen the resolution of personality using the Big Five Aspect (BFAS) model to better understand the associations between personality, life stress, and depression. Undergraduate students (N = 509) completed a survey including items from the BFAS for two aspects of neuroticism (i.e., withdrawal, volatility) and two aspects of extraversion (i.e., enthusiasm, assertiveness), as well as measures of stressful life events experienced in the past 6 months, and severity of depressive symptoms. Of eleven hypotheses inspecting intercorrelations between each construct, moderating effects of personality aspects on the life stress-depression association, and differences between aspect-depressive symptom associations, seven were supported. There were significant associations between depressive symptoms and life stress (R2 = 0.07), withdrawal (R2 = 0.37), volatility (R2 = 0.23), and enthusiasm (negative association, R2 = 0.08). Depressive symptoms were more strongly associated with withdrawal compared to volatility, and more strongly associated with enthusiasm compared to assertiveness. Of the four aspects of personality, only withdrawal moderated the association between life stress and depressive symptoms. These results support the perspective that it may not be neuroticism or extraversion per se that are associated with depressive symptoms, but parts of these broad personality traits, and to different degrees. These findings support continued research investigating personality at the aspect level, to refine the map of how personality contributes to risks and protective factors for depression.

[MW1]Remember to use terms such as associations instead of causal terms such asaffects