Personality and Well-being

“Personality and Well-being” research group gathers up several themes aiming at better understanding of the life-course development of personality and personality disorders, and personality’s social and health outcomes. The current research of the study group can be summarized by the following domains. First, we explore personality as an adaptive system shaped by the interplay of temperament and socioculturally learned personality components, and study the gene by environment interactions in a development of temperament and personality. The main purposes are as follows:  a) to study the life-span developmental trends of temperament and personality, b) to explore the genetic background of temperament and personality over the entire genome; c) to examine the gene-by-childhood environment effects on the adult personality; d) to identify gene-by-temperament and gene-by-childhood environment effects in a development of adulthood personality disorders. We want to increase our understanding of the interplay between the genetic background and environmental effects in the life-course development of the personality and personality disorders resulting from joint effects of genetic predispositions, innate temperaments and unfavourable childhood environments. (See: Childhood environment and the joint effect of nature and nurture studies)

Methods to be used are questionnaires, molecular genetics, and brain imaging studies. One of core questions of personality psychology is whether temperament and personality in adulthood are distinct domains, i.e. whether they are qualitatively different. We approach this issue by examining the developmental trends of temperament and characters over different transitions from late adolescence to middle age. The life-course follow-up of the same subjects makes it possible to study the personality stability, and the difference between within-individual variation and between-individual variation. Personality and temperament are not confined to certain concepts but a great variety of models are used. (See: Methods used in this study)   

Second, we study the childhood, adolescence and adulthood temperamental, personality and environmental determinants of adulthood psychological, social and somatic wellbeing. Psychological wellbeing is determined by a high maturity of personality and a lack symptoms of personality disorders. Depression is here the main focus. Social wellbeing or a lack of it is defined in terms of social exclusion like drop out of schooling or unemployment. One important “offshoot” of our study is a role of temperament in a poor school achievement.  Understanding a role of temperament and gene-by-environment interaction in learning and education opens new paths for societal interventions and preventions in order to prevent drop outs from school and society.

Somatic well-being is studied in terms of preclinical precursors (atherosclerosis and insulin resistance syndrome) of coronary heart disease (CHD) and type 2 diabetes; we examine a life-course (since the early childhood) role of personality, stress and behavioral risk factors in their pathogenesis.  Depression, CHD and type2 diabetes belong to major health problems and leading causes of morbidity in Western countries that additionally increases a societal relevance of our study. In this context, personality is studied as a psychobiological factor that predisposes a person to adverse experiences or protects from detrimental environments. (See: Risk factors of CHD study) Behavioral pathogenesis of the long QT syndrome belongs our repertoire, too. (See: LQT study)

Regarding pathogenesis of CHD, LQTS and type 2 diabetes, epidemiologic and experimental stress studies are in the centre of our research that includes a series of studies of  chronic stress, acute task-induced stress and work stress, and aims to show a role of temperament in one’s stress proneness Temperament refers to mental and behavioural responses to unexpected and threatening stimuli. The understanding of the neuroregulatory roots of the temperament thus increases our knowledge of stress, and the role (mechanism) of the stress-prone temperament in the development of CHD and the type 2 diabetes. (See: Stress study)

Mainly,  we will capitalize on the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns study, i.e. a  population based, prospective cohort study with 3596 subjects  who have been until now followed for 27 years since their early childhood, and examined in 8 study waves during 27 years across different developmental transitions. In addition, we have collected several large, population based samples in school settings.

(See: Study design)

Psychology in University of Helsinki

University of Helsinki