Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

Can trait measures diagnose personality disorders?

Saulsman, Lisa M.; Page, Andrew C.

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: January 2003 - Volume 16 - Issue 1 - p 83-88
Personality disorders

Purpose of review There has been extensive research over the past decade examining the relationships between measures of normal personality traits (particularly the five-factor model) and personality disorders. A review of this vast literature is timely, given that published research is now comprehensive enough to make conclusions about whether the five-factor model can be used to diagnose personality disorders. Furthermore, summarizing this field of study can indicate how research concerning the five-factor model and personality disorders should progress in the future.

Recent findings Recent research on the relationships between the five-factor model and personality disorders is reviewed, with reference as to whether this model of normal personality can be used for the differential diagnosis of disordered personality. The research so far seems to indicate that the five-factor model can only provide a description of general personality dysfunction, which appears to be characterized by high neuroticism and low agreeableness in particular. The finding of a general personality configuration across all personality disorders indicates that the ability of the five-factor model to diagnose specific personality disorder categories is limited.

Summary It is critically questioned why one would want the five-factor model to diagnose specific personality disorder categories, given that researchers in this field have questioned the validity of the categorical diagnostic system. It is suggested that future research focuses on the ability of neuroticism and agreeableness to screen for general personality disturbance and capture those qualities that should distinguish normal from disordered personality traits (i.e. deviation, extreme elevation, inflexibility, distress, impairment).

School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia

Correspondence to Lisa M. Saulsman, School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Perth, Western Australia 6009. Tel: +61 8 9380 1419; fax: +61 8 9380 2655; e-mail: lisas@psy.uwa.edu.au

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.