Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

John W. Lounsbury

Committee Members

John Peters, Michael Johnson, Debora Baldwin


The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the degree to which the academic performance of adolescents could be predicted by cognitive ability, the Big Five personality traits, and the narrow personality traits of optimism, work drive, and aggression. The analyses were conducted using an archival sample of 542 sixth-graders and 446 ninth-graders. Results from a hierarchical regression revealed that cognitive ability produced multiple R’s of (.462; R2=23.2% ) and (.521, R2=27.2% ) in 6th and 9th grade samples, respectively. Entry of the Big Five in both samples produced an R2 change of 7.2% for sixth grade and 4.4% for the ninth grade. The narrow traits aggression (R2 change of 2.8% and work drive (R2 change of 0.9% ) predicted incrementally above cognitive ability and the Big Five in the 6th grade sample. Aggression and optimism produced R2 changes of 4.8% and 1.2%, respectively, in the 9th grade sample. A stepwise regression, which allowed entry of all of the study variables, revealed that cognitive ability, aggression, and work drive were the best overall predictors of academic performance; the Big Five trait of extraversion gained entry into the model after these three variables in the 6th grade sample. These findings further demonstrate the validity of both cognitive ability and the Big Five in academic settings; they also indicate the improvements in validity that may be obtained through the use of narrow traits. Implications and ideas for future research are also discussed.

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