Stability of Alexithymia and Its Relationships with the ‘Big Five’ Factors, Temperament, Character, and Attachment StylePicardi A. · Toni A. · Caroppo E.
aCenter of Epidemiology and Health Surveillance and Promotion, Italian National Institute of Health, bInstitute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies, National Research Council and cCenter of Advanced Research in Psychotherapy, ‘Cattolica’ University of Rome, Rome, Italy
Background: Controversy still exists concerning the stability of the alexithymia construct. Also, although alexithymia has been found to be related in a theoretically meaningful way to other personality constructs such as the ‘Big Five’ factors, few studies have investigated its relationship with influential constructs such as temperament and character, and attachment security. Methods: Two hundred twenty-one undergraduate and graduate students were administered the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), the Zung Depression Scale (ZDS), the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI-125), the Big Five Questionnaire (BFQ), and the Experiences in Close Relationships (ECR) questionnaire. After 1 month, 115 participants completed again the TAS-20, STAI, and ZDS. Results: Alexithymia was only moderately correlated with depression and anxiety. Both the absolute and relative stability of TAS-20 total and subscale scores was high, and a negligible portion of their change over time was accounted for by changes in depression or anxiety. In separate multiple regression models including also gender, age, depression and anxiety, TAS-20 total and subscale scores were correlated with low energy/extraversion, low emotional stability, openness, low friendliness/agreeableness; harm avoidance, low self-directedness, low cooperativeness, low reward dependence; attachment-related avoidance and anxiety. Conclusions: Our findings lend support for both absolute and relative stability of alexithymia, corroborate an association between alexithymia and insecure attachment, and contribute to a coherent placing of alexithymia in the broader theoretical network of personality constructs.