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Are the costs of neuroticism inevitable? Evidence of attenuated effects in U.S. Latinas.

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Neuroticism is the heritable and stable personality trait defined by the tendency to experience negative emotion, be easily stressed, and slow to soothe. Neuroticism poses a risk for poor social and health outcomes that has been identified as a major public health concern. To date, factors that attenuate neuroticism's costs have not been identified. The goal of this work was to test the hypothesis that the costs of neuroticism would be attenuated in sociocultural contexts that emphasize readily accessible social support, emotional positivity, and physical proximity in interdependent relationships. U.S. Latino culture fits these characteristics. Two studies, an online survey study (Study 1) and a laboratory study (Study 2), tested whether three key costs of high neuroticism-less support (Study 1), more distress (Study 2), and blunted cortisol reactivity (Study 2)-would be attenuated in U.S. Latinas relative to non-Latinas of European and East Asian cultural background. Consistent with previous research, neuroticism was associated with less perceived support, more distress, and blunted cortisol reactivity in non-Latina women of European and East Asian cultural background. For Latina women, however, these effects were attenuated. Latina women who were high in neuroticism continued to feel supported, were not as distressed, and their cortisol reactivity was less blunted. The role of sociocultural context for generating a better understanding of personality processes and the social malleability of neuroticism's costs are discussed.

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