Individual differences in adolescent and young adult daily mobility patterns and their relationships to big five personality traits: A behavioral genetic analysis


Youth behavior changes and their relationships to personality have generally been investigated using self-report studies, which are subject to reporting biases and confounding variables. Supplementing these with objective measures, like GPS location data, and twin-based research designs, which help control for confounding genetic and environmental influences, may allow for more rigorous, causally informative research on adolescent behavior patterns. To investigate this possibility, this study aimed to (1) investigate whether behavior changes during the transition from adolescence to emerging adulthood are evident in changing mobility patterns, (2) estimate the influence of adolescent personality on mobility patterns, and (3) estimate genetic and environmental influences on mobility, personality, and the relationship between them. Twins aged Fourteen to twenty-two (N = 709, 55 % female) provided a baseline personality measure, the Big Five Inventory, and multiple years of smartphone GPS data from June 2016 - December 2019. Mobility, as measured by daily locations visited and distance travelled, was found via mixed effects models to increase during adolescence before declining slightly in emerging adulthood. Mobility was positively associated with Extraversion and Conscientiousness (r of 0.17–0.25, r of 0.10–0.16) and negatively with Openness (r of −0.11 - −0.13). ACE models found large genetic (A = 0.56–0.81) and small-moderate environmental (C of 0.12–0.28, E of 0.07–0.15) influences on mobility. A and E influences were highly shared across mobility measures (rg = 0.70, re = 0.58). Associations between mobility and personality were partially explained by mutual genetic influences (rg of −0.27–0.53). Results show that as autonomy increases during adolescence and emerging adulthood, we see corresponding increases in youth mobility. Furthermore, the heritability of mobility patterns and their relationship to personality demonstrate that mobility patterns are informative, psychologically meaningful behaviors worthy of continued interest in psychology.

Journal of Research in Personality