Background and Goals: Despite general agreement that personality disorders
(PDs) have their roots in childhood and adolescence, diagnosing PDs in adolescence remains
a topic of debate. Reluctance to diagnose PDs in youth has been supported by the paucity of
adapted measures of adolescent personality and by findings suggesting that a PD diagnosis
may be less stable and reliable in adolescence. However, despite the reported instability of
categorically defined diagnoses, there is increasing evidence that early maladaptive
personality traits are predictive of future personality functioning. A more dimensional
approach for the assessment of personality pathology in adolescence as well as new
assessment measures are thus needed. The aim of this study was to examine the
psychometric properties of the adolescent version of the Inventory of Personality
Organization (IPO-A), a measure that allows both a categorical and dimensional approach to
personality assessment. Moreover, potential differences between adolescents and young
adults regarding specific dimensions of personality organization were investigated.
Method: Participants included 430 adolescents (M = 16 years old) and 448 young adults (M
= 24 years old) from the community. Exploratory structural equation modeling analyses
were conducted on both samples.
Results: Results suggest that the IPO-A is a valid and reliable instrument for assessing
personality functioning in adolescents. Adolescents also reported significantly higher scores
on four of the five dimensions, indicating more severe identity disturbance; more impaired
reality testing; more aggression; and poorer moral functioning than adults. Significant
differences were also observed among adolescents of different age groups as well as
between boys and girls in terms of the five identified factors of the IPO-A. Adolescent girls
experienced significantly more difficulties with regard to an unstable sense of self and
others, and had poorer moral functioning than adolescent boys.
Conclusion: From a developmental point of view, a narcissistic reaction may be solicited in
the context of the developmental challenges of adolescence and emerging adulthood, which
may not necessarily be a part of an enduring stance and pathological narcissism.