Correlation Between Neuroticism and Impulse Control among College Students

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In this paper, we will examine the relationship between impulse control and neuroticism in college students. Among other mental health issues, impulse control is linked to numerous problems in adolescence and in adulthood, including neuroticism (Brown, Baumann, & Smith, 1997; Brown, Miller, & Lawendowski, 1999; Dawes, Tarter, & Kirisci, 1997; Sher & Trull, 1994; Sher et al., 1991) especially in young adults who are enrolled in college and who experience high stress levels (Leppink, et al., 2016). According to researchers, impulsivity causes severe effects in students. For instance, difficulties in goal- directed activities such as poor academic performance, low grades, and the reduction of physical activity (Leppink, et al., 2006).

Stress is present during every stage of life. However, when it is combined with college pressure, social living, and unexpected changes in life, it potentially leads to the onset of impulse control (Lupien et al., 2009; Ross et al., 1999). To add, Leppink et al. found that high rates of impulsivity is closely associated with stress management and poor coping skills, and often serves as the starting point for negative and immediate gratification behavior in college students. Researchers suggest that instead of college students obsessing over the adverse behavior effects, they should remove it from their mind by focusing on productive activities such as finding a job, studying or taking care themselves by exercising (Leppink et al., 2006).

To continue with this investigation, according to the American Psychiatric Association (2000), impulse control is a personality disorder rather than emotional instability as opposed to neuroticism.  However, they are both tied to a mental issue. In fact, neuroticism is described as behavior that is over or under control by the individual who is dealing with this type of mental issue. This is significant because the lack of urge control is related to effective emotional regulation, placing college students in a higher risk to develop impulsivity (Carroll et al., 2006) and control problems, leading them to potentially cause harm to themselves or others (Champion et al., 2004).

The second variable linked to impulse control is neuroticism. Neuroticism is a broader trait that is part of the Five–Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality assessment (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975; Costa, 1997).  Neuroticism onsets in individuals who experience negative emotional symptoms have their beginning at a youth age (Kercher et al., 2019) worsen during the college life (Leppink, et al., 2016), and increasing over time (Wängqvist, 2015). In addition, people with high affect intensity tends to score high in neuroticism (Barr, Kahn, & Schneider, 2008; McFatter, 1998) and depression (Flett et al., 1996; Thorberg & Lyvers, 2006). Since researchers have done extensive research in the psychological and in the neuroscience fields (e.g., Haas, Omura, Constable, & Canli, 2007) along with genetics (Kendler, Gatz, Gardiner, & Pedersen, 2006), they have proposed that neuroticism has a biological basis (Eysenck, 1967) (Sherman, year)

In relation to these findings, some theorists argue that neuroticism is a personality trait that mirrors the tendency in college students who experience negative emotional state while they are trying to keep up with college work (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Eysenck, 1967; Watson & Clark, 1984). Individuals who experience intense emotions tend to display adjustment with poor coping skills (Flett, Blankstein, & Obertynski, 1996), physical complaints (Larsen & Diener, 1987), and difficulty in controlling emotions (Flett, Blankstein, Bator, & Pliner, 1988). However, according to Sherman and colleagues (year), negative emotional characteristics associated with college students’ neuroticism are not well understood and have been accounted as depressive symptomatology.

College students should take Artett (2000) advise that during the college period undergraduates must develop their wisdom of adult identity by creating social relationships and proper adjustment to their academic demands. College students would feel less overwhelming, and their study years could be more amenable rather than experiencing an emotional upheaval.

This paper recognizes that impulse control and neuroticism is an emotional imbalance and a sign of a poor wellbeing, linked to the frequency and intensity of negative emotions and stress, caused by psychological and biological vulnerabilities (Costa & McCrae, 1980) which Dixon, Tull, Lee and Gratz (2017) associate this with neuroticism and impulse control difficulties. As a result of this findings it’s not surprising that neuroticism is a strong risk factor among college population (Chioqueta & Stiles, 2005), researchers in this field are gaining more and better understanding by examining mediating factors (Sherman). This study hypothesizes that if neuroticism can be related to difficulties with impulse control, then college students who suffer from this psychological condition will develop mental health problems, and if college students suffer from impulse and neuroticism, will do poorly with coping skills and college adaptation.



This sample was recruited from Southern Methodist University. A total of 590 undergraduate participants were chosen for this research, all in this sample completed the study. This study drew subjects from both genders, 24.2 % were males, and 75.8 % were females. The average age percentage of participants was 19.6 years (SD = 1.87). Participants age ranged were from 18 -36. Ethnicity; 68.6 % were white and 31.4 % non-white. Subjects with personality and psychological issues were eligible to participate. 


Data was collected using a demographic questionnaire and The College Experience Survey SPSS Data Codebook SONA system. Two variables were used for this study: Difficulties in Emotion Regulation scale (DERRS) with a subscale of difficulties with impulse control, which consist in 36 questions from 1 (almost never) to 5 (almost always), (Gratz, & Roemer, 2004), and the International Personality Item Pool (IPIPN) with the subscale of neuroticism (Goldberg, 1992) including 50 items that ask questions such as how you feel right now and how honest you are. All participants filled and completed the demographic questionnaire 


Participants were recruited from a psychology pool at Southern Methodist University through an online survey and participation was voluntary. Contributors to this study completed a demographic questionnaire. Data were collected from the SONA system at a private University in Dallas Texas. Students eligible for this research needed to present a history of psychological issues. The Institutional Review Board of Texas approved this research and provided with a consent form. Participants were contacted only once to complete the questionnaire. There was no follow up; the compensation was research credit.


A correlational analysis was computed to examine the relationship between Difficulties with Impulse Control Subscale (DERSIMP) and International Personality Item Pool (IPIPN) variables. This particular analysis was used to prove that there is correlation between these two variables. 

Measures of central tendency were calculated to summarize the data for the neuroticism variable and difficulties with impulse control. Following are the results of this analysis: for neuroticism, ([N= 447, M= 2.79, SD= .82), and for impulse control difficulties (N= 449, M= 1.88, SD=.77). Descriptive statistics for neuroticism range from 1 to 4.75 and for impulse control difficulties it ranges from 1.00 to 4.67.

The table below shows a correlation of (r = 0.529) between neuroticism and difficulties with impulse control, indicating that there is a reasonable positive linear relationship between the two variables, indicating that as DERSIMP increases, the IPIPN also increases. The results also show p-value for the correlation between DERSIMP and IPIPN to be less than the significant level of 0.001, showing that this test is statistically insignificant. These results support my hypothesis and confirm the correlation between DERSIMP and IPIPN variables.

The mean for neuroticism was N = 477, M = 2.79, and for impulse control difficulties the mean was N = 449, M = 1.88. The correlation between neuroticism and difficulties with impulse control in this study showed r = 0.529. This value indicates a moderate linear relationship between the two variables with a significant correlation at level 0.00.

Tables or images redacted in preview, but included in download


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