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Many personality constructs are composed of multiple, related facets. For instance, the higher-order trait of extraversion is composed of several lower-order facets such as positive emotions, assertiveness, and warmth among others. A recent article appearing in the Journal of Personality proposes that multifaceted constructs may be assessed best by employing the bifactor approach. In this approach, a general factor shared is extracted from the lower-order facets; the general factor and the elements of the lower-order facets unique from the general factor may then be examined in relation to other variables. Using the example of extraversion, the authors show that the general factor of extraversion is consistently, positively related to indicators of well-being, however, the unique elements of the facets of extraversion are differentially related to indicators of well-being (i.e., some positively and some negatively). The authors also show that, before removing the general factor from the lower-order facets, the facets themselves were typically, positively associated with indicators of well-being. Thus, the bifactor approach may help to clarify how multifaceted constructs are associated with variables of interest at both the higher-order and lower-order levels.
Chen, Fang Fang, Hayes, Adele, Carver, Charles S., Laurenceau, Jean-Philippe, & Zhang, Zugui. (2012). Modeling General and Specific Variance in Multifaceted Constructs: A Comparison of the Bifactor Model to Other Approaches. Journal of Personality, 80(1), 219-251. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00739.x