We present the development and the underlying structure of a personality inventory
for the main ethnocultural groups of South Africa, using an emic–etic approach. The
South African Personality Inventory (SAPI) was developed based on an extensive
qualitative study of the implicit personality conceptions in the country‘s 11 official
languages (Nel et al., 2012). Items were generated and selected (to a final set of 146)
with a continuous focus on cultural adequacy and translatability. Students and
community adults (671 Blacks, 198 Coloureds, 104 Indians, and 391 Whites)
completed the inventory. A six-dimensional structure (comprising a positive and a
negative Social-Relational factor, Neuroticism, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and
Openness) was equivalent across groups and replicated in an independent sample of
139 Black and 270 White students. The SAPI correlated overall highly with
impression-management aspects, but lower with lying aspects of social desirability.
The SAPI social-relational factors were distinguishable from the Big Five in a joint
factor analysis; the multiple correlations with the Big Five were .64 (positive) and .51
(negative social-relational). Implications and suggestions for emic–etic instrument
and model development are discussed.