Wayne Adult Community Center

From the February, 2004 Cyberspace News

Personality Can Change Throughout Life

Do people’s personalities change after 30 or are they set for life by that time? According to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, personalities can and often do change.

   Researchers examined  132,515 adults age 21 to 60 on the personality traits known as the "Big Five": conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion.

   From this sample of volunteers recruited and examined over the Internet, the researchers found that certain changes do occur in middle adulthood. Conscientiousness increased throughout the age range studied; the biggest increases were in a person's 20s.  This trait is    defined as being organized and disciplined and past research has linked it to work performance and work commitments. Agreeableness increased the most during a person's 30s; this trait is defined as being warm, generous, and helpful, and has been linked to relationships and to prosocial behavior.  Neuroticism declined with age for women but did not decline for men; this trait is defined in people who worry and are emotionally unstable. It has been linked to depression and other mental health problems. Openness showed small declines with age for both men and women. Finally, extraversion declined for women but did not show changes in men.

   Both neuroticism and extraversion scores were higher for younger women than for younger men. But for both of these traits,  and most strikingly for neuroticism, the apparent sex differences diminished with age.

   This study contradicts an often cited view that personality traits are genetically  programmed to stop changing by early adulthood. In fact, there is considerable evidence against it, say the authors of this study.  They say that  "average levels of personality traits changed gradually but systematically throughout the lifespan, sometimes even more after age 30 than before. Increasing conscientiousness and agreeableness and decreasing neuroticism in adulthood may indicate increasing maturity - people becoming on the average better adapted as they get older, well into middle age."

   Source: www.apa.org

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