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Do Personality Traits Change throughout our Lives?

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Do Personality Traits Change throughout our Lives? By Raymond Au Introduction Personality traits are dimensions of individual differences in the tendencies to show consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions. Traits are important because their influence is pervasive: They affect personal interactions and social support, health habits and somatic complaints, attitudes and values, ways of coping, occupational and recreational interests, and much more. Contemporary hypotheses about the development of personality stem from theories about what personality traits are. McCrae and Costa's five-factor theory asserts that personality traits arise exclusively from biological causes and they reach full maturity in early adulthood. This theory predicts little or no change on any personality dimension after early adulthood. By contrast, contextualist perspectives argue that traits are multiply determined, and that one important influence on traits is the individual's social environment. Stage and timing-of-events models suggest that personality traits can be changed throughout our lives when we enter different stages or specific events occur. Researches both supports and reject the models suggesting personality stability and change in our lives and thus it is not possible to say which one model can explain our personality development. Does human personality change over time? There is no definite answer to this question. There is a model for stable personality traits and also one for dynamic personality traits which may change in different stages of life. ...read more.


Neuroticism declined only for women who probably had faced particularly difficult social environments earlier in their lives. Role transitions in work, partnership and childrearing take place throughout early and middle adulthood. People normally enter new jobs in their early 20s and begin advancing in their career thereafter, marry in their mid to late 20s, and raise children in their 30s. If the timing of personality changes is linked to the timing of role transitions, there should be important changes in conscientiousness and agreeableness, and these changes should be apparent well into the 30s. Aside from these normative social role changes, other theories suggest possible changes in personality traits after age 30. People get better at emotion regulation as they grow older and thus tend to have fewer negative emotional experiences (Gross et al., 1997); this could translate into persistently declining levels of neuroticism with age. Socioemotional selective theory (Carstensen, Isaacowitz & Charles, 1999) predicts that as adults progress into middle and later adulthood, they are less and less interested in gathering new information and in meeting new people, implying declining openness and extraversion, and more interested in relationships with close others, implying increasing agreeableness. Models Suggesting Personality Change Opposite to the Big Five theory, the timing-of-events model suggests that the personality is not fixed or stable during adulthood but it changes when some key events occur. ...read more.


These findings help to reject Levinson's idea that the mid-life crisis is usually a marker event for people of 40 to 45 years of age (Shek, 1996). Conclusions Social roles, life events and social environments change during the life course, and such factors have been suggested as important influences on basic personality traits. In the transaction view, individuals are seen as active agents who play an important role in selecting and shaping their environments, and these environments in turn affect their personalities. Probably the most important social role domains that undergo changes in early and middle adulthood are work, marriage and parenting. In summary, research different models suggest that the personality exhibits both stability and change. The fact is, we have no choice but to age, and when we do, our social roles may change, we may experience life events such as retirement and widowhood, and we may be coping with altered motor and cognitive functions. Yet, research on personality development is comforting because it contradicts popular beliefs to the effect that individuals become more hypochondriac or rigid in their attitudes and opinions as they age. On the contrary, although changes are less prominent in later life, psychological maturation appears to be a lifelong process. Further research can be focused on the combination of both models suggesting personality stability and change to obtain a more universal and representative results in explaining out personality development. ...read more.

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