Apparently, our personalities DO change as we get older…

A research study conducted online by Stanford Univeristy of more than 130,000 Americans and Canadians between the ages of 21-60 published in the May issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology raised some eyebrows.

It’s long been thought that personality is cemented by early adulthood if not earlier.  That may not necessarily be the case.

Researchers asked participants to rate themselves on personality traits known by psychologists as the “Big Five”: conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extroversion.  What they found was that  “On average people were getting better at dealing with the ups and downs of life. In particular they were more responsive and more caring [with age].” ( Srivastava, S., 2011)

This is how our personalities tend to change with age:

  • Conscientiousness: Our ability to handle tasks and our organizational skills grow dramatically in our 20s and continue to improve as we age. The initial growth in our 20s is likely due to new work and family commitments.
  • Agreeableness: Our warmth, generosity, and helpfulness make the biggest improvement in our 30s and 40s; like conscientiousness, changes in
    agreeableness are probably due to new work and family commitments.
  • Neuroticism: Worry and our sense of instability actually decrease with age for women–but not for men.
  • Openness: Our desire to try new experiences declines slightly with age for both genders.
  • Extroversion: Our need to seek social support declines slightly for women as they age, but changes little in men.

What’s the takeaway? On average, we get better as we get older. We care more about work, family, and our responsibilities. At the same time, we become less open to meeting new people. Women, but not men, worry less and as
they age. “People are getting better at things as they age,” Srivastava told Reuters. “They’re not becoming grumpy old men.”

(Netscape News, taken from: http://webcenters.netscape.compuserve.com/news/package.jsp?name=fte/personalitytraits/personalitytraits)

You can read more about the study on WebMD at:

http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20030512/personality-changes-with-age

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About UWF Center on Aging

The Center on Aging at the University of West Florida was established in the Fall of 2010 when the School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences faculty along with assistance from Sponsored Research submitted a grant to the State University System Board of Governors in support of aging initiatives for Northwest Florida. Its mission is to improve the quality of life of aging adults through the application of science to address challenges associated with aging and to promote healthy aging, with an emphasis on prevention. This will be accomplished through inter-disciplinary and inter-professional efforts of basic and applied research, consultation, and partnerships with community agencies. Education and training, direct services to the aging population, and public awareness and understanding of the contributions and needs of elders will be primary objectives.
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