The intrinsic maturational argument holds that normative age-related changes in personality adulthood are driven by preprogrammed biological processes (e.g., Costa & McCrae, 2006) whereas the life course argument posits that the major roles of adult life involving occupational pursuits, romantic relations, and parenthood drive adult personality development (e.g., Helson et al., 2002; Roberts et al., 2005). You may have heard the adage, People dont change. Actually, we sometimes do, according to psychological science. It appeared that scores derived from both oral interviews and CAPI formats were higher than written formats for some traits. We also calculated d metric effect sizes within each of our age groups (see Table 3) and the education effects looked generally similar across age groups in both datasets. The average age of the sample with complete Big Five data was 45.29 years (SD = 18.04). Design and analysis of longitudinal studies on aging. We tested for interactions involving gender by modeling effects in six steps: 1) a model with gender and linear age terms; 2) a model with gender, linear age, and gender by linear age terms; 3) a model with gender, linear age, gender by linear age, and quadratic age terms; 4) a model with gender, linear age, gender by linear age, quadratic age, and gender by quadratic age terms; 5) a model with gender, linear age, gender by linear age, quadratic age, gender by quadratic age, and cubic age terms; and finally 6) a model that added the gender by cubic age term to the previous model. McCrae et al. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Note: Unstandardized coefficients reported. McCrae et al. Attrition rates for the earliest sample are similar to those from the BHPS, with average yearly attrition at around 6%. Second, few studies include participants past the age of 70 (Terracciano et al., 2005). Average levels of Neuroticism are generally negatively associated with age although there are exceptions in the literature such that consistent age differences have not emerged in all countries and there are hints that this trait may increase around age 80. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The youngest group scored the highest and the 7079 year old group scored the lowest for Extraversion and the difference was small to medium (3.64 T units). A conscientious person is disciplined, careful and responsible; a less conscientious person is disorganized and impulsive or distractible. More complicated models involving age polynomials were selected only when the inclusion of the higher order term improved overall model fit at F > 25.00. To be sure, Costa et al. In: Birren JE, Schaie KW, editors. PMC legacy view In addition, the overall gender differences were more or less consistent with the effect sizes reported by Costa et al. Agreeableness showed the opposite linear pattern such that the oldest group scored highest and the youngest group scored lowest, however the difference was fairly small (2.83 T units). Publisher's Disclaimer: The following manuscript is the final accepted manuscript. We become more upbeat. 2008 Sep; 23(3): 558566. Michigan State University & German Institute for Economic Research. You may become more self-contained and less talkative when you're content. None of the F change statistics for the relevant comparisons suggested that gender acted as a moderator of age effects according to our standards. Neuroticism was assessed with items 9, 19, and 39. As a point of comparison, we calculated d metric effect sizes from Table 1 in Lckenhoff et al. Neither gender nor education level were consistent moderators of age differences in the Big Five. sharing sensitive information, make sure youre on a federal Regression Models Linking Age to the Big Five. These sub-samples have much lower rates of cumulative attrition because they have been in the study for much less time than the original sample. Ethnicity, education, and the temporal stability of personality traits in the East Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area study. Agreeableness and Conscientiousness showed relatively gradual increases in absolute scores across the life span whereas Neuroticism showed relatively gradual decreases.
Why do we say, people dont change? We also found that scores on Conscientiousness had a curvilinear association with age such that the biggest age differences were found when comparing average levels for late adolescents with average levels of middle-aged participants. The site is secure. The Mini-IPIP scales: Tiny-yet-effective measures of the big five factors of personality. In addition, we explore whether or not gender and education moderates cross-sectional age differences. Preparation of this manuscript was supported by National Institute on Aging grants 1R03AG026028-01 and 1R03AG028744-01. The present analyses contribute to this literature by evaluating cross-sectional age differences in the Big Five personality traits in two large national datasets. We thank Samuel Gosling and Sanjay Srivastava for providing us with the correlations between our scales and the full BFI scales. (2006) meta-analysis. Terracciano et al. The BHPS data were originally collected by the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-social Change at the University of Essex, now incorporated within the Institute for Social and Economic Research. In sum, the existing evidence broadly suggests that levels of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness are positively associated with age whereas levels of Extraversion and Openness are negatively associated with age (see also Costa, McCrae, Zonderman, Barbano, Lebowitz, & Larson 1986; Helson et al., 2002; Mroczek, Spiro, & Griffin, 2006; Srivastava et al., 2003). The age of anxiety? 1We examined whether format type was associated with scores on the Big Five. Careers. In contrast, Social Dominance showed a more pronounced and consistent increase from adolescence to the mid 30s when mean-levels remained consistent until the mid 50s. Srivastava S, John OP, Gosling SD, Potter J. Cross-sectional age differences in the Big Five personality traits were investigated using two large datasets from Britian and Germany, the British Household Panel Study (BHPS; N 14,039) and the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSEOP; N 20,852). Last, we formally evaluated whether education status moderated the association between age and personality. Big Five measures were administered to the panel at the most recent wave (Wave 15) which was predominately collected in September through December of 2005 (approximately 94% of all Wave 15 participants). Bethesda, MD 20894, Web Policies Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: Set like plaster or persistent change? Although the studies had differences, there were evident patterns across them. The real message of the adage: dont expect people to change the way you want them to. Age differences in Conscientiousness had a predicted curvilinear pattern such that average levels of this trait were highest in middle adulthood. Finally, Openness showed a fairly linear pattern such that the 2029 year olds scored the highest and the oldest group scored the lowest; the difference was large by our conventions (8.61 T units). HHS Vulnerability Disclosure, Help Higher-order factors of the Big Five. His prediction, translated into a testable hypothesis, is that there should be age-related differences in personality attributes. Address correspondence to: M. Brent Donnellan Department of Psychology Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 48823 E-mail: Correspondence regarding this manuscript should be addressed to M. Brent Donnellan, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 488233. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences. Openness was stable through middle adulthood, but decreased in our last years. The goal of this report is extend research on age differences in the Big Five using data from two large national panel studies that include participants past the age of 70. Effect sizes for gender were calculated so that positive scores indicated that women scored higher than men. Terracciano A, McCrae RR, Brant LJ, Costa PT., Jr. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses of the NEO-PI-R scales in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. None of the relevant model comparisons suggested that education acted as a compelling moderator of age differences. Neuroticism demonstrated a linear pattern of age differences whereby the youngest group scored the highest and the 7079 year olds scored the lowest (4.22 T units). A version of this story also appears on Your Care Everywhere. In particular, the results for the German sample were somewhat exceptional given that older individuals were found to score higher on this trait than younger individuals. We first used an ANCOVA model to control for format type (1 = interview or CAPI, 0 = written) for the means reported in Table 1. A contrarian view of the Five-Factor approach to personality description. There is something of a consensus that five broad domains capture much of the variability in personality traits (John & Srivastava, 1999; but see Ashton & Lee, 2007; Block, 1995). It is difficult to disentangle these issues with the present data and these concerns are not the focus of the present research. We restricted the examination of education related differences to those participants who were 30 years or older to avoid confusing education-linked differences with age-linked differences in personality. Last, Openness showed a linear pattern of age differences whereby the 1619 year olds scored the highest and the oldest group scored the lowest group; the difference was medium by our conventions (6.19 T units). As personality researcher Christopher Soto explains, We know that personality change can happen, that it usually happens gradually, and that it's usually for the better. FOIA An open person is imaginative, curious, and artistic, drawn to variety and able to accept differences; a less open person prefers routine and focuses on practical things rather than art or abstractions. The age range of the most recent wave of BHPS was 16 to 99 years but we trimmed the sample to participants who were less than 86 years old because of the sparse number of participants (defined as n < 40) at older ages. The rest of the data were collected before May of 2006. McCrae & Costa, 2003; Roberts et al., 2006; Terracciano et al., 2005). In both countries, there is evidence that Extraversion and Openness are negatively associated with age whereas Agreeableness is positively associated with age. (in press) found the most pronounced difference for Openness which was consistent with our results. Standard errors reported inside parentheses. As seen in Table 3, there did not seem to be striking evidence that effect sizes varied systematically across the age groups in either dataset. McCrae RR, Costa PT, Pedroso de Lima, Simes A, Ostendorf F, Angleitner A, et al. Finally, Openness showed a negative and linear association with age. It has not been subjected to the final copyediting, fact-checking, and proofreading required for formal publication. At this point, Aristotle appears to have been right and William James appears to have been wrong -- normative personality differences exist after age 30 and there is good reason to think that detectable absolute changes in personality occur across the life span. Future work is needed to resolve the discrepancies between the cross-sectional results and the longitudinal results of Terracciano et al. The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSOEP) is an on-going study of German households that began in 1984 (see Haisken-De New & Frick, 2005, for details). In closing, we believe that the present findings are noteworthy because the age trends were derived from two large panel studies and were generally consistent across the two countries. This investigation yielded at least one puzzling finding namely the inconsistent results for Neuroticism in Britain and in Germany. There was a large difference (9.73 T units) between the youngest age group and the 4049 year olds for Conscientiousness whereas there was a slight difference between the 4049 year old group and the oldest group (1.38 T units).
Future cross-sectional work in Germany may benefit from using a longer measure of Neuroticism that assesses its lower order facets to provide a more nuanced understanding of this issue. That is, Srivastava et al. For additional evidence about the utility of shorter forms of longer Big Five assessments see Donnellan, Oswald, Baird, and Lucas (2006) and Rammstedt and John (2007). found that scores on Extraversion generally declined from age 30 to 90 although the drop in Extraversion was more pronounced after the mid 50s or so.
Srivastava, John, Gosling, & Potter, 2003, Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, & Costa, 2005, Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, and Costa (2005), Costa, McCrae, Zonderman, Barbano, Lebowitz, & Larson 1986, Steunenberg, Twisk, Beekman, Deeg, and Kerkhof (2005), Chapman, Duberstein, Srensen, & Lyness, 2007, Goldberg, Sweeney, Merenda, & Hughes, 1998, Donnellan, Oswald, Baird, and Lucas (2006), Hu, Stewart-Brown, Twigg, and Weich (2007). Such a select sub-sample may not be ideal for drawing inference about normative levels of traits for older individuals.
The sample was initially representative of the population of the United Kingdom, though as would be expected, some attrition has occurred. Households were selected using a multi-stage probability design with systematic sampling, and all members of the household ages 16 and older were asked to participate. Participants completed the measure through an oral interview (roughly 26%), by a written questionnaire (roughly 50%), or by Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (roughly 25%).
Roberts et al. Only one instance met our threshold for a meaningful interaction Conscientiousness. How should we study generational change or should we? All in all, these broad trends translate to age-linked increases on Digman's (1997) alpha factor and age-linked decreases on Digman's beta factor. Agreeableness demonstrated a fairly linear increase with age whereas the pattern for Conscientiousness was curvilinear: scores increased up to a peak somewhere between the ages of 50 to 70 and then declined. On the other hand, feeling happy with your life may reinforce certain personality traits. In general, cross-sectional age differences in the Big Five were detectable past age 30 which seems inconsistent with the hard plaster hypothesis or the idea that personality traits are completely fixed at some point in the life span (see also Srivastava et al., 2003). (in press) who compared individuals who completed more than 12 years of education to those who did not complete at least 12 years of education in a sample from the United States. On the other hand, the general trend fails to replicate the broad trends in the existing literature. Likewise, the existing literature does not suggest that education effects will be large (e.g. We readily acknowledge that cross-sectional studies are unable to disentangle age effects from cohort effects (e.g., Costa & McCrae, 1982). Costa PT, Jr., Terracciano A, McCrae RR. Email: The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at, Personality Assessment, Big Five, Personality Development, British Household Panel Study, German Socio-Economic Panel Study. Consistency of the adult personality. Stability in neuroticism, extraversion, and openness. Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, and Costa (2005) conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses examining links between age and mean-levels of the Big Five. Chapman BP, Duberstein PR, Srensen S, Lyness JM.
Mean-level differences in the Big Five across the life span were summarized by Roberts et al. To our knowledge, this is the first study that examined age differences in all of the Big Five from ages 16 to the mid 80s using two large, national datasets from Britain and Germany. Fortunately, there are alternatives to true experiments for partially resolving this debate. Thus, we view these analyses for gender and education as exploratory given the lack of clear trends in the existing literature. In the latest analysis, the researchers wrote, people change differently on different traits, personality is not stable for everyone across the lifespan (but is for some people), and accounting for or explaining these changes is difficult.. Conscientiousness showed a curvilinear pattern of age differences such that there was a large difference (8.06 T units) between the youngest age group and the 4049 year olds (the highest group) whereas there was a small to medium difference between the 4049 year olds and the oldest age group (4.06 T units). We were interested in whether the gender by age interaction terms improved overall model fit at F > 25.00 for Models 2, 4, and 6 compared with Models 1, 3, and 5, respectively. An approach to the attribution of aging, period, and cohort effects. Scores were norm referenced to the group of participants aged 30 to 34 within each sample which facilitates an intuitive within sample comparison: scores below 50 indicate trait levels that are lower than the reference group whereas scores above 50 indicate trait levels that are higher than the reference group. The key is that the volunteers answered the questions on at least three occasions, revealing changes over time. 2Extraversion was assessed with the BFI items 1, 6, and 36. This difference was small (2.71 T units). Agreeableness was assessed with items 17, 32, and 37. Can life change you? (2003) did not include adults older than 60 in their study and the strategy of comparing groups of older and younger adults (e.g., McCrae et al., 1999) or older and very old adults (e.g., Weiss et al., 2005) does not permit an evaluation of non-linear associations. Birth cohort change in anxiety and neuroticism, 1952-1993. Moreover, Roberts and colleagues drew on a distinction between two aspects of Extraversion, traits related to independence and dominance (labeled Social Dominance) versus traits related to positive affect, activity level, and sociability (labeled Social Vitality) following Helson and Kwan (2000). Nonetheless, it is possible that different socio-historical factors in Britain and Germany might explain the divergent patterns for Neuroticism. Again, however, some attrition has occurred, which raises questions about the representativeness of the remaining sample. On the one hand, the absolute difference between the youngest group and the oldest group was very small when considered in T units. Despite the emergence of some relatively consistent age differences in the Big Five, there are a couple of limitations of the existing literature that are worth noting. In addition, there did not appear to be consistent evidence that gender or education level moderated cross-sectional age differences. Helson R, Kwan VSY. The participants had all answered questions designed to measure what psychology theory calls the Big Five traits. That is, Extraversion and Openness scores were predicted to be lower in older individuals as compared to younger individuals whereas scores on Agreeableness were predicted to be higher in older individuals compared to younger individuals. It was also the case that older participants were more likely to use interview based formats versus written formats when compared to younger participants. Lckenhoff CE, Terracciano A, Bienvenu OJ, Patriciu NS, Nestadt G, McCrae RR, Eaton WW, Costa PT., Jr. So even though you are less disciplined than you used to be, you might still be more disciplined than many of your peers. In contemporary psychology, much of the interest in this question has fomented around Costa and McCrae's work on personality in adulthood (Helson, Kwan, John, & Jones, 2002; McCrae & Costa, 2003; Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006; Roberts, Wood, & Smith, 2005; Srivastava, John, Gosling, & Potter, 2003; Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, & Costa, 2005). However, this isnt true for all of us. Roughly similar patterns of age differences were observed in the GSOEP. The fact that many of our results replicated previous research perhaps mitigates concerns over this issue. Openness was assessed with items 5, 20, and 30. For example, meta-analytic findings by Twenge (2000) suggest that there are cohort-linked increases in Neuroticism but these findings are inconclusive because they are based on convenience samples (i.e., nonprobability samples; see Donnellan & Trzesniewski, 2008) and these effects have not always replicated (e.g. See text for complete details and justification of the model selection strategy. In: Hampson S, editor. Age changes in personality and their origins: Comment on Roberts, Walton, and Viechtbauer (2006). If they do change, it'll be slow and gradual. The observed age trends were generally consistent across both datasets. This follows in the tradition of the less is more perspective used by McCrae et al. Get the help you need from a therapist near youa FREE service from Psychology Today. Data on average levels of this trait were not available beyond this point in the life span because only 7 studies examined changes in Social Dominance for participants in their 50s and older. Richard E. Lucas, Michigan State University & German Institute for Economic Research. Age differences in the Big Five have also been identified in cross-cultural research. Weiss A, Costa PT, Jr., Karuza J, Duberstein PR, Friedman B, McCrae RR.
The main effects of format type in the d-metric were as follows: Extraversion: d = .03; Agreeableness: d = .20; Conscientiousness: d = .24; Neuroticism: d = .14; Openness: d = .01 (positive values indicated interview formats were higher). Note: BHPS = British Household Panel Study; GSEOP = German Socio-Economic Panel Study. This was the case for both the BHPS and the GSEOP datasets. Both of these values indicate that late adolescents scored more than 7 tenths of a standard deviation lower than individuals in their early 30s, a pattern which is consistent with longitudinal research that has found increases on traits linked with Conscientiousness during the transition from adolescence to adulthood (e.g., Caspi, Roberts, & Shiner, 2005; Donnellan, Conger, & Burzette, 2007). Some are big and bad; some are small and trivial. Gender differences in personality traits across cultures: Robust and surprising findings. Posted January 18, 2021 Participants completed portions of the survey in face-to-face interviews, though the Big Five measures were administered in a self-completion format. 2006).
Likewise, it is useful to bear in mind that there are constraints on the length of assessments in these large panel studies and extensive personality assessments are not always possible. Age-related differences in personality have captured human attention for centuries. Approximately 23% of those 30 years and older did not have any qualifications in the BHPS whereas approximately 14% of those 30 years or older did not complete the equivalent of high school in the GSOEP. Mean differences between the samples might stem from both artifacts (e.g., differences in the response scales and item translations) as well as real cross-cultural differences in personality. However, it is important to be precise about the consequences of measurement error -- measurement error attenuates the ability to find differences which would limit our ability to find systematic age trends. There are currently two dominant explanations for age differences in personality traits -- the intrinsic maturation perspective and the life course perspective. To facilitate an intuitive understanding of the direction and magnitude of the age differences, we identified the age group associated with the maximum score for each trait and the age group associated with the minimum score for each trait. Donnellan MB, Oswald FL, Baird BM, Lucas RE.
(2005) showing that the peak average level of Conscientiousness was near age 70. Nonetheless, the shape of the predicted age curves was quite similar. The more serious final limitation is the cross-sectional design of this study. Following Hu, Stewart-Brown, Twigg, and Weich (2007) we used whether or not participants had educational qualifications in the BHPS for this purpose and we used whether or not participants completed the equivalent of high school in the GSOEP using data from the Cross-National Equivalent File, a dataset constructed from the GSOEP responses to facilitate cross-national comparisons across five panel studies conducted in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, and Australia. Extraversion showed a linear pattern of age differences such that the youngest group scored the highest and the oldest group scored the lowest on this measure. Children and Youth Bullied by Adults Need Strategies to Heal, What Antisocial Personality Disorder Looks Like in Late Life, The 3 Personality Types That Frustrate Relationships Most, The Final Word on Astrology and Personality, What You Need to Know About the Trait of Anankastia, Unempathic Activity Spans the Personality Disorder Spectrum, No, You're Probably Not Turning Into Your Mother. Participants ranged in age from 16 to the mid 80s and completed a 15-item version of the Big Five Inventory (e.g., John & Srivastava, 1999) in either 2005 or 2006. Digman JM. Block J. Coefficients for age were reported from the final selected model within each sample. These effect sizes were roughly similar in the two datasets as seen in Table 3 and the largest overall effect sizes were for Openness. M. Brent Donnellan, Michigan State University. Measuring personality in one minute or less: A 10-item short version of the Big Five Inventory in English and German. We first examined the pattern of age differences in the BHPS. These results seem consistent with the conclusion drawn by Roberts et al. Personality development: Stability and change. It appeared that age differences in Conscientiousness after mid-life were more pronounced for written administrations than for interview-based administrations. As it stands, the important contribution of the present study are that we have presented clear evidence that (a) age differences in the Big Five are detectable in large national datasets; (b) the pattern of age differences are similar in Britain and Germany with the noteworthy exception of Neuroticism; and (c) neither gender nor education seem to consistently moderate cross-sectional age differences across the two datasets. One explanation for any apparent discrepancies between these results for Conscientiousness and the existing literature is that few studies have actually examined this association past age 60 using analytic strategies that are capable of detecting nonlinear effects. Personality change over 40 years of adulthood: Hierarchical linear modeling analyses of two longitudinal samples. Serious diseases like dementia, addiction, or mental illness can change personality and behavior. Table 1 displays average levels of personality traits for the 8 age groups. Helson R, Kwan VSY, John OP, Jones C. The growing evidence for personality change in adulthood. Accordingly, we collapsed interviews and CAPI administrations to contrast with written administrations. (1999) and Srivastava et al. National Library of Medicine (2005) found that observers rated adults (ages 498) higher on measures of Conscientiousness but lower on measures of Extraversion and Openness when contrasted with college students in research that included participants from 50 countries. Roberts BW, Walton KE, Viechtbauer W. Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. The one caveat was that the direction of the gender difference for Openness was reversed across the two datasets. These are displayed in Table 3 and the effect sizes were generally similar in the BHPS and the GSOEP. Psychol Aging. The British Household Panel Study (BHPS) is an on-going panel study of British households that began in 1991. Learn more In the new analysis, across the studies, both extraversion and conscientiousness steadily fell past 60when you may be more free to follow your own whims and comfortable alone. In our favor, the items on these short scales were drawn from a reliable and well-validated parent instrument. Personality and aging.
Age was mean-centered within each dataset before higher order terms were calculated. Like the BHPS, multiple samples were recruited in the years since the study began, and each sample was initially representative of the population from which it was drawn. The second limitation is the relatively low internal consistencies of our measures. Caspi A, Roberts BW, Shiner RL. For instance, 44% of the sample that was used in this analysis was recruited in 2000 or 2002. Reviewed by Abigail Fagan. In general, Terracciano found similar cross-sectional and longitudinal results with the exception that the cross-sectional zenith for Conscientiousness was around age 50 as compared to around age 70 for the longitudinal analyses. Conversely, William James (1892/1985) believed that character was fixed by age 30 so that there would be little reason to expect age-linked personality differences after this point in the life span (see Kelly, 1955).