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Psy 2p25 - Does Personality Undergo Much Change After Age 30?

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Does personality undergo much change after age 30?

Vuitton Bain


Brock University

Psychology 2P25

Professor Ashton

March 9th, 2008

Word Count: 1,970

Over the last few decades, several studies were carried out to investigate whether or not personality undergoes a drastic change after the age of 30. During these investigations, many personality psychologists did studies to find out if any of their theories of changes in personality took place, or if there was little to no substantial change. Since personality is such an umbrella term, certain aspects of personality underwent investigation to test whether or not persons over the age of 30 displayed noticeable change in each of the Big Five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. There was also a study conducted that chose to analyze personality changes of persons in the work place between the ages of 15 and 25, 25 and 45, and 45 and 65. There are also some arguments that suggest that personality change during adulthood may be the cause of genetics. And then there are those who suggest that there is little or no substantial change in personality over the age of 30. Needless to say that after summarizing, evaluating, and analyzing countless articles and studies, it is with extreme disappointment that I say that after all of these scores of "research" and "investigation", that no one with a PhD or a grad student in pursuit thereof has come to a definitive conclusion as to whether or not personality is amended after the age of 30. It is pretty safe to say that this study has been going on longer than finding the cure for AIDS. Nevertheless, I give all persons conducting this study the benefit of the doubt. AIDS was discovered a little over 20 years succeeding the initiation of this particular study.

One study in particular (Cattell, 1967, p. 280) measured the qualities of surgency, which include enthusiasm, impulsiveness, high spirits, and loquacity and determined that these qualities, under the aspect of Extraversion deteriorate with age. This study also stated that typically, humans become more subdued, prudent, cautious and less inclined to socialize with age which could be because of reduced energy, increased inhibition, or both. It is common knowledge that the sight of someone over the age of 30 doing keg stands at backyard barbeques every weekend would be exceedingly amusing, though highly unlikely, unless this person was going through a severe mid-life crisis and used this release of inhibition as his cry for both attention and help. This study also suggests that the decreasing shyness of parmia - a word undefined by the omnipresence that is Wikipedia - which refers to the parasympathetic immunity to threat, is due to an increasingly extensive awareness of the people in the subjects' environments. In other words, the subjects of this study may have once been misconstrued as misanthropes because they chose not to socialize with persons around them, when in fact, the persons around them possessed less than thrilling qualities. Hence, the subjects chose to leave people like these behind. Upon completion of this study, it was found that changes in personality took place after the age of 30, but it was made clear that the study did not and could not arrive to a definite conclusion of as to whether or not personality changes after a certain age.

There was another study conducted (Wrightsman, 1988, p. 153) that suggested that adults undergo changes in personality after starting the part of their lives in which they enter the work force. This study puts forward the notion that the kind of work one does defines who they are as a person. They studied three different age groups and classified each of those groups under four stages. The first stage of personality development in adulthood consisted of subjects between the ages of 15 and 25. In this stage, subjects were found to be working in an exploratory or trial-and-error state. In essence, researchers state that subjects in this particular stage are sort of "testing the waters" because it is in this stage that persons in the work force usually change jobs more frequently than persons in other stages of personality development. The second stage of personality development in adulthood among subjects in the work environment is referred to as the establishment stage. The subjects in this group found themselves in a much settled state than the subjects of the first stage, i.e. less inclined to change jobs frequently. During this phase, the individual expects that working harder will offer some type of recognition or potential promotion. Also, during this phase, the worker may decide to seek additional training to expedite the chances of him receiving the promotion. A sense of stability is established during this stage. During the third stage, referred to as the maintenance stage including persons between the ages of 45-55, employees experience a sense of occupational continuity, or in other words, performing the same tasks over and over and day after day. The employee feels complacent and a sense of being fired because of unsuccessful attempts to arriving at the expected level of accomplishment. This could be due to advances in technology with which the employee at this stage may not be accustomed to. And the final stage, the deceleration stage consisting of persons between the ages of 55 and 65, the employee prepares himself for retirement and experiences critical discontinuity in both anything work related and the idea that the end of his life is drawing nigh. This study shows a difference in levels of Openness in the respect that someone who is in the second phase is more likely to make himself available to new ideas and preparation for a new position than someone in the third phase who is solely concerned about maintaining the job he now has.

Then there are arguments that say that genetics play a role in personality change during adulthood or present themselves at different times of life (Helson, Kwan, John, Jones, 2002; Sturaro, Denissen, van Aken, Asendorf et al., 2008). It was claimed that personality traits are amply inherited and can be seen in mean-level disparities that are age-related (Allemand, Zimprich, Hertzog et al., 2007). This study also states that personality adjusts itself during the process of adaptation, especially when placed in a new environment, and



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