My mind, my thoughts, my words

Does personality change as we age? (P3)

First, there are different approaches of studying ‘temperament’ in children:

1) Behavioural Approach

Thomas and Chen proposed that children differ in 9 ways (activity, rhythm, withdrawal, adaptability, responsiveness, raction, mood, distraction) which can be merged to 3 main types: difficult, easy, slow to warm up

2) Criterial Approach

Certain qualities that are a) present in related mammals b) present from birth until the present and c) adaptive and necessary for survival (= genes) have been identified in kids. These translate to emotionality (fear), activity (fight), sociality (help) (and can also be mapped to the types described by the behavioural approach; slow to warm up, difficult, easy)

3) Psychobiological Approach

Many kids were studied with a temperament scale, factor analysis found that they differed in reactivity. Behaviour was linked to neurobiology. They looked at kid’s responses to novel situations and their control. 3 factors were found: surgency (i.e. outgoing or extroverted, maps on to E, A), negative affectivity (emotionality, maps on to N), effortful control (control emotions and hold back, whether a kid is quiet and shy, maps on to C).

4) Biological Approach

Kagan found two types of children: uninhibited, unreactive (extroverted, okay in novel situations), and inhibited, reactive (introverted, melancholic, fears new stimulus). This reflects the distinction between previous mentioned ‘easy’ and ‘difficult’ kids.

personality changeConsistency and Change of Temperament

A longitudinal Dunedin Study found the following

  • Kids at 3 were: – well adapted, – undercontrolled (restless), or – inhibited (fearful).
  • At 11, then undercontrolled kids had more external problems, whereas then inhibited children had more internalised problems, worried and cried a lot.
  • At 18, children had become well-adjusted, under-controlled (careless) or inhibited (cautious). Under-controlled teens were lower on C and more likely to drop/be kicked out of school and struggle with unemployment later in life. Inhibited teens were lower on E and O and more likely to develop mood disorders.

This study shows that traits are somewhat stable.

Why are traits stable?

There are two theories for the stability of traits: a) genes, b) environment (people select reinforcing environments, others behave in ways that perpetuate one’s traits)

  • The population stability over 7 years for the Big Five was found to be as follows: O = .51, C = .51, E = .54, A = .54, N = .5
  • Correlational studies found these stabilities for traits in different age groups: kids = .3, college aged = .54, 30 years = .64, 50-70 years = .74
  • In general, younger people score higher on OEN and older people on AC.

Personality can change but social factors help with stabilising it. Not age changes personality, but the environment does (when younger, environments tend to change more than when older and settled down). Some changes in personality may be due to major life events (e.g. getting married, having a child, etc).

In summary

  • temperament can predict later behaviour
  • individual differences in stability during development
  • personality is more stable over short time and in adulthood
  • personality development is largely biologically determined, there’s trait consistency but also some change (traits are stable but the facette-level changes)

One comment on “Does personality change as we age? (P3)

  1. Pingback: Psychology (undergrad level) | My mind, my thoughts, my words

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This entry was posted on 16/04/2013 by in Psychological Issues and tagged , , , , , , , .
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