Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 198
Personality/Developmental Psychology/Donnellan/Robins: (see also >Personality traits/Developmental psychology, >Five-Factor Model/Developmental psychology).
It appears that traits become increasingly stable after age thirty, but never reach the point where change no longer occurs; that is, no matter how old an individual is, it is possible that his/her standing relative to others can fluctuate with the passage of time. Secondly, they counter the claim that personality shows minimal, if any, stability during childhood (e.g., Lewis 2001(1)). Thus, there is accumulating evidence that individual differences in children are not ephemeral qualities but instead show an appreciable degree of stability; however, it also the case that differential stability seems to increase across the lifespan for all of the Big Five traits.
Corr I 199
One central message conveyed by contemporary work in personality development is that stability and change result from complicated transactions between persons and situations. Therefore strong forms of both situationalism (the view that behaviour is determined largely by factors external to the person) and dispositionalism (the view that behaviour is determined largely by factors internal to the person) are difficult to reconcile from a developmental perspective, in which personality characteristics and situations are seen as increasingly interdependent over time. ((s) Cf. >Situations/psychological theories, >Dispositions/Allport, >Dispositions/Asendorpf.).
Situations: First, personality traits ‘draw out’ or elicit particular responses from the social environment which can promote personality continuity. Secondly, personality traits shape how people construe social situations. Thirdly, individuals play an active role in selecting and manipulating their own social experiences. As a consequence, it seems as if many life experiences accentuate and reinforce the personality characteristics that were partially responsible for the particular environmental elicitations in the first place. This is known as the corresponsive principle of personality development (Caspi, Roberts and Shiner 2005(2); Roberts Wood and Caspi 2008(3))
“Turning points”/Personality changes: changes in contingencies are one reason why scholars have suggested that behaviour changes are associated with ‘turning points’ in the life course (e.g., Laub and Sampson 2003)(4). That is, events such as marriage, parenthood or military service launch individuals into more restricted and tightly monitored environments that have new and salient reward and punishment structures.


1. Lewis, M. 2001. Issues in the study of personality development, Psychological Inquiry 12: 67–83
2. Caspi, A., Roberts, B. W. and Shiner, R. L. 2005. Personality development: stability and change, Annual Review of Psychology 56: 453–84
3. Roberts, B. W., Wood, D. and Caspi, A. 2008. The development of personality traits in adulthood, in O. P. John, R. W. Robins and L. A. Pervin (eds.), Handbook of personality: theory and research, (3rd edn, pp. 375–98). New York: Guilford Press
4. Laub, J. H. and Sampson, R. J. 2003. Shared beginnings, divergent lives: delinquent boys to age 70. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press


M. Brent Donnellan and Richard W. Robins, “The development of personality across the lifespan”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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