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Five-Factor Model/Developmental psychology/personality traits/Donnellan/Robins: recent studies on the absolute and differential stability in the Big Five (>Five-Factor Model, >Personality traits) are (Donnellan and Lucas 2008(1); Terracciano, McCrae, Brant and Costa 2005(2); Srivastava, John, Gosling and Potter 2003(3)), meta-analytic reviews (Roberts, Walton and Viechtbauer 2006(4); Roberts and DelVecchio 2000(4a)), and narrative reviews (Helson, Kwan, John and Jones 2002(5); Trzesniewski, Robins, Roberts and Caspi 2004(6)).
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Roberts, Walton and Viechtbauer (2006) (…) divided the Extraversion domain into two facets: Social Dominance (traits related to independence and dominance) and Social Vitality (traits related to positive affect, activity level and sociability). Average levels of Social Vitality tended to be fairly stable across the lifespan, although there was a slight spike upward from adolescence to young adulthood followed by a plateau in the average level until the mid-fifties when there was a slight decline. Social Dominance, on the other hand, showed a more pronounced and consistent absolute increase from adolescence to the early thirties where mean-levels remained consistent until the mid-fifties, after which the lack of studies precluded further analyses. Agreeableness and Conscientiousness showed gradual increases in absolute scores across the lifespan whereas Neuroticism showed gradual decreases. Finally, Openness showed a mean-level increase from adolescence to young adulthood and then mean-levels remained constant until the mid-fifties when it started to show a slight decline in average levels.
There are two dominant explanations for absolute changes in the Big Five.
a) The intrinsic maturational position holds that normative age-related changes in personality are driven by biological processes (e.g., Costa and McCrae 2006)(7) whereas
b) The life course position posits that changes stem from involvement in particular social roles and the life experiences that accompany them (e.g., Roberts, Wood and Smith 2005)(8). (RobertsVsCosta, RobertsVsMcCrae).
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Donnellan/Robins: Thesis: we believe there are compelling findings linking experiences within the important domains of adult life to personality changes. For example, Robins, Caspi and Moffitt (2002)(9) found that individuals who were involved in distressed romantic relationships in their early twenties demonstrated increases in Neuroticism compared to those in relatively satisfying relationships. Likewise, Roberts, Caspi and Moffitt (2003)(10) found that work experiences were tied to a variety of changes in basic personality traits, including the finding that greater autonomy at work was tied to increases in the Social Dominance aspects of Extraversion.
Elder and Shanahan: Thesis: that ‘the interplay of social context and the organism [is] the formative process, making people who they are’ (Elder and Shanahan 2006, p. 670)(11).
Absolute Changes: Research on absolute changes in the Big Five challenges the assumption that adolescence is the critical period of maturation in personality (Roberts, Walton and Viechtbauer 2006)(4). Instead, Roberts et al. found that most of the action in terms of mean-level changes in personality occurs during young adulthood.
Differential stability: A meta-analysis involving test-retest correlations from 152 longitudinal studies showed that the Big Five become increasingly stable across the lifespan (Roberts and DelVecchio 2000)(12).
1. Donnellan, M. B. and Lucas, R. E. 2008. Age differences in the Big Five across the life span: evidence from two nationally representative samples, Psychology and Aging 23: 558–66
2. Terracciano, A., McCrae, R. R., Brant, L. J. and Costa, P. T., Jr 2005. Hierarchical linear modeling analyses of the NEO-PI-R scales in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, Psychology and Aging 20: 493–506
3. Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D. and Potter, J. 2003. Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: set like plaster or persistent change?, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84: 1041–53
4. Roberts, B.W., Walton, K.E. and Viechtbauer, W. 2006. Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: a meta-analysis of longitudinal studies, Psychological Bulletin 132: 1–25
5. Helson, R., Kwan, V. S. Y., John, O. P. and Jones, C. 2002. The growing evidence for personality change in adulthood: findings from research with personality inventories, Journal of Research in Personality 36: 287–306
6. Trzesniewski, K. H., Robins, R. W., Roberts, B. W. and Caspi, A. 2004. Personality and self-esteem development across the life span, in P. T. Costa, Jr and I. C. Siegler (eds), Recent advances in psychology and aging, pp. 163–85. Amsterdam: Elsevier
7. Costa, P. T., Jr and McCrae, R. R. 2006. Age changes in personality and their origins: comment on Roberts, Walton, and Viechtbauer (2006), Psychological Bulletin 132: 26–8
8. Roberts, B. W., Wood, D. and Smith, J. L. 2005. Evaluating the five factor theory and social investment perspective on personality trait development, Journal of Research in Personality 39: 166–84
9. Robins, R. W., Caspi, A. and Moffitt, T. E. 2002. It’s not just who you’re with, it’s who you are: personality and relationship experiences across multiple relationships, Journal of Personality 70: 925–64
10. Roberts, B. W., Caspi, A. and Moffitt, T. E. 2003. Work experiences and personality development in young adulthood, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 84: 582–93
11. Elder, G. H., Jr and Shanahan, M. J. 2006. The life course and human development, in W. Damon and R. Lerner (Series eds.), Handbook of Child Psychology, vol. I, Theoretical Models of Human Development, 6th edn, pp. 665–715. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley
12. Roberts, B. W. and DelVecchio, W. F. 2000. The rank-order consistency of personality from childhood to old age: a quantitative review of longitudinal studies, Psychological Bulletin 126: 3–25
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_____________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.
Philip J. Corr
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009