STUDY ALERT: Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years

by Scott Barry Kaufman, February 9, 2017 in Blog, Study Alerts

Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years

Mathew A. Harris, Caroline E. Brett, Wendy Johnson, Ian J. Deary 

There is evidence for differential stability in personality trait differences, even over decades. The authors used data from a sample of the Scottish Mental Survey, 1947 to study personality stability from childhood to older age. The 6-Day Sample (N 1,208) were rated on six personality characteristics by their teachers at around age 14. In 2012, the authors traced as many of these participants as possible and invited them to take part in a follow-up study. Those who agreed (N 174) completed a questionnaire booklet at age 77 years, which included rating themselves and asking someone who knew them well to rate them on the same 6 characteristics on which they were rated in adolescence. Each set of 6 ratings was reduced to the same single underlying factor, denoted dependability, a trait comparable to conscientiousness. Participants’ and others’ older-age personality characteristic ratings were moderately correlated with each other, and with other measures of personality and wellbeing, but correlations suggested no significant stability of any of the 6 characteristics or their underlying factor, dependability, over the 63-year interval. However, a more complex model, controlling rater effects, indicated significant 63-year stability of 1 personality characteristic, Stability of Moods, and near-significant stability of another, Conscientiousness. Results suggest that lifelong differential stability of personality is generally quite low, but that some aspects of personality in older age may relate to personality in childhood.

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