Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Copyright 2003 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.

2003, Vol. 84, No. 5, 1041–1053 0022-3514/03/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.5.1041

Development of Personality in Early and Middle Adulthood:
Set Like Plaster or Persistent Change?

Sanjay Srivastava and Oliver P. John Samuel D. Gosling
University of California, Berkeley University of Texas at Austin

Jeff Potter
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Different theories make different predictions about how mean levels of personality traits change in
adulthood. The biological view of the Five-factor theory proposes the plaster hypothesis: All personality
traits stop changing by age 30. In contrast, contextualist perspectives propose that changes should be
more varied and should persist throughout adulthood. This study compared these perspectives in a large
(N ⫽ 132,515) sample of adults aged 21– 60 who completed a Big Five personality measure on the
Internet. Conscientiousness and Agreeableness increased throughout early and middle adulthood at
varying rates; Neuroticism declined among women but did not change among men. The variety in
patterns of change suggests that the Big Five traits are complex phenomena subject to a variety of
developmental influences.

How does personality change during adulthood? Psychologists In this study, we set out to understand how personality traits
since William James (1890/1950) have struggled with the question change in early and middle adulthood by examining the Big Five
of whether various aspects of personality, including personality personality trait dimensions (Goldberg, 1992; John & Srivastava,
traits, change in meaningful ways during adulthood, and when 1999; McCrae & Costa, 1999). We used a cross-sectional design to
those changes take place. Contemporary hypotheses about the study how mean levels of personality traits differ by age and
development of personality traits stem from theories about what whether those age effects are moderated by gender.1 We were
personality traits are. McCrae and Costa’s (1996) five-factor the- particularly interested in examining whether change on all of the
ory asserts that personality traits arise exclusively from biological Big Five dimensions stops or slows in middle adulthood, as
causes (i.e., genes) and that they reach full maturity in early predicted by the five-factor theory, or whether change is ongoing
adulthood; thus, this theory predicts little or no change on any and differentiated, as predicted by contextualist theories.
personality dimension after early adulthood. By contrast, contex-
tualist perspectives argue that traits are multiply determined, and
Past Research on Mean-Level Change on the Big Five
that one important influence on traits is the individual’s social
During Adulthood
environment (Haan, Millsap, & Hartka, 1986; Helson, Jones, &
Kwan, 2002). Contextualist perspectives thus predict plasticity: A recent literature review summarized previous studies of
Change is complex and ongoing, owing to the many factors that mean-level change on the Big Five (Roberts, Robins, Caspi, &
can affect personality traits. Trzesniewski, in press). In this review, Roberts et al. (in press)
rationally categorized a wide variety of personality measures into
the Big Five domains and summarized patterns of mean-level
Sanjay Srivastava and Oliver P. John, Institute of Personality and Social
change that were consistent across studies. They concluded that, in
Research, University of California, Berkeley; Samuel D. Gosling, Depart- general, Conscientiousness and Agreeableness tend to go up dur-
ment of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin; Jeff Potter, Cambridge, ing adulthood, Neuroticism tends to go down, Openness shows
Massachusetts. mixed results across studies, and Extraversion shows no general
Sanjay Srivastava was supported by a National Science Foundation pattern of change at the factor level. This basic pattern of findings
Graduate Research Fellowship; Sanjay Srivastava and Oliver P. John
were supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH-43948.
We thank Ravenna Helson, Robert R. McCrae, and Frank J. Sulloway for “Change” is a broad concept that can be defined in a variety of other
their helpful comments on drafts of this article. We also thank Frank J. ways, such as rank-order change (whether people change in their ordering
Sulloway for developing the algorithm to remove repeat responders from relative to age mates) and individual differences in change (whether
the database. different individuals change at different rates over time). These other ways
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Sanjay of examining change address somewhat different substantive issues, and it
Srivastava, who is now at the Department of Psychology, Stanford Uni- is possible to obtain conceptually compatible but different results with the
versity, Jordan Hall, Building 420, Stanford, California 94305. E-mail: different approaches. (For a fuller discussion of different kinds of change, see Caspi & Roberts, 1999.)


their personalities. the authors of the five-factor theory have indicated that women’s movement in the 1960s and 1970s. differ in the exact timing of when they take on work responsibil- We thus set out to test the plaster hypothesis by directly com. and Openness to Experience. 2000) as well as those who favor a strictly is like plaster that has not fully hardened but is becoming more and biological interpretation of traits (e. We call the original Which personality factors are related to these role domains? formulation (as described in Costa & McCrae. Neugarten. These three role domains correspond groups. we refer to important role in selecting and shaping their environments. 1990. Social roles. 1997. though in old age personality could change influences on basic personality traits (Haan et al. Wink & Helson. The predicted stability is expected to last the life course. In the trans- William James (1890/1950).’s (in press) conclusion seems to repre. 1994) the hard Conscientiousness has been linked to working. being disrupted by cognitive decline. McCrae et al. and this should hold for each of the Big Five & Judge. and nurture children. these environments in turn affect their personalities. 2000). and social environments change during McCrae et al. 2002.g. Just as individual differences in personality lead true: “From age 18 to age 30 there are declines in Neuroticism. 1993). as the plaster 29-year-olds and consolidating an identity. and Postulate 1c. Thus. contextual theories are necessarily more Set Like Plaster: The Five-Factor Theory varied than the five-factor theory. and parenting children in generativity. This may be in part because undergo changes in early and middle adulthood are work. Roberts. in its general form. Costa. Mitchell.g. 2000.. more viscous: Personality traits change more slowly after age 30 Although Roberts et al. AND POTTER has been reported in specific studies by researchers who argue that dimensions. after age 30 the same trends are people for normative adult roles. 1984. directly tested whether mean levels of the Big Five traits do in fact Probably the three most important social role domains that change less after age 30 than before.’s (1999. no study that we are aware of has tions—that is. and increases in Agree. For example. p. 1994. rather than treating age as a continuous variable. again. We call the more recent “minor revision” (McCrae & personality traits are affected by context (e. More specifically. Hogan. McCrae & Costa. 144) and are exclusively biological in origin. Helson. 1999. normative age ranges for these roles. Research on transactional person– environment processes gen- see also Roberts et al. 1998). Vandewater & Stewart. form committed partnerships.. work performance. than before age 30. Although individuals report the amount of change within those critical age ranges. Barrick. as studies have shown changes in mean levels ness and ambition (Agronick & Duncan. 1994. because here personality Helson & Kwan. there is still con- siderable disagreement: The biological and contextual perspectives Contextual Perspectives on Personality and Change disagree sharply over the timing of changes within the life course and over whether there are any differences between men’s and In contrast to the plaster hypothesis. 1993). which in turn can support further found.. McCrae et al. change. led to subsequent increases in Open- Costa. different changes for men and women (Helson. 1999) the soft plaster hypothesis.. traits are said to reach maturity by age 30 (e. 1991. 1999. of personality traits after age 30 (e. different changes in personality during different life periods and. thus. A commonly used 1996). 1999.. thereafter Personality Changes as Person–Environment they are stable in cognitively intact individuals” (McCrae & Costa. Helson et al. transitions experienced by large numbers of people. addressed by Postulate 1c of the five-factor theory: “Traits develop through childhood and reach mature form in adulthood. McCrae et al. contextual theories predict women’s development. p. and parenting. Often these In its original formulation. 183). individuals toward different experiences that subsequently affect Extraversion. but the transac- stemming from intrinsic biological maturation rather than social tional perspective can be applied to understanding mean-level influences. in lated from the direct effects of the environment” (McCrae & Costa. p.. A number of researchers have focused on the transactions metaphor for this pattern of change. 1999. some formulations. but viewed together they predict According to the five-factor theory. They interpret such changes as erally addresses individual differences in change. personality traits are “insu. individuals are seen as active agents who play an plaster” by age 30 (see Costa & McCrae. but the studies do not macy. normative changes in personality help prepare ableness and Conscientiousness. sent some common ground among researchers. 1996). 1994). marriage/partnership in the task of inti- means for groups of 30. p. McCrae & Costa. & Moane. 2001. 145). although the rate of change seems to decrease” (McCrae et personality changes.g. marriage past research on adult development has compared discrete age or partnership. 1998). For to the major tasks of adulthood identified by Erikson’s (1950) example. we specified two versions of it. life events. 145). JOHN.. ities. 1997. plaster hypothesis: Age effects after age 30 should not be reliably and work commitments (Barrick & Mount.. 2000). and they still regard the plaster hypothesis as basically change as well. 2000. 1986. level change in personality would focus on normative role transi- Despite this conclusion. and . in press). Transactions 1999. based on a passage from between individuals’ personalities and experiences. is that personality becomes “set like actional view.1042 SRIVASTAVA. in turn. In trans.. 2000) two recent cross-sectional theory of adult development: work is involved in the adult task of studies reported means for groups of 22. Mount.g. a transactional perspective on mean- al.. personality traits like Open- (Costa & McCrae. More ness and ambition predicted women’s level of involvement in the recently. and such factors have been suggested as important throughout middle age. Costa & McCrae. 1986. GOSLING. Change is Pals..g. different from zero. the plaster hypothesis stated that transactions serve to amplify or strengthen earlier dispositions changes in Big Five traits after age 30 were nonexistent or trivial (Caspi & Moffitt. 1972). there are paring rates of change during the relevant age periods. By their very definition. 1999. that personality changes throughout adulthood (e. involvement in the the plaster hypothesis is “ripe for minor revision” (McCrae & women’s movement. & Solomon.. Haan et al.. suggesting that they may be lating the plaster hypothesis into formal predictions about rates of linked to typical mean-level personality changes.

S. Feingold (1994) compared the size of the gender In summary.S. Change on the Big Five is complex and multiply determined. Thus. a variety of however. partnership. and more interested in re. The nature of and childrearing take place throughout early and middle adult. Design of the Present Study entiousness and Agreeableness. & Olmedo. Thus. viewed together. Similarly. to adult personality development. and about different age suggest possible changes in personality traits after age 30. Contextual perspectives. they are less and less interested in McClelland & Judd. 1997. we used regression models with curvilinear and interactive effects Few studies of both men and women have directly compared to test for different changes during different life periods and for changes in adult men’s and women’s Neuroticism..515 hood less dependent and more competent than women but then participants (54% female) between the ages of 21 and 60. whereas men should not change much. Census Bu. Agreeableness should be most closely linked to for men and women. they are quite diverse (Lebo. Furthermore. estimates would be unreliable in small samples. 1997). there may be develop. 1999) predicts that as adults progress into power than tests of main effects and linear trends (Chaplin. but offers lationships with close others. and women may change in different ways. Personality and demographic data were available for 132. PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT IN ADULTHOOD 1043 to commitment to a stable partner relationship (Neyer & Asen. Wide Web. & Charles. the mean age of remained relatively stable on these traits. Yet. Moreno-Rosset. First. differently during particular life periods. to map out the patterning of change in more detail. 2000. middle and later adulthood. and men and begin advancing in their careers thereafter (U. 2 In a meta-analysis. remains a fact of life well beyond early adulthood. most people enter new jobs in their early 20s resulting in curvilinear age effects (Helson et al. 1997. 2002). primarily in women. 1997. a longitudinal study by Wink and Participants were part of the Gosling–Potter Internet Personality Project. probably at least as much as more traditional samples of Stewart & Ostrove. and John & Srivastava. 1987. Our interest in testing hypotheses about different age effects Aside from these normative social role changes. 1997). Census Bureau. difference between studies that used high school. Rather. Mar. in contrast. 2000. we expected that our participants was 31 years (SD ⫽ 9 years).S. tests cism with age. levels of Neuroticism than boys (del Barrio. making it possible to Gender Roles and Personality Change reach large numbers of participants. with regression models that would test for such differences. parenting and similar generativity-relevant tasks. 1997. a personality study of volunteers recruited and assessed over the World dent and more competent with age. of interactions and curvilinear effects have considerably less Isaacowitz. studies of subsequent development large to use new analyses well-suited to this question. we used an Internet sample to examine two issues central Lopez-Martinez. possibly in different ways dorpf. implying increasing Agreeableness. we needed a large sample to gathering new information and in meeting new people. a gender-specific development. People effects for men and women. there should be important changes in Consci. suggesting decreasing levels of Neuroticism age 30. If the timing of personality changes is linked to the timing of role transitions. and these changes should be ap- parent well into the 30s. we decided to examine the Big Five 2000b). raised the issue of statistical power. 1994). women decreased in Neuroticism with age whereas men did not change (Viken. Because all adult samples were grouped into a single category. 1993). marry in their mid to late 20s (U. Second. & Participants Koskenvuo. contextual perspectives diverge from the five. large study of Finnish twins aged 18 –59 followed members of multiple cohorts longitudinally and found that in both longitudinal Method and cross-sectional analyses. and these this could translate into persistently declining levels of Neuroti. implying test our hypotheses. whether personality does indeed become “set like plaster” after Helson et al. crease in Neuroticism during adulthood. in a sample sufficiently galit & Eysenck. 2000a). Socioemotional selectivity theory (Carstensen. collection that has been available for only a few years. principle—no change—starting at age 30. Lenhart. other theories during different developmental periods. 1998). sample). access to large numbers of willing participants: the Internet. Rose. get better at emotion regulation as they grow older and thus tend Testing the hard and soft versions of the plaster hypothesis re- to have fewer negative emotional experiences (Gross et al. All selected participants the gender difference in Neuroticism found in late adolescence and lived in the United States or Canada (the latter represented 9. men started adult. . quires obtaining slope estimates for limited age ranges..2 However. this analysis was not sensitive to any changes in the gender gap developmental processes may affect each Big Five dimension after the age of 21.. because of gender-based social experiences (Helson et al. Gender interactions. This concern led us to a medium for data declining Openness and Extraversion. and adult sam- factor theory’s assertion that all of the Big Five follow just one ples. Helson (1993) found that women became less emotionally depen. although they are not perfectly representative of the Big Five dimensions? Women and men may develop differently general population. Role transitions in work. Research on Internet users Do men and women differ in their development on any of the indicates that. In short. resulting in Age ⫻ reau. 1999). as exemplified in offer a metatheoretical counterpoint to the five-factor theory: nurturing and prosocial behaviors (Graziano & Eisenberg. Adolescent girls show higher cruited through newspaper advertisements or word of mouth. Kaprio. 2000c). and raise children in their 30s (U. Thus. change may be different during different periods of adulthood. The Web revolution of the mid-1990s resulted in the massive intercon- nection of American society to the Internet.2% of the college-age samples would narrow with age: women should de.. Census Bureau. 1990). hood: Normatively. In particular. 2001). Gullone & Moore. 2000). college. we directly during middle adulthood indicate that women’s self-confidence tested the hard and soft versions of the plaster hypothesis to see and coping skills improve with age (Helson & Moane. undergraduate psychology students or research volunteers re- mental differences on Neuroticism.

First. to Your Personality” and was said to measure “what many personality psychologists consider to be the fundamental dimensions of personality.0.” 23. we scored the BFI in an intuitive metric known as Means and standard deviations broken down by age.79) for Agreeableness. scale intercorrelations. To measure the Big Five personality and gender interaction terms. BFI items are rated on a 5-point hypothesis asserts that age effects after age 30 should be weaker scale ranging from 1 ⫽ disagree strongly to 5 ⫽ agree strongly (the full BFI is reprinted in John & Srivastava.79 (. Aiken.8.81) for Open- as well as several games. we also computed the scale reliabilities separately by age and used two distinct Web pages. such as e-mails or unsolicited links on then conducted factor analyses within each age group. & Kentle. the alpha reliabilities were very similar to earlier data (see John & Srivastava. 3 For this report. we is common on the Internet. SD ⫽ 16. and at one point was selected as a Yahoo! “Pick of the Week”. in POMP units. as well as considerable Hypothesis convergent and discriminant validity with longer Big Five measures (Benet-Martinez & John.16 as compared with . SD ⫽ 21. SD ⫽ 22. gender.33. possible. so this were as follows: Conscientiousness M ⫽ 63. plaster) and (b) comparing age slopes after age 30 to those before age 30 (soft plaster).com) that contains personality measures . ␣ ⫽ . controlling for BFI on the Internet.82 in the Internet sample (compared with . 1999).” 7. we used the BFI (John. as compared with . tests.718 (25%) “upper-middle class. The scale intercorrelations were also purposes. If there were problems with administering the from a broad range of backgrounds. considerably lower.9. widely through informal channels.024 (54%) “middle class.578 M ⫽ 66.5.82) for Conscientiousness. and the highest correlation between any two listed on portal sites. we Furthermore. page are available by request from the authors. Extraversion M ⫽ 54. factors in each analysis.710 & West. John & Srivastava. 405 (1%) reported “poor.99. We also estimated these models dimensions. Donahue. the soft plaster Paulhus. 1998. . quizzes. 3.” This social-class distribution (19% below age groups. We re-ran all of the regression analyses using dummy coded scale scores with idiosyncratic ranges. Cohen et al.86 (. and Web percentage of maximum possible (POMP) scores (P. One was entitled “All About You—A Guide found that they did not vary with age. A POMP score is a linear transformation of any raw metric (4.414 (2%) were into a 0 to 100 scale. We consider later in the Results section how these two Web pages differed. First.” 10. Sample means and standard deviations. multiplying by 25. and Another concern was whether the BFI structure was invariant across individuals who had previously visited the Web site and signed up for its ages.4.” Reliabilities. such as Yahoo!. To attract as broad and diverse a sample as invariance and the unusually low sampling error in such a large sample. (1999) rec- and 3.outofservice. We then computed factor congruence coefficients between age automated. and structural invariance across and 817 (2%) “upper class.5%) respondents were Asian. GOSLING. Agreeableness information was available for a subset of the sample. these controls had very little impact on the findings. .84 (. free Web site (www.094 (2%) were Middle Eastern. Potential respondents similar to previous research. such as many random or otherwise unreliable re- social class did not substantially change any of the effects reported in this sponses. Cohen. that mailing list received notification when the Big Five survey was added.004 (86%) were White. under their directories of personality scales was only .6. 1991). making it ideal for a large survey where we could expect respondents to devote a limited amount of time. Second. Openness participants. we trans- variables for ethnicity.1044 SRIVASTAVA. In the case of the BFI.0. To test for this. JOHN.84) for Neuroticism. 1999): The data presented here come from a noncommercial. if the pattern of factor loadings was different at different ages. advertisement. and questionnaires for entertainment ness. Cohen.20 reported by with major search engines under key words like personality tests. where 0 represents the minimum possible score and Latino. the coefficient alpha reliabilities of the five scales should be article. 100 represents the maximum possible score.88) for Extraversion. we tested models of the data that allow curvilinear age effects and gender differences in the magni- Measurement tude of age effects. 4% of respondents declined to report their ommended POMP scores as a universal metric that is more intuitive than ethnicity. The 44 BFI separately for the two Web page formats. for the purpose across age groups was . it was John and Srivastava (1999). Of these 42. to see whether effects items consist of short and easy-to-understand phrases to assess the proto. Rammstedt & John. SD ⫽ 18. Our results showed that neither was the case. and to examine the effects of different recruiting approaches. Is Personality Fixed After Age 30? Testing the Plaster tency.80 (. The BFI scales have shown substantial internal consis. typical traits defining each of the Big Five dimensions. we both versions were the same and reminded participants to answer honestly examined the two versions of the plaster hypothesis by (a) testing to get accurate feedback.3 class. attempts to self-enhance for the sake of receiving positive feedback should result in higher intercorrelations among Procedure the scales. We added a question about social class during the survey period. the average congruence coefficient for the same conceptual factor motivation to receive individualized personality feedback. 27% above) suggests that we were including participants terest in this Internet sample. and clear factor structure.614 (18%) “working M ⫽ 74.and peer-reports (John & effects on any Big Five dimension after age 30. the mean of the absolute discriminant corre- could find out about the site through several channels: it could be found lations among the BFI scales was . using regressions with polynomial age effects The Big Five Inventory (BFI). and was publicized in a number of ways. AND POTTER Respondents reported their ethnicity as one of six categories: 5.6.29. 2003). retest reliability.4. Neuroticism M ⫽ 51. Reliabilities and scale intercorrelations were of special in- middle class.” with Results feedback provided about “the characters from Star Wars with whom you How did scores on the Big Five personality dimensions change are most similar (based on the Big Five personality test).893 (3%) were Black. P. and . 2. As would complicate the task of comparing scale scores. 1999). 2003. news of the site apparently also spread quite split the sample into four age groups spanning a range of 10 years each. reflecting both a high degree of structural of self-insight or entertainment. extracting five other Web sites. thus. In contrast. formed the 1-to-5 BFI metric into POMP scores by subtracting 1 and and we report the analyses without these control variables. 110.569 (3%) indicated Other. both in who they attracted and in the substantive whether age slopes after age 30 are different from zero (hard findings.3. it is possible to recruit participants by appealing to their groups.” Instructions for with age? We report our analyses in two sections. The Big Five factors clearly replicated within each Computerized administration means that data entry and scoring are age group. The scales have The hard plaster hypothesis asserts that there should be no age also shown substantial agreement between self. As with ethnicity.” The second Web page was entitled “Find Your Star Wars Twin. SD ⫽ 18. 1999). generalized across recruitment strategies. . 2.

The age 21–30 Conscientiousness. the soft plaster hypothesis predicts a direc- tional effect.0*** 0.09 (⫾.001.31.14 (⫾.840. n ⫽ 40.5 Change is of similar strength but in opposite directions before and after age 30 Men . such slopes indicate how to 60 for both men and women.06) .2*** 4.4*** ⫺3. hypothesis. the earlier plaster hypothesis.08) ⫺. contradicting the hard plaster much the predicted Big Five score increased or decreased per year.4 zero.03) ⫺3.4 ⫺0. ** p ⬍ .2 Change is similar before and after age 30 Men ⫺. The test for the hard plaster hypothesis is the standard t hypothesis.4*** Change increases after age 30 Men ⫺. in Conscientiousness after age 30 than before age 30.20 (⫾.05) ⫺. even a very weak tiousness. that is.6*** Change increases after age 30 Neuroticism Women ⫺. and slope.0* Change slows but does not stop after age 30 Note. Moreover. this pattern indicates that people changed less change after age 30 would lead to a rejection of the hard plaster hypothesis. Numbers in parentheses are 95% confidence intervals.03) ⫺14.10 (⫾.04) 17.15 (⫾. * p ⬍ .027.28 (⫾. Cohen & Cohen.01.03) 18. Because of the large sample size. a null that the slopes from age 31 to 60 should not be as strong as the hypothesis.46 (⫾. than age effects before age 30. but they All slopes were computed separately for men and for women. the slope for women was B ⫽ .03 (⫾. For both men and women. Neuroticism yielded different results for men and for women. As can be seen in Table 1.04 (⫾.25 (⫾. that is. For men.05. Sample size for age 31– 60: women. Because the plaster hypothesis makes the same predictions for men Neuroticism. either age period. we Agreeableness.04 (⫾. data not only failed to support the soft plaster hypothesis. slope for women was not significantly weaker than the age 31– 60 scientiousness slope for men during ages 31– 60 was B ⫽ . a significant result of this test would reject the hard slopes from age 21 to 30. 1983) to compare whether the roticism.7 Little change before or after age 30 Openness Women . The slope for ages 31– 60 was significantly different from slope for ages 21–30 was stronger than the slope for ages 31– 60. but they but the large sample size also means that even a very weak soft-plaster clearly did not stop changing.26.04) 2. in opposite ways.07) ⫺. in fact. results ought to replicate across gender.. The results for Agreeableness disagreed computed age slopes (i. supporting the soft plaster hypothesis for Conscien. thus. a clear rejection 4 of the hard plaster hypothesis.06) ⫺. men did not show a significant age effect in test of whether the slope for ages 31– 60 was different from zero. thus. as is evident Five dimensions regressed on age) within the two theoretically in Table 1.03) 21. The different z tests indicated that the differences between the slopes were logic of these two tests means that statistical power makes them sensitive significant.04) ⫺4. In short.2*** Change slows but does not stop after age 30 Agreeableness Women . 21–30 and 31– 60.831.01 (⫾. however. In contrast.07 (⫾. the slope for ages 31– 60 was not tests of both versions of the plaster hypothesis are reported in significantly different from zero.1*** ⫺5.03) ⫺9.06) .4*** 6. Both of these slopes were significantly and substantially different from zero.1*** ⫺5. n ⫽ 41.31 (⫾.04 (⫾. we used a z test (Equa- tion 3.6. Statistical and for women. a significant slope (B ⫽ .3*** Change increases after age 30 Extraversion Women . effect would lead to a confirmation of the soft plaster hypothesis.08) ⫺. Agreeableness increased significantly from age 31 important age ranges. a failure to support the soft plaster hypothesis. an alternative to a null hypothesis. Women.48 (⫾. consistent with the hard plaster Table 1.07) .2 Change is of similar strength but in opposite directions before and after age 30 Men . regression coefficients from the Big sharply with both versions of the plaster hypothesis.48 for men) was stronger.26 (⫾.817.06 (⫾.6*** Change slows but does not stop after age 30 Men .04) ⫺1.08) . The soft plaster hypothesis predicts The hard plaster hypothesis predicts a zero effect. . The metric for the slopes is the percentage of maximum possible units per year. Sample size for age 21–30: women.46 for women and B ⫽ . *** p ⬍ . went significantly in the opposite direction.e. Computed Separately by Gender and Age Period t test to reject z test to confirm Big Five factor Age 21–30 Age 31–60 hard plaster soft plaster Implication of tests Conscientiousness Women . To test these hypotheses. that is.1* 2. men. n ⫽ 19. Negative values of the z test indicate that the direction of the effect was contrary to that predicted by the soft version of the plaster hypothesis. PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT IN ADULTHOOD 1045 Table 1 Linear Slopes (and 95% Confidence Intervals) for the Age Effect on Each of the Big Five Factors.04) 11. the raw Con. n ⫽ 30. The result of this test would support the soft plaster hypothesis.5*** ⫺0.25 (⫾. the age slopes for ages 31– 60 were sub- The slopes and their 95% confidence intervals are presented in stantially greater than the age slopes for ages 21–30. men. the Table 1.11 in J.1** ⫺0.05 (⫾. declined consistently in Neu- To test the soft plaster hypothesis. contradicting the hard plaster hypothesis.06) .

By late adult- hood. thus. Agreeableness. revealed that women declined substantially in Neuroticism Quadratic: B5 ⫽ b 0 ⫹ b 1 共AGE兲 ⫹ b 2 共GEN兲 ⫹ b 3 共AGE*GEN兲 throughout adulthood. in other words. for each Big Five factor. creased overall in Agreeableness more than men did. and hood slightly higher in Openness but then declined at a faster rate GEN is a contrast code for gender. For men. However. in the middle of the age range being analyzed. We used fore slowing down (but continuing to increase) in the 40s. indicating that men and women did a resounding rejection. Extraversion decreased significantly from age 31 Conscientiousness (see Table 2). the regression models to map out the relations of age and gender to period of most rapid increase coincided with the ages at which personality. and barely significant ( p ⫽ . The data provided clear The Pattern of Big Five Development: Modeling Age and support for a cubic model (see Table 2) under the decision criteria.7). is graphed in Figure 1C. a cubic model would be necessary to fit such an effect. followed by continuing growth at the increase up to age 30. Examining previous studies of curvilinear age between men and women. this implied that the age effect on hypothesis. we considered Neuroticism was well described by the linear model.. The increase in Agreeableness accelerated in the late 20s. The linear ⫹ b 4 共AGE兲 2 ⫹ b 5 共AGE2 *GEN兲 ⫹ b 6 共AGE兲 3 ⫹ b 7 共AGE3 *GEN兲. AGE represents age centered around its mean. so we set this as a practical limit on Gender ⫻ Age interaction. In Figure 1A. data suggests that the quadratic function captures the normative Overall. JOHN.04) by conventional criteria. the soft plaster hypothesis was not change in Conscientiousness at different rates. a model selection process in which the first-order age term. our model-selection criteria resulted in a linear model (see Table 2. 132509] ⫽ 10. ⫹ b 4 共AGE兲 2 ⫹ b 5 共AGE2 *GEN兲.g. A positive linear age term indi- to 60 for women. failing to correspondence between the function and the means from the raw support the soft plaster hypothesis. Because both could realistically be replicated and examined further in future men and women marginally increased in Openness up to age 30 studies with smaller samples. we would expect that it would increase the most only one fit the hard version (two if the result for men’s Extra. the magnitude of the decline after age 30 Conscientiousness would follow a decelerating function. the increase for men from age 31 to 60 was weak cated that people were increasing in Conscientiousness at all ages. and then decreased in Openness after age 30. the earlier gender difference had nearly disappeared. we tested the differ. Patterns of change in work and partnership ence of the absolute slopes to see if the magnitude was weaker suggested that the most pronounced increases in Conscientious- after age 30. being involved in nurturing we concluded that cubic (i. For men. interactions seemed like the most complex models that could make Neuroticism. with a was not significantly different from the magnitude of the increase steeply increasing slope in early adulthood that becomes flatter at up to age 30. women in- conventional significance criteria was likely to produce unrepli. but no gender interactions with the qua- one continues to add polynomial terms as long as they meet dratic or cubic term (see Table 2). For women. the large sample people are typically giving birth and nurturing their dependent allowed for very sensitive tests of polynomial (curvilinear) and children. Neuroticism was the strongest candidate for a a substantive contribution. B5 stands for the Big Five dimension A small. be consistent with women. but the cable. If Agreeableness is linked to nurturing and esis—five dimensions tested separately for men and women— raising children. during the late 20s and 30s. For women. separately for men and women. third-order) models with gender roles to a greater extent than men. and unnecessarily complex models in such degree of curvature in the functions did not differ substantially a large sample. age effects for Openness did not differ a simpler model. though given the was greater at younger ages than at older ages. uninterpretable. Haan et al. Our decision criteria supported a quadratic model for Extraversion. (In the above equations. the decline after age 30 was stronger than ness might occur during the 20s. confirmed for Extraversion. In fitting these regression models. This model. Because such an increase would occur version is counted) and only four fit the soft version. AND POTTER Openness. GOSLING. For Openness. Openness. None of the age statistical power of the analysis. three possible models: along with the observed Neuroticism means. though. However. We used this stringent cutoff to select models that significantly from zero for the age 21–30 decade. we set the criterion that a more complex model significantly negative after age 30. Conscientiousness.. . Openness slopes for both men and women were three models.) To select from among these (see Figure 1D).1046 SRIVASTAVA. a failure to support the soft plaster hypothesis. a significant rejection of the soft plaster a slower rate. These but a negative quadratic age term indicated that the rate of increase findings contradicted the hard plaster hypothesis. The close the absolute strength of the decrease from age 31 to 60. 1986. and Figure 1 shows the mean scores on each of the Big Five Agreeableness continued to increase rapidly through the 30s be- dimensions for each age.. the weak result for men was not terms interacted with gender. The significant Age ⫻ Gender interaction (see Table 2) Linear: B5 ⫽ b 0 ⫹ b 1 共AGE兲 ⫹ b 2 共GEN兲 ⫹ b 3 共AGE*GEN兲. 2002). The decision criteria indicated that model complexity. model was consistent with previous developmental findings— both men and women declined in Openness with age. the absolute the quadratic functions for men and women are plotted along with strength of the increase from age 21 to 30 was not different from the observed Conscientiousness means at each age. a quadratic model would have Cubic: B5 ⫽ b 0 ⫹ b 1 共AGE兲 ⫹ b 2 共GEN兲 ⫹ b 3 共AGE*GEN兲 improved the fit but only at F[2. Out of 10 tests of each hypoth. version of the plaster hypothesis. this would effects on personality (e. Gender Effects the sample means and the cubic fit line are plotted in Figure 1B. later ages.e. but only slightly. on average. Thus. In statistical terms. Though we did not predict it. unpredicted interaction suggested that men began adult- being modeled.. There was a significant interaction between gender and interactive effects. we did not find widespread support for either trend quite well. men declined quite modestly. contradicting the hard plaster would be retained only if it improved fit at F ⬎ 25 ( p ⬍ 10–5) over hypothesis. then. Helson et al.

Vertical lines at age 30 indicate when the plaster hypothesis predicts that personality stops changing. POMP ⫽ percentage of maximum possible. with fit curves from the regression models (see Table 2). PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT IN ADULTHOOD 1047 Figure 1. Mean Big Five scores broken down by age and gender. .

03/⫺.038 .1048 SRIVASTAVA. all the same terms were significant in indicator of the reliability of an effect.50 .00 Extraversion (R ⫽ .0005 . the regression models Replication of the models across Web site formats. These replications further implies.11) Constant 54.735 .05/.001 . The clearly replicated across the two Web formats. We took advantage of a large about 2 years older than respondents to Star Wars (equivalent to an sample size and continuous age distribution to test hard and soft .02/.03/⫺.009 .02 Gender 1. respectively. All About You was described as an opportunity to learn underscored the reliability of the effects. All terms are from final models.051 .05/⫺.7.09/.008 .111 .005 ⫺.22 ⬍ 10⫺22 ⫺. purposes.04 ⬍ 10⫺22 ⫺. Gender is contrast-coded: female ⫽ ⫺1. Table 2 presents the p-values associated with the tests of the polynomial models are standardized betas from these replication analyses for comparison generally quite small.007 .01/⫺. we examined the relation between age.11) Constant 74. differences with age (see Figure 1E). male ⫽ 1. some so small as to exceed the computa.125 .244 .10 ⬍ 10⫺22 ⫺.009 ⫺. we found that for Conscientiousness. draw Discussion somewhat different profiles of participants. Star that men increased slightly in Extraversion with age whereas Wars respondents tended to be slightly more open to experience women decreased slightly.01 ⬎ .007 ⫺.01 Age3 ⫺0.04 ⬍ 10⫺22 . and Neuroticism. N ⫽ 132.44 .11).05 Gender ⫺4. resulting in a diminishment of gender (partial r ⫽ .39 . about oneself.11 ⬍ 10⫺22 ⫺.03 Openness (R ⫽ . the same direction and general magnitude.059 ⫺. and 61% men.22 Age ⫻ Gender 0.01 ⬎ . gender.09 ⬍ 10⫺22 .000 ⫺.16 ⬍ 10⫺22 .00/.076 Age 0.09 . The two sites did. When we analyzed the respondents for the two Web tional limits of our data analysis software (SPSS 10.08 ⬍ 10⫺17 ⫺. whereas Star Wars drew 39% women In this article.13/.23) Constant 50. in fact.008 ⫺.690 .045 Age ⫺0.18) Constant 63.6.006 . GOSLING.02 Age2 0.937 .04 Age ⫻ Gender ⫺0.076 ⫺. All About You drew 66% women and 34% men.011 .066 ⫺.10 Age ⫻ Gender ⫺0.77 ⫺. For Extraversion.001 .984 .00/. As the name replicated across both Web formats. the Web pages arguably appealed to the main effect of gender and the Age ⫻ Gender interaction somewhat different motives of potential participants. In spite of these differences.11 Age ⫻ Gender 0. and the shape of the The study design allowed for an internal replication analysis plotted curves was remarkably similar.0. For Openness. term representing the predicted decline replicated across both Web Were the respondents to the two Web pages different enough to formats. which ran formats separately. Small p-values are one ableness.02 Age2 ⫻ Gender 0. Replication ␤s are from the All About You and Star Wars versions of the questionnaire.005 ⫺.004 . Agree- out of decimal places at p ⬍ 10–22).06/⫺. Extraversion. overstate the differences.410 .045 .10/⫺.001 .01/. An unpredicted Age ⫻ Gender interaction indicated between-sites difference on the Big Five was for Openness.829 .00 Age2 ⫺0.059 Age ⫺0.12 Age ⫻ Gender ⫺0.10/⫺.007 ⫺. whereas Star Wars was designed to appeal primarily as an intriguing and fun experience. the unpredicted Age ⫻ Gender term found in the full constitute replication samples? Although we would not want to sample was not significant in the Star Wars data.066 Age 0.05 ⬍ 10⫺22 ⫺.12 ⬍ 10⫺22 .062 ⫺.19/.515. Extraversion was best fit with a linear model effect size of r ⫽ .005 .11/⫺. Controlling for gender.10).01 Gender ⫺2.03 Age2 ⫻ Gender 0.10 Gender ⫺1.01 ⬍ 10⫺4 ⫺.007 .001 . AND POTTER Table 2 Regression Models of the Relations of Age and Gender to the Big Five Regression term B SE ␤ p Replication ␤s Conscientiousness (R ⫽ .11/.16) Constant 65. JOHN.847 .09/⫺. Respondents to All About You were on average and personality traits in adulthood.01 Neuroticism (R ⫽ . the greatest (see Table 2).000 ⫺.082 .00 ⬎ .03 ⬍ 10⫺10 ⫺.03 ⬍ 10⫺7 ⫺.542 .00/⫺.00 ⬎ .01 Agreeableness (R ⫽ .021 . Age is mean-centered at 30.341 .001 .19/⫺.02 Note.10 ⬍ 10⫺22 ⫺.442 .628 .08 ⬍ 10⫺19 .02/⫺.05 Age3 ⫻ Gender ⫺0. though. cross-validation is another.00 ⬎ .02 ⬍ 10⫺6 .062 Age ⫺0. the linear between the two versions of the questionnaire.0000 .13 Gender ⫺1.001 ⫺.

Openness showed small declines with age. We also considered what age-confounded sampling bias would 5 look like if it had happened. could be selective mortality. We ences may contribute additionally to explaining the age effects. thus. Agreeableness increased the most designs (which compare different samples measured in different during the 30s. it was sufficiently weak should get smaller with increasing age. which can cause variation change stops (hard plaster) or slows (soft plaster) after age 30.e. and jointly considering different designs can provide insights. Sampling considerations. longitudinal designs Conscientiousness increased throughout the age range studied. In fact. 1993). changes in current social climate). 2001). as the less conscientious partici- that it did not overwhelm the age effect. It were also reassured by our comparisons of the two Web page is important to note that both developmental effects and cohort recruiting strategies. Age effects replicated across the self. A possible scenario was that the Another potential sampling confound. These studies examined how. we con. suggesting that the Conscientiousness effect was not driven by hort effects. people of preretirement age (i. . cohort effects learning-oriented “All About You” page and the entertainment. differential sampling by age and they can similarly be interpreted as arising from cohort differences. the age effects obtained here are inconsistent was a selection bias in our sampling. our focus people being both lower in Neuroticism and lower in Extraversion on early and middle adulthood provided some assurance against than younger people. in general.5 correlated with sample means for anxiety and Extraversion. as (a) effects of the individual’s development. (b) secular trends participants higher in Openness at older ages. In part. results of a cross-sectional study agree with results from longitu- dinal studies. it seems most around retirement age.. On between measurements taken at different historical times. age effects might be artifacts of who was likely that would show up in the cross-sectional Internet data as older to end up in our study rather than true age effects. generational differences). cannot separate developmental and historical effects.. If older Internet users might be a more select subset of older people these results were due to cohort effects (rather than secular trends). fects. the standard deviations was any Openness-related sampling bias. In this section. compari- indicates that although there is a sharp change in usage patterns sons suggest that at the level of general trends. we examined the standard deviations computed separately at each adults needed to be especially open in order to participate.) though no cross-sectional design can completely rule out such In this case. publication year cruitment might produce age-confounded sampling biases. ages appropriate to attribute the Internet results to developmental ef- 50 – 64) have similar access rates to younger people.6 pants were selected out. 2000) and Extraversion (Twenge. Neuroticism (Twenge. If there age. we then fitted curvilinear and effects: Cross-sectional designs cannot intrinsically differentiate interactive models to the data that yielded clear and robust effects. they can be interpreted as arising from development. though we cannot rule out the possibility that cohort differ- ulation in how they spend their time online (Fox et al. and thus older people sign. Both Younger Internet users might be a fairly broad group. not specific to an Internet de- Internet may be less familiar to older people. they need not be fatal flaws if results are interpreted in among longitudinal studies reviewed by Roberts et al. the Internet findings agree with the broad trends factors. developmental researchers need to consider in designing studies: 6 Again. variation between people born and raised in different historical ness demonstrated the soft plaster effect for both genders. whereas traits increased over time from the middle to late 20th century. if so. cross-sectional increases in participate in an online study. PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT IN ADULTHOOD 1049 versions of the plaster hypothesis. represent an environmental influence that traits are supposed to be oriented “Find Your Star Wars Twin” page. which assert that personality (i. Most common designs cannot fully disentangle these for more complex change patterns. However. it would have to have been identical across recruiting strategies. One concern was that Internet re. Individuals high in Conscientiousness may have to be higher in Openness in order to seek out and tend to die earlier (Friedman et al. and if In a study that uses a cross-sectional design to make inferences cross-sectional results agree with results from time-lag studies.. If age effects were due to selective mortality. Neuroticism went sider several factors that might address concerns about sampling down (their review did not differentiate men and women).e. suggesting that if there immune to. between developmental and cohort effects. Thus. and only Conscientious. Conscientiousness and Agreeableness went up. and preretire- ment Internet users are representative of the overall Internet pop.. not the increase one would predict if older Conscientiousness individuals are available as participants. Al. and the latter did not appear to be the case. and Neuroticism declined with age for women but years) cannot separate historical and cohort effects. If the Extraversion declined for women but not men. Schaie (1977) discussed three kinds of effects that selective mortality.e. across studies. effects are inconsistent with the five-factor theory. Addressing Sampling and Cohort Concerns which is the only common effect between the two designs. (The two interpretations are not mutually exclusive. To test for such effects. age was not related to the standard Untangling developmental effects from secular trends and co. The former was true for women but not for such a possibility: Survey research on Internet usage and age men. (in press): relation to existing theory and research. fewer low- Openness with age. To test periods. about developmental effects. and time-lag most strongly during the 20s. not much for men. We then compare age trends in the Internet Openness and Extraversion changed little. we found a small drop in Conscientiousness could occur because at older ages.. Thus. deviation. which can cause hypothesis among both men and women. and (c) no Big Five dimension did we find support for the hard plaster cohort effects (i. 2001). which are frequently of would be predicted by the hypothesis that the sampling procedure favored primary interest to developmental researchers. In fact. the standard deviation of Openness did not increase with age. cohort differences are both potential sources of confounds. the Internet results are comparable with those found with more two important recent meta-analyses offer a comparison source for traditional sampling methods and in other countries. Time-lag studies of the sample with those found in recently published data to see whether Big Five are far rarer than cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. and and cohort confounds.

none of the above considerations completely rule Extraversion. We performed secondary analyses of the results reported from these nine samples. Openness and Extraversion as the NEO-International data. can use the (stratification was on age and gender). the latter is consistent with findings conservative number of reasonably robust effects. 45–65 that the Internet results were not a product of sampling confounds. Therefore.7 aggregating the T scores across the nine the cubic curve at three points). Conscientiousness NEO-International 11 1 Furthermore. we refer to these aggregated data women. Revised. should be culture-specific (Yang. two perspectives: the biologistic Five-factor theory. (2001). we derived age trends from published Big Five middle adulthood. Intervals parisons. & Costa. a study of parents and their teenage children. Czechoslovakia. Another way to address concerns about this new method is through comparisons with data from studies that use Big Five dimension Interval 1 Interval 2 more traditional approaches. & Asendorpf. then similarities to cross-cultural findings should NEO-International 1 1 diminish concerns about cohort confounds. Portugal. Agree- proaches that allow for contextual influences on traits. if BFI-German 11 they exist. Croatia. as it was in our sample. and Turkey). providing a in the Internet data. NEO-International data come from McCrae et al. 1999). Personality Theories and Adult Development tiousness.. BFI-German data come from Lang et al. the instruments do define two of the five factors. out sampling or cohort confounds. Big Five self-report data were reported separately for nine different countries (i. some researchers have argued that cohort effects. AND POTTER with the five-factor theory regardless of how such effects are Table 3 substantively interpreted. which are more time- recruited by a gold-standard procedure. These articles. if so. NEO ⫽ NEO Personality data had been collected under a wide variety of recruitment and Inventory. Luedtke. . needed to further address the possibility of such confounds. Openness and Nevertheless. stratified random sampling intensive and expensive than cross-sectional studies. Italy. which is consistent with the cubic trend found in the Internet data (with only three data points. could examine only one age interval. it is impossible to 7 A subset of the German data reported in McCrae et al. BFI-German 1 Data in two recent articles by McCrae et al. Germany. this can be demon. On Conscien. More Participants from the Berlin. Results from data aggregated across declined in the NEO-International data but did not change sub- these various cultures and recruiting procedures probably reflect a stantially in the BFI-German. We samples did not provide results separately for men and women. 2000) stood Neuroticism NEO-International 2 22 out as a particularly appropriate source for comparing main effects BFI-German 2 of age. South Korea. Results of our secondary analyses of the NEO-International data and the BFI-German data are presented in Table 3. the general direction of effects in the stable baseline for making comparisons. Relative Magnitude of Annual Change During Two Age Addressing sampling and cohort effects through empirical com. 30 – 49. so we changes in personality traits. and ap- consistent with the Internet results presented in this report. If age patterns in the Internet data Age groups that define interval matched those found in cross-sectional data collected by other NEO-International 22–29 vs. Only two age groups (20 – 40 and 45– 65) in hypotheses about the timing and theoretical significance of the BFI-German data overlapped with the Internet sample. Neuroticism declined in the countries into averages (weighted by sample size) for the three age comparison samples. They completed a German present results as a springboard to generate and test focused translation of the BFI. 1992). sampling procedures. somewhat differently (John & Srivastava. Agreeableness 1998). JOHN. (1999) was also differentiate a cubic trend from a linear trend. included in McCrae et al. metropolitan area were importantly. Note. which used the Revised NEO Personality Openness Inventory (NEO PI-R) and the NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO. These each row.1050 SRIVASTAVA. reported Big Five means BFI-German 0 Extraversion for several adult age groups. and the present study should not Thus. to some extent. both comparison samples showed increases throughout We tested predictions about Big Five development made from adulthood that were greater in earlier than in later adulthood. Thus. and 50⫹. 50⫹ sampling methods. Future longitudinal and sequential studies are data collected in Germany (Lang. such cross-method agreement would suggest BFI-German 20–40 vs. GOSLING. the NEO- results say about personality theories and adult development? International data showed similar-sized increases during both in- tervals. but because the reports on the comparison groups used by the original authors: 22–29. To do this. only the 1999 data were used strated by placing a straight ruler on Figure 1B such that it crosses for the comparison baselines. (1999. (1999. it were thus able to derive rough age trends (based on three data is not possible to know whether the trend was driven primarily by points) across the nine samples. What do the ableness also went up in both comparison samples. we also wanted to compare results with a sample that used be taken as the last word about Big Five development in early and the BFI. allowing us to make comparisons of NEO-International 22 2 the direction of change and. and several other convenience samples. we hope that such studies. NEO-International 2 2 FFI) measures (Costa & McCrae. (2000). The number of arrows indicates the relative rates of change within Germany. including a twin study. Spain. 2000). Internet data was similar to that of studies collected with different Although the BFI and NEO questionnaires are mostly similar. 30–49 30–49 vs. methods. BFI ⫽ Big Five Inventory. 2001). the approximate shape BFI-German 0 of change.e. McCrae. Britain.

Could the changes for comparison purposes. maturational changes may prompt individuals to seek out five-factor theory. though it does contra. the influence of peers and fam. One disadvantage of this approach is that. d statistics are better suited for truly strictly biological accounts of personality. both mechanisms may take place as part of a that personality traits cannot be easily explained by a small. categorical variables than for arbitrarily selected age groups. which can examine both typical levels of traits usage. it puts all competing sources of variance (including measurement speaking. In fact. If we minority of adults who do not have children might prove an follow that metaphor. the earlier part of the life span. quantifying the answer to the question. ness (Neyer & Asendorpf. Several processes may link these personality and environmental The rejection of the plaster hypothesis also involves a rejection changes to one another. absolute ds ranged from 0. tidy transactional system—personality changes may lead people to set of principles. pants in standard deviation units. as argued by McCrae and Costa and patterns of change in traits. This suggests situations. PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT IN ADULTHOOD 1051 Rejection of the plaster hypothesis and its implications. is there something specific about personality—motivations. moreover. static and unresponsive to social environments more a matter of work’s place in broader life themes (such as being and life contexts. Baltes (1997) referred to the “incomplete for women. 1994). Bacon.54 (Conscientiousness) 1993. . are aspects of work. Conversely. Over. we found a general lack of support for the plaster hypothesis. Cohen. for of two of its implications. 1992). 1999).07 (Extraversion) to 0. women changed about . & John. that is.33 standard deviations and men lin. longitudinal behav. we found a substantial range of effect sizes. personality alities (Caspi & Roberts. this is the time of life when adults are entering well can I predict an individual’s personality knowing only age and advancing in the work force and forming committed partner- and gender?” Against the backdrop of all possible predictors of ships. 1998). 1999) and those of social roles and environments are transacting with personality that consider them of little interest (Mischel & Shoda. genetically determined (and separately for men and women. is a general law of adult development: thus. dict the five-factor theory’s brand of biologism. 1994). see also McAdams.” by which he meant that the men. adaptations. 1992. these effects do not indicate little or no change. moderate amount of predictive information. we believe that By standardized effect size indices—multiple Rs—the effects of adult personality is characterized more by plasticity than by in- age and gender on personality can be characterized as small to creasing calcification. So how should these findings be can be understood best by considering the life contexts that ac- interpreted? The multiple R treats individual differences among company change. Cohen. 2001. the R is essentially an index of predictability throughout early and middle adulthood. with traits at the bottom and other aspects of assumed by parents)? Similarly. using the difference between the highest sexually dimorphous) maturation? There is no denying that genes and lowest point of each fit curve. 1997). new implies that all Big Five dimensions develop in the same ways.59 (Conscientiousness) for architecture of human ontogeny. and the mechanisms of personality change moderate (J. we computed ds for each of the Big Five found here result solely from intrinsic. The plaster hypothesis. Agreeableness ily. Perhaps ironically. In this context. then the results in this article suggest what might be called a Californian view of the personality system—in 8 California. the age who probably had faced particularly difficult social environments effects reported here are indeed modest. 1973). but nevertheless constitute earlier in their lives (Orenstein. and heritabilities of personality traits diminish from early across the Big Five. 1996.. els of personality traits changed gradually but systematically culture becomes a more important influence on how well they throughout the life span. Conscientiousness showed substantial change denominator. clear evidence of ongoing change. dimensions. and from 0. According to general scientific ior genetic studies. and sometimes different for men and women. averaging across the Big Five goes against an personality traits is at least as well explained by environments as important finding for this study. have suggested that change in (1996. and so raising children that promotes Agreeableness (in which case the on— built above (Little. McCrae. Viken et al.03 (Neuroticism) to 0. Costa. What does this view imply for theories of personality? Strictly like R. Or. Both of these adult social roles may require individuals to become more orga- corollaries were contradicted by the evidence in this study. or is the importance of work personality system. personal narratives. participants of the same age and gender as error variance in the In this study. 1996). these are medium to small effects (J. adapt to their environments. to middle adulthood (Loehlin. expressing the difference between older and younger partici- some get shaken up every once in a while). namely that change differs importantly by genes. as individuals get older. per se. Thus. McGue. a lifetime of individually constructed experiences—it should showed the largest changes somewhat later. 1995) share traits. Nevertheless. Roberts. For example. changed about . In the case of Conscientiousness. Along with Baltes. “How in earlier adulthood. with the strongest effects (Wiggins.24 standard deviations. sometimes more after age 30 than before. even foundations shift a little bit year by year (and The size of developmental effects has sometimes been indexed by the d statistic.8 select and shape environments that further reinforce their person- Personality theories and traits. the evidence in this article does not by itself rule out error) in the denominator. it roles that fit their newly changed personalities. 1992). The personality system has been compared with self-sufficient and taking over financial responsibilities previously a multistory house. when adults are typ- not be surprising that age and gender provide at best a small to ically caring for children. legacy of biological evolution has provided the most structure for all. which showed that the course of development was different for different nized and responsible in order to meet the demands of their new traits. important in the a common assumption: traits are separate from the rest of the development of Conscientiousness. Averaging absolute ds across all five contribute to individual differences in Big Five trait levels (Loeh. when people have not yet survived and considerable evidence that directly contradicted it. & Lykken. life tasks that have been linked to changes in Conscientious- personality—thousands of genes. Neuroticism declined only for women. 1999). long enough to pass along their genes. and work responsibilities and relationship commitments resulting from that men’s and women’s development is the same. Furthermore. Future research should further theories that place traits at the root of everything else that is examine these processes and address more precisely what aspects interesting about personality (McCrae & Costa. as stated by the example. Mean lev. However.

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