Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: As a man (or woman) grows older...

In Brief

As a man (or woman) grows older...

A meta-analysis of 92 studies on adult personality development finds a pattern common to both sexes: Changes occur mostly in the 20s and 30s.

The reviewers used the popular classification of personality traits based on the Five Factor dimensions: agreeableness (compassion, affection, altruism); conscientiousness (tendency to be restrained, principled, and strongly committed to goals); neuroticism (inclination to hostility, depression, anxiety, and impulsiveness, as opposed to emotional stability); openness to experience (degree of open-mindedness, curiosity, ability to adjust habits and thinking); and extraversion (tendency to be outgoing, energetic, and willing to explore new situations). Extraversion was divided into social dominance (assertiveness, leadership) and social vitality (gregariousness). When a study did not use the five-dimension formula, the reviewers devised equivalents on the basis of the study's results.

Changes over a lifetime were substantial. With many individual variations, the average results were as follows:

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »