Although many studies have examined the issue of personality stability in early and middle adulthood, few have explored the limits of personality stability in the very old, who are often confronted with major changes in their health and life circumstances which can severely impact adaptive behavior. We conducted a longitudinal study of 74 elderly women with a mean age of 80. They were assessed on the personality traits of Neuroticism, Extroversion, and Openness. Although multiple regression analyses revealed moderate stability on all 3 traits, their stability was found to be influenced by negative changes in life circumstances. For example, decreased social support and increased unmet needs were associated with more Neuroticism. Less Extroversion was associated with poorer health and greater psychosocial needs. The trait of Openness was very stable and was the least affected by life events. These contradictory findings are reconciled by considering personality development within an interaction framework.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies