Ripening with Age

Mark Twain once said, "Work is a necessary evil to be avoided." Luckily for bosses, people care more about their jobs as they grow older, according to a new study. Levels of conscientiousness, a trait key to career success, increases in adulthood, particularly in a person's 20s.

With age, one generally becomes more responsible, organized and focused, according to Sanjay Srivastava, Ph.D., a Stanford University researcher and author of the study, which appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study examined personality changes over time, concentrating on the "big five" traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, openness and neuroticism.

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"These traits, unlike values and goals, are generally thought to be least likely to change," says Srivastava, even though it's well known that people generally mature as they age.

This study rebuts the popular theory that personality is set by early adulthood. The authors concluded that not only does personality evolve throughout adulthood but sometimes, especially after age 30, the change is for the better.

Both men and women tended to grow more agreeable after age 30. Both sexes also seemed to become warmer, more nurturing and more open in their 30s. There were some slight differences between the sexes. Neuroticism, or emotional instability, declined with age for women, but not for men. Men's neuroticism levels showed little change.

The researchers took the unusual step of drawing data from a personality test on the Internet. All of the 132,000 anonymous subjects said they lived in the U.S. or Canada.

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