Ripening with Age

Key traits seem to improve as we grow older.

By Rosemarie Ward, published on August 1, 2003 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

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.

"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.