Does Personality Change Over Time Or Remain Constant From Birth?

Personality has been researched for decades and has been used for all kinds of applications in counselling and business environments. It has been a very reliable and predictable way to ‘sort’ people into various ‘types’ and to help people and groups gain a better understanding of themselves and each other.

Most people understand what ‘personality’ means in general. When it comes to psychological discussions, personality tends to refer to the Big Five personality traits upon which our individual personalities stem from. They are a mainstay of personality research.

These traits are defined as follows:

  • Openness to experience – (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • Conscientiousness – (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
  • Extraversion – (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • Agreeableness – (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/callous)
  • Neuroticism – (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)

These traits, and the assessments designed to identify and measure them, have allowed researchers, counsellors and business leaders to obtain an accurate prediction of how people will behave in the future (on the job) or identify the innate traits that contribute to or impede things like relationships with others or working in teams. Personality research and testing experienced a resurgence in the 1980s. Tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) gained great popularity and have been widely used across many different industries.

Businesses have found this research to be particularly helpful when screening applicants because of the high predictability that personality and work-style trait assessments provide. For example, no one goes to bed as an extrovert and wakes up as an introvert (unless they’ve suffered a brain injury in their sleep). Therefore, personality has been long considered to be ‘static’ and consistent from cradle to grave (barring physical or mental illness).

New research has revealed that this isn’t necessarily the case. Personality does change over time (a long time) and it’s a significant although small change over one’s lifetime. What the researchers found was that as we mature, so do our personalities. Specifically, people tend to ‘peak’ in middle age but at a level not high enough to infer a complete lack of change in personality traits. This means that personality has a stable component across the life span, both at the trait level and at the profile level, and that personality is also malleable, and people mature as they age.

This isn’t exactly big news. If we all behaved the way that we once did when we were five years old or twenty-five years old, we’d probably have some major challenges in navigating life successfully. However, we come into the world with unique temperaments, and research suggests that our temperaments as children (whether we’re easy going or prone to temper tantrums, eager or more reluctant to approach strangers) correspond to adult personality traits. This means that if you’re a shy 3-year-old, you’ll likely be a shy 30 year old. The overt behaviours may differ but the underlying core personality traits remain the same.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Researchers found that participants who’d been evaluated in their teens “scored much higher than they had as teenagers on questions measuring calmness, self-confidence, leadership and social sensitivity” in their 60s.

So what does all of this mean? It means that our understanding of human personality is ever changing and becoming more and more refined. It also means that although our personalities do change (slightly) over time and ‘solidify’ in our 50s, our core traits tend to remain relatively static throughout our lives.

For those who use personality tests and assessments in the course of their counselling or business endeavours, it offers more insight into individuals at certain stages of their lives and confirms that even though we’re ‘different’ at 50 than we were at 25, personality assessments will still provide accurate and predictable insights into people and their behaviour.

Some of the personality assessments available through Creative Organizational Design include:

  • Advanced Multidimensional Personality Matrix – The Advanced Multidimensional Personality Matrix is based on the Five Factor Model and this full version includes the five main factors which are each broken down into several more specific elements to help assess personality traits for a variety of positions or for personal development.
  • AMA DISC Survey® – Use the AMA DISC Survey® to accurately predict the on-the-job behaviours and measure personal styles including Directing, Influencing, Supportive, Contemplative.
  • Attentional Interpersonal Style Inventory (TAIS) – Use TAIS for coaching, team-working, leadership, management development and succession planning. Match concentration skills and interpersonal characteristics with performance.
  • Comprehensive Personality Profile – The Comprehensive Personality Profile screens for roles such as customer service, telemarketing, and sales. Match personalities to position requirements.
  • Employee Attitude and Personality Test – Revised – An over­arching assessment of a person’s work personality profile, including trainability, initiative, abrasiveness, analytical thinking, emotional stability and more.
  • Golden Personality Type Profiler™ – Helps employees understand the basis for their decision-making and the way they relate to other people. They gain better insight into their personal style and how they impact others.
  • Occupational Personality Questionnaire – Gives organizations an understanding of how aspects of an individual’s behavioural style will affect his or her performance at work.
  • Personnel Assessment Form (PAF) – Use the Personnel Assessment Form to assess mental ability and identify quick learners, communication and decision-making skills in leadership and management candidates.
  • Work Personality Index-II © – Assesses candidate job-fit, development needs, career options and leadership potential.

If you’re interested in learning more about personality, assessments and how they can help you personally or aid you in hiring, promoting or developing employees, please contact us to find out more. Creative Organizational Design offers 100s of assessments for all kinds of applications. We’d be happy to learn more about your needs and help you find the right solutions.


David Towler is President of Creative Organizational Design, a firm offering nearly 40 years of expertise specializing in employee assessments and which has over 2000 different product titles available. Creative Organizational Design has 100s of assessment tools designed to help employers screen out other people’s rejects, assess skills, aptitude, attitude and ‘fit’ within an organization. For more information about the options available and help selecting the best tools for your needs please contact us.

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Does your personality change as you get older? By Isobel Whitcomb –

Sixteen going on sixty-six: A longitudinal study of personality stability and change across 50 years. –

The Rank-Order Consistency of Personality Traits From Childhood to Old Age: A Quantitative Review of Longitudinal Studies – By Brent W. Roberts and Wendy F. DelVecchio University of Tulsa –,%202000.pdf

Big Five personality traits –

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