Much like your appearance, your personality changes as you grow older.
Many people believe that their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are fixed. No matter what they experience throughout their entire life and even if the world around them changes, their personality is static. They will always be the same person no matter what.
So, if you were shy in your youth, the chances are high that you will remain shy throughout your life. If you were a chatty kid, you would grow up to become a chatty adult.
The Changing Personality
However, you may not notice it, but your personality changes. The changes are subtle within the five-year timescale but, over time, the new traits that you have acquired become more pronounced.
Scientists are discovering that personality is malleable.
Research published in the year 2000 analyzed over 150 longitudinal studies on personality that followed participants from childhood to their 70s. The studies looked at trends in five personality traits, namely extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, and openness to new experiences. The researchers found that the participants’ levels of all five personality traits were consistent within each decade of their life.
However, when decades are stacked up, that is how the changes become more obvious. In 1960, psychologists conducted a survey of over 440,000 high school students. The respondents were asked about how they reacted to emotional situations, how efficiently they get their work done, and other questions that reflect their personalities. After 50 years, the researchers tracked down nearly 2,000 of these students and asked them the same survey. The researchers found that, in their 60s, the respondents scored higher on questions that measured their self-confidence, leadership, calmness, and social sensitivity.
With Age Comes Wisdom
Aging, when it comes to appearances, is associated with unpleasant changes such as fine lines and wrinkles, sunspots, thinner or more translucent skin, sagging skin, gray hair, thinner hair, and shrinking stature. However, when it comes to personality, the changes that come with age are, often, good.
Personality tends to be better with age. Scientists call this the “maturity principle” which means that, as you grow older, you become more emotionally stable, agreeable, conscientious, and extroverted.
Further research have revealed that people also grow to become more altruistic and trusting, their willpower increases, and they develop a better sense of humor. Moreover, they gain better control over their emotions.
Meanwhile, the levels of “Dark Triad” traits – narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism – are also decreased with age.
Changes occur not with major life events such as marriage or the birth of a child. Instead, it is the different expectations placed on you that mold your personality. Going to university, becoming employed, and starting a family changes you. That is why in cultures where people are expected to grow up earlier, their maturation happens sooner at a much younger age.
A Different Change of Personality
However, there are personality changes that occur not simply because of growing expectations. Seniors, in particular, are prone to shifts in behaviors due to illness.
A sudden change in personality is one of the most common signs of dementia.
Dementia causes the brain to deteriorate in ways that affect not just how it processes and recalls information, but how a person behaves. Their behavior may change because dementia is preventing them from effectively expressing themselves, causing frustration and anger, or their environment is making them feel overwhelmed, leading to agitation and irritation.
Dementia is a progressive disease. At some point, the patient will need help, not just in expressing themselves, but with simple daily tasks such as dressing up, bathing, administering medication and going to the bathroom. Incidences of hitting or biting, crying, undressing, and inappropriate behaviors will make it difficult for family members to take better care of them. Once these incidents start happening, look into senior living advisors who can help place them in the right facility that will provide all the assistance they need.
Of course, personality changes that occur to dementia patients are different from who they really are. A loving parent may become aggressive or moody because of dementia.
Personality is not something that people are born with. It changes throughout your life, especially as you age, and expectations of you transform with every milestone. It may not become immediately obvious to you because these changes are subtle but, when you are older, you can look back and see the different people you have become.