Does personality change throughout your lifespan?

Chapter 4 Identity Development and Personality


  Chapter 4 Identity Development and Personality

Does personality change throughout your lifespan? What about temperament? Does it remain the same? How do psychologists measure and study personality? Well, there are many difficulties in measuring personality and they are similar to those of measuring intelligence. Adapting to one’s environment, and demonstrating characteristic patterns of doing so, reflect and define personality.

Models of Personality

A.   Models

1.  There are four primary models of personality which have roots in the metatheories.


2.    Stage models

a)   Also called normative-crisis models, these models are useful when considering the normal and expected challenges met by most adults during young, middle, and late adulthood.

               3.  Timing-of-events models emphasize not only age, but also life  circumstances,  social and cultural expectations, and historical context.


4.   Trait models were developed by those searching for evidence of stable characteristics that are consistent across time, stages, and varying situations.



5.   Cognitive-self models – a highly influential facet of personality is captured in emphasizing personal thoughts and assumptions.

II.   Developmental Stage Theory



Erikson proposed that each developmental stage is conceptualized as the struggle between a healthy and less-healthy personality characteristic, thus the word versus is used. Each struggle or crisis is resolved when one of the two sides becomes a primary part of an individual’s personality

A.                 Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood

Erikson: Identity Cohesion versus Role Confusion

a)     The search for identity, involving an identity crisis , is primary in Erikson’s understanding of adolescent development.

b)      Individuals in identity crisis are engaged in self-exploration, trying to learn more about their true self, while at the same time realizing they have some choices to make.

2.                   Marcia: Exploration and Commitment

a)      Marcia developed a series of interview questions to assess an adolescent’s current state or status in terms of identity development, which is why his findings are called identity statuses .


B.                 Young Adulthood

1.    Erikson: Intimacy versus Isolation


a)      Individuals must have addressed their identity before they are ready to move into intimate, mature love relationships.

b)     The adaptive strength gained in this stage is mature love (Erikson et al., 1986).

2.    Marcia: Depth and Commitment

a)      Marcia has designed the following parallel identity statuses:

1)   Identity Achievement–Intimate

a)     They trust themselves and others, are comfortable establishing intimacy, and now have the ability to establish long-term commitments.


2)     Moratorium–Preintimate

a)    The preintimate individuals are not yet able to make long-term commitments.

3)     Foreclosure–Pseudointimate

a)     There is no reason to strive for depth in relationships because they have already made long-term commitments.


4)     Identity Diffusion–Stereotyped or Isolated

a)     The stereotyped individual keeps all relationships at a superficial level by responding in the expected ways rather than with genuine emotion and authenticity.



3.                   Levinson: Early Adulthood Stage

a)        The participants in Levinson’s original study were 40 men, recruited when they were between 35 and 45 years old.


b)      Based on his research, Levinson divided the Early Adulthood stage into the  two phases:

1)      Novice Phase – four important tasks or issues that determined satisfaction in the Novice Phase and later provided the most productive entrance into middle adulthood


2)      Settling Down Period – occurring in one’s mid-30s to around age 40, was a time when the men in Levinson’s study started to “get serious” about their commitments and responsibilities.




C.                 Middle Adulthood

1. Erikson: Generativity versus Stagnation

a)      Middle-aged individuals who are developing generativity are concerned about the next generation and anxious to find creative ways to share their own resources.

b)    Stagnation is, in Erikson’s model, the opposite of generativity, leading to a concern for oneself. Individuals functioning in stagnation may feel that they have nothing special to offer the next generation, or that just taking care of themselves is all they can manage. (Erikson et al., 1986).

2.                   Marcia: Inclusivity and Involvement

a)     The four midlife identity statuses parallel the adolescent statuses as follows:(1)          Identity achievement–Generative

a)     The healthiest way to move to Erikson’s generativity is to be fully inclusive and actively involved with others.


2)     Moratorium–Pseudogenerative (Agentic and Communal)

a)    Who appear to be generous and inclusive but are actually quite restrictive in their involvement with others.

3)               Foreclosure–Conventional

a)        Adults functioning in this status feel no need to be inclusive outside of the boundaries they have already established.

4)              Identity diffusion–Stagnant

a)        Adults feel no desire for inclusivity or involvement with other projects or persons.



3.              Levinson: Middle Adulthood Stage

a)         Individuals must reassess the past, make appropriate changes in mindset and lifestyle, and work through the “four polarities” of individuation.


4.                   Gender Identity Development


a)         Levinson’s research indicated that balancing masculine and feminine qualities is part of the midlife identity transition.

D.                Late Adulthood

1.    Erikson: Integrity versus Despair

a)        One of life review and the challenge of integrating all of life’s experiences into a cohesive identity

b)        For Erikson, the key in developing integrity is to acknowledge the regrets, the reasons for pessimism, and the things that cause pain, but to keep those negative aspects in balance by also remembering the many good things enjoyed and reasons for optimism.


2.            Marcia: Wisdom and Continuity

a)     Marcia and his colleagues observed the following parallels:

1)    Identity achievement–Integrated

(a)    Individuals who have a strong sense of historical, as well as current, connection to others, thus having continuity in their life cycle

2)      Moratorium–Nonexploratory

(a)     Individuals who display little interest in wisdom, beliefs, or values, focusing on the routine and mundane aspects of life

3)      Foreclosure–Pseudointegrated

(a)   Using slogans, clichés, and superficial sayings as a substitute for wisdom, and because of that they feel no need to develop wisdom

4)   Identity diffusion–Despairing

(a)    Lacking in wisdom and continuity




III.            Five-Factor Model of Personality Traits

A.                 The Factors

1.         Extraversion – Warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement seeking, positive emotions

2.         Agreeableness – Trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, tender-mindedness

3.         Conscientiousness – Competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, deliberation

4.         Neuroticism -Anxiety, hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness, vulnerability

5.        Openness to Experience – Fantasy, aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas, values

6.        The most common criticisms of stage theories are that as generalizations they ignore too many individual differences (such as listed below in the graphic), are too broad to be useful, lead to a self-centered view, and that they dominate data interpretation in research.

B.      Current Research: Gender, Age, and Culture

1.       McCrae and his colleagues have demonstrated that some facets of personality remain fairly stable and consistent over time.

2.       There is evidence to suggest that the five factors are common across cultures while demonstrating some gender differences.



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