Why Your Personality Changes With Age

You may not realize it, but your personality changes over the years. If you'd like to know why these variations occur and in what direction, keep reading.
Why Your Personality Changes With Age
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 29 April, 2023

The way your personality changes as you age is often so subtle that you rarely notice it. However, by the time you reach the autumn of your life and turn 70 or 80, you won’t be the same person that celebrated their 30th birthday. In fact, research claims that the years tend to make us more tolerant. Moreover, our experiences make it easier for us to see reality from different points of view.

A few decades ago, it was taken for granted that our way of being didn’t really change when we reached maturity. But, this theory is no longer relevant. Indeed, today, the human personality is viewed as both malleable and fluid. This makes it easier for you to adapt to the demands of your environment with greater wisdom. So, the change has both a sense and a purpose.

“Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself, to become what he potentially is. The most important product of his effort is his own personality.”

-Erich Fromm-

Older adult smiles in a long hallway and demonstrates the positive of how personality changes as you age
According to science, we achieve greater emotional balance as we age.

Why your personality changes with age

When you meet someone after many years, you usually compare your memory of them with your perception of them today on the physical plane. That’s because you might measure time by the extra wrinkles you see on their face or how they’ve lost the freshness of youth. However, there’s a dimension that, like the skin, changes over the decades. It’s your way of being.

Personality is a psychological construct made up of a pattern of thoughts, behaviors, and attitudes. It isn’t a fixed entity. In fact, there are almost imperceptible traits that vary slowly as life goes on. A study conducted by the University of Illinois claims that, although the changes are more noticeable between the ages of 20 and 40, these variations persist throughout adulthood.

But, what are these changes for? Why does personality change with age?

You might also like to read Seven Characteristics of Mature People

1. The theory of personality maturation

Personality isn’t a fixed construct nor does it follow the same course as the biological maturation of the human being. Therefore, although you reach physical and cerebral maturity around the age of 30, the same isn’t true of your way of being. As a matter of fact, it continues to evolve based on your experiences and your interactions with your psychosocial environment.

The theory of personality maturation states that there’s one aspect of personality that doesn’t vary much. This is temperament. It has an important genetic basis and defines your reactions to the environment that surrounds you. On the other hand, personality is a malleable and fluid entity. It changes in order to allow you to face the challenges of life.

Personality development doesn’t stop in adulthood. It evolves and changes throughout life.

2. The theory of the big five personality traits

In 2020, the University of Tulsa published the results of 152 longitudinal studies. They analyzed the changes in the personalities of a sample of people from childhood to the age of 70. This allowed the researchers to discover how their ways of being had changed. They based their research on the model of the big five.

The researchers discovered that getting older isn’t necessarily synonymous with becoming grumpier. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Our ways of being progress. This helps us to forge healthier ties, and solve and better adjust to problems.

According to the theory of the big five, the changes that appear are as follows:

  • We present increased extroversion and openness.
  • We become more empathetic and understanding.
  • Neuroticism decreases, thus, we achieve greater emotional stability.
  • Conscientiousness as a personality trait arises over the years. Gradually, we discover that life is demanding. We adjust to these demands by becoming more conscientious.

3. Psychosocial factors

The way in which your personality changes as you age is due to biological and psychosocial factors. Your way of being isn’t stable. In fact, your personality is an entity that evolves to facilitate your better adaptation to the environment. The changes that you undergo are a direct consequence of social pressures.

No one is oblivious to their social, cultural, and even economic context. For example, having to help your family or not having access to academic training might produce variations in your personality. Moreover, going through traumatic experiences over the years would establish other traits in your way of being.

Loneliness is another important factor. If you don’t have solid and significant emotional ties, your personality changes. And not for the better.

Contrary to what many of us might think, getting older doesn’t make us more curmudgeonly. In reality, it’s quite the opposite. We’re kinder, more open and altruistic, and are better able to regulate our emotions.

4. Experiential learning and wisdom

We all change over time. In fact, if you were to look back to your distant past, you’d be surprised at how much you’ve changed. This is due to the accumulation of your experiences. For instance, impulsiveness might’ve made you make the wrong decisions and react inappropriately. So, you’ve learned to manage it.

As such, the years have made you wiser. Now, you exhibit more common sense, prudence, wisdom, and intelligence. You’ve learned which battles are worth fighting and how to act in certain situations. As Erich Fromm said, growing up with wisdom means finding your authentic self.

You might be interested to read Can You Change Your Personality?

Why some people don’t change and age poorly

As we mentioned earlier, as you get older, your personality matures and changes in a positive way. This makes it easier to adapt to your environment. However, there are some individuals who, far from aging healthily, develop problematic personalities.

In these cases, positive maturation doesn’t always take place. This results in rigid personality types. It can be due to the following causes:

  • Loneliness.
  • Chronic stress.
  • Not accepting the passage of time.
  • Unaddressed traumatic experiences.
  • Neurotic personalities and extremely rigid mentalities.
  • Psychosocial factors. For instance, economic problems and disadvantaged social environments.
  • Mental health problems. These frequently range from personality disorders to undiagnosed depression. They become chronic over time.

“If there is anythong we would like to change in the child, we should first examine it and  see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves.”

-Carl Gustav Jung-

Personality changes for the better with age

The main reason why your personality changes as you age is to offer you a better quality of life. Its ultimate goal is to allow you an optimal adaptation to an always complex psychosocial scenario. By integrating every one of your life experiences well, your evolution will be wiser, brighter, and healthier.

As a matter of fact, these changes are nothing more than small transformations. Far from being sudden earthquakes, they’re more like the silent movement of tectonic plates. They help you create a richer, more flexible, and altruistic personality. One which guarantees your well-being, mental health, and happiness.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.