Does agreeableness increase with age? (5 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does agreeableness increase with age?” and explore the concept of agreeableness and its effects on the various aspects of life like age to help understand the answer. 

Does agreeableness increase with age?

Yes, agreeableness can increase with age. The trend for agreeableness is generally linear. The following are 5 insights into how agreeableness increases with age –

  • The maturity principle. 
  • Big Five Inventory.
  • Personality stability and change.
  • Increase in Agreeableness.
  • Personality altered by disorders.

These 5 insights into how agreeableness increases with age will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at what agreeableness means. 

What is agreeableness?

One of the Big Five personality qualities, which holds that there are five main aspects to personality, is agreeableness. 

Each dimension is considered as a continuum, so even if one trait—like agreeableness—is prominent in your personality, the other four qualities are also present to some extent.

The quality of being agreeable describes one’s capacity to prioritise the needs of others over their own. For instance, those with high agreeableness levels naturally have empathy and often find great joy in helping and taking care of others.

In addition to being trustworthy and forgiving, agreeable individuals prefer to cooperate with others rather than compete with them. Obviously, having a high agreeableness score may be beneficial in a variety of circumstances since it’s a crucial quality for gaining and keeping popularity. 

In general, agreeable individuals are appreciated and enjoyable to be around. Most people think highly of them as friends. Though agreeableness offers numerous benefits, there are also some drawbacks. 

For instance, pleasant people may find it difficult to express their preferences, requirements, and wishes. They have trouble making difficult choices or showing harsh love. 

And when it comes to their jobs, they could be so focused on advancing others that they neglect to make plans for their own growth. Conversely, those with low agreeableness scores tend to be more adversarial, confrontational, and aggressive. 

Additionally, they frequently have more troubled relationships that end in breakups and conflicts.

People who score high on agreeableness tend to have the following traits –

  • Be friendly to others.
  • Are well-liked and well-known.
  • Assist those who are in need.
  • Are polite, courteous, and helpful.
  • Display responsiveness
  • Possess emotional and social intelligence.
  • De-escalate dispute.
  • Don’t pass judgement on others.
  • Assume the best of other people.
  • Like to work together.
  • Easily form friendships.
  • Tend to be observant and compassionate.
  • Provide emotional assistance.

How does agreeableness increase with age?

The maturity principle. 

As people age, they become more extraverted, emotionally stable, pleasant, and conscientious. It’s known as the “maturity principle” by psychologists. 

These changes are frequently noticeable over time. Some people may change less than others, but the maturity concept applies to everyone in general.

This attribute is affected to some extent by heredity, but nurture also plays a role. This personality attribute is flexible, and people do become more agreeable with time. In general, older individuals are more prone to go with the flow of life.

Big Five Inventory.

According to a new study based on fifty years of “Big Five Inventory” data obtained from 1960 to 2010, personality qualities such as conscientiousness and agreeableness are both stable and flexible from the ages of 16 to 66. 

“Sixteen Going on Sixty-Six: A Longitudinal Study of Personality Stability and Change Across 50 Years,” was published online on August 16 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

This is the first research to look at decades of data to answer the question, “How much do people’s personalities change or stay the same from high school to retirement?” 

For this ground-breaking study, lead author Rodica Damian of the University of Houston and co-authors examined a large U.S. sample of 1,795 participants from the Project Talent Personality Inventory (PTPI), a 50-year nationwide study that began in 1960 and assessed personality traits and other factors for a generation of high school students. 

The initial PTPI sample included 440,000 high school students from more than 1,300 schools throughout the country.

The PTPI assessed personality traits using the Big Five dimensions of personality: (1) agreeableness, (2) conscientiousness, (3) emotional stability [also known as neuroticism inverted], (4) extraversion, and (5) openness to experience.

Rodica Damian and her colleagues also used the Big Five Inventory (BFI; John et al., 1991) to build a personality profile, which includes 44 items meant to measure the Big Five.

During a BFI, participants are asked to self-report how well various first-person events represent each of the Big Five character qualities on a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) (Agree strongly). 

For example, on a scale of 1 to 5, how would you respond to the following BFI scenarios: Agreeableness (for example, “I regard myself as someone who is thoughtful and friendly to practically everyone.”); Conscientiousness (for example, “I view myself as a dependable worker.”); Neuroticism (e.g., “I view myself as an emotionally stable person who is not readily disturbed.” *reverse graded); Extraversion (e.g., “I view myself as an outgoing, social person.”) and Introversion (e.g., “I see myself as an outgoing, sociable person.”) and Openness to new experiences (e.g., “I regard myself as someone who is interested in a wide range of topics.”).

Damian’s recent research shows that people’s personality characteristics alter from high school to retirement and that these changes appear to aggregate over time.

Personality stability and change.

“The (personality attribute) ranks have remained quite stable. People who are more conscientious at 16 than their peers are more likely to be conscientious at 66. “Everyone gets more conscientious, emotionally stable, and pleasant on average,” Damian said in a statement.

Damian observes that some persons change more than others between the ages of sixteen and sixty-six, as one might anticipate. Furthermore, the research indicates that as people age, they may alter in ways that are unsuitable or dangerous. Men and women tend to evolve at equal rates between the ages of 16 and 66.

“Throughout the lifespan, gender had minimal effect on personality development. The authors conclude in the paper abstract, “Our findings show that personality has a stable component over the lifetime, both at the trait and profile level, and that personality is flexible and people grow as they age.”

The British Household Panel Study (BHPS; N 14,039) and the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSEOP; N 20,852) used two large datasets from Britain and Germany to study cross-sectional age variations in the Big Five personality characteristics. 

In 2005 or 2006, participants ranging in age from 16 to the mid-80s completed a 15-item version of the Big Five Inventory (e.g., John & Srivastava, 1999). Across both datasets, the observed age patterns were largely consistent.

Extraversion and Openness were shown to be adversely related to age, but Agreeableness was found to be positively related to age. Participants in their forties and fifties had the greatest average levels of conscientiousness. 

The only difference was that in the BHPS, neuroticism was somewhat adversely linked with age, whereas in the GSEOP, it was slightly favourably associated with age. In the Big Five, neither gender nor education level was the consistent mediator of age differences.

Increase in Agreeableness.

The feature of agreeableness, which is linked to being pleasant, kind, and helpful, defied the popular belief that personalities don’t change after 30. 

People in the research, on the other hand, exhibited the greatest improvement in agreeableness throughout their 30s and continued to improve into their 60s. 

This occurred even among men, debunking the stereotype of “grumpy elderly guys,” according to Srivastava. Srivastava believes that the amounts of development in these two attributes “seem to mimic what would make sense given adult duties.” 

“Agreeableness changes most in your 30s when you’re starting a family and need to be caring,” says the author. “Conscientiousness rises as individuals develop and become better at managing their jobs and relationships.”

Except for neuroticism and extraversion, in which young women scored higher than young males, most of the observed personality changes were usually similar across gender lines. The disparity between males and women, on the other hand, has narrowed with time.

Personality altered by disorders.

There is evidence that a disaster may alter a person’s personality, turning an outgoing and less neurotic individual reclusive and worried.  Dementia, addiction, and mental illness are all serious disorders that can alter one’s personality and conduct. 

For example, drunkenness can lead to melancholy and abusive behaviour over time. Feeling content with your life, on the other hand, may promote certain personality traits. 

When things are going well in your life, you may find yourself becoming more affable, conscientious, emotionally stable, and—perhaps unexpectedly—introverted. When you’re happy, you may become more self-contained and less communicative.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Does agreeableness increase with age?” and reviewed the concept of agreeableness and its effects on the various aspects of life like age to help determine if agreeableness can increase with age. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Donnellan, M. B., & Lucas, R. E. (2008). Age differences in the Big Five across the life span: evidence from two national samples. Psychology and aging, 23(3), 558–566. Retrieved from  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2562318/#:~:text=Agreeableness%20demonstrated%20a%20fairly%20linear,slightly%20starting%20around%20age%2080.

Kersting, K. In Brief Personality changes for the better with age. (2003, July/August). Retrieved from  https://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug03/personality

Bergland, C. How Do Personality Traits Change from 16 to 66? (2018, August 18). Retrieved from  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201808/how-do-personality-traits-change-16-66

Does agreeableness increase with age? MovieCultists.com.(n.d.). Retrieved from  https://moviecultists.com/does-agreeableness-increase-with-age

Young, E. Here’s How Our Personality Changes As We Age. (2020, June 30).  Retrieved from  https://digest.bps.org.uk/2020/06/30/heres-how-our-personality-changes-as-we-age/

American Psychological Association. (2003, May 13). Personality Is Not Set By 30; It Can Change Throughout Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030513075924.htm

Donnellan, M & Lucas, Richard. (2008). Age Differences in the Big Five Across the Life Span: Evidence From Two National Samples. Psychology and aging. 23. 558-66. 10.1037/a0012897. Retrieved from  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/23274153_Age_Differences_in_the_Big_Five_Across_the_Life_Span_Evidence_From_Two_National_Samples

Marloes P.A. Van Dijk et al. Personality Development from Age 12 to 25 and its Links with Life Transitions. (2020, May 13). Retrieved from  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/per.2251

Gensowski, M. These 3 Personality Traits Affect What You Earn — but Only After Age 40. (2018, April 24). Retrieved from  https://hbr.org/2018/04/these-3-personality-traits-affect-what-you-earn-but-only-after-age-40

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