A first large cohort study of personality trait stability over the 40 years between elementary school and midlife

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2006 Oct;91(4):763-79. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.91.4.763.


This report provides some initial findings from an investigation of the relations between childhood Big Five personality traits assessed by elementary school teachers and similar traits assessed 40 years later by self-reports at midlife (N = 799). Short-term (1-3 years) test-retest reliabilities were lower (.22-.53) in childhood when personality was developing than they were in adulthood (.70-.79) when personality stability should be at its peak. Stability coefficients across the 40-year interval between the childhood assessment and the 2 measures of adulthood personality were higher for Extraversion (e.g., .29) and Conscientiousness (e.g., .25) than for Openness (e.g., .16), Agreeableness (e.g., .08), and Neuroticism (e.g., .00). Construct continuity between childhood and adulthood was evaluated by canonical analysis and by structural equation modeling and indicated continuity at both a broad, two-dimensional level and at the level of the Big Five. The findings are discussed in relation to A. Caspi, B. W. Roberts, and R. L. Shiner's (2005) principles of rank-order personality stability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality*
  • Students
  • Time Factors