Stability and change in the Big Five personality domains: evidence from a longitudinal study of Australians

Psychol Aging. 2012 Dec;27(4):867-74. doi: 10.1037/a0029322. Epub 2012 Jul 9.


Longitudinal data from a nationally representative sample of Australians were used to evaluate mean-level differences and rank-order stability in personality traits assessed twice over a 4-year time span (n = 13,134). Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness declined over the life span, whereas Agreeableness increased among young cohorts, was stable among middle-aged cohorts, and declined among the oldest old. Cross-sectional analyses suggested an increase in Conscientiousness throughout the life span, though longitudinal analyses suggested a slight decline in late life. There was an inverted U-shaped pattern for rank-order stability, with peak stability occurring in middle age. For three of the Big Five domains (Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness), age-related differences appeared to be somewhat more pronounced before age 30 than after age 30.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Australia
  • Extraversion, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroticism
  • Personality Assessment
  • Personality*
  • Young Adult