Early and Middle Adulthood Development of Personality

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Several ideas have been proposed to predict how character qualities evolve into maturity. Evidently, persons differ in their developmental processes, particularly when it comes to personality. According to the Five-factor hypothesis, personalities do not change after the age of thirty. However, contextualize opinions argue that the changes differ and should be consistent throughout adulthood. A recent review of the literature gathered past studies on average-level variability in the big five elements of personality. It was concluded that agreeableness and conscientiousness rise significantly in adulthood. They also discovered that neuroticism decreases, that the results for openness are not consistent across the board, and that there is no variance in extraversion at the aspect level (Feldman, 2016).  Set Like Plaster: The Five-Factor Hypothesis

It states that individuals develop their respective traits earlier in life and they do not change but rather modify their attributes in adulthood. This theory argues that individuals develop traits during their childhood and these traits only matures in adulthood. It says that individuals do not get new traits when they enter adulthood and have a fixed personality by thirty. This stability in character is said to be constant during middle age and can only change when the individual gets old due to reduction in brain functions. The phrase that is used to describe this behaviour pattern is “set like plaster”. It was invented by William James.

Contextual Perspectives on Personality and Change

However, contextual hypotheses state that the personality of an individual varies all through adulthood. By their very definition, contextual theories are necessarily more varied as compared to the five-aspect theory. When the two theories were viewed side by side, they show variations in an individual’s personality during various stages of life, there were different variations for women and men in other formulations (Srivastava, 2003).

Personality Alterations due to the Environment

Life events, social responsibilities and social surroundings alterations affect the primary character traits. Many scholars have studied the relationship between the experiences and personalities of people. Their findings reveal that individuals have the mandate to choose and shape their surroundings, which will then influence the individuals’ personalities.

Gender Responsibilities and Character Change

Do women and men differ in development when considering the Big Five aspects? Teenage girls depict higher Neuroticism levels than the boys. Research also shows that self-confidence of women and their coping skills increase as they age, depicting lowering levels of Neuroticism especially in women. Women also became more emotionally independent and their competence increased with age; men began adulthood more independent and competent as compared to women but remained stable.

Design of the Present Study

In order to carry out the study, it was necessary to examine a large number of men and women over wide range of age. The best source of finding this population was the internet. Examining the hard plaster theory and the soft plaster theory involved getting graphs to show how the five aspects varied with different age groups.

Is Character constant After Age 30? Testing the Plaster Hypothesis

The hard plaster hypothesis states that there age effects on any Big Five aspects after thirty should not exist; the soft plaster hypothesis states that effects after the age of thirty are supposed to be weaker (Srivastava et al., 2003).

Conscientiousness: The results show that people changed less in Conscientiousness after the age of thirty than before. Thus supporting the soft hypothesis.

Agreeableness: The outcome results for Agreeableness contradicted the hard and soft hypotheses. This is because it increases significantly after thirty.

Neuroticism: The results show that men do not change much before or after thirty. Women lowered continuously in Neuroticism. This contradicts the hard plaster version.

Openness: From the studies, openness graphs for both women and men reduced once individuals reached thirty, hence countering the hard plaster statement (Srivastava et al., 2003).

Extraversion: Based on the results, it reduced continuously after thirty for women, hence contradicting the hard plaster statement. The soft plaster hypothesis was confirmed for men.

In general, we could not establish widespread support for hard or soft plaster hypothesis.

The Model of the Big Five Advancement: Effects of Gender and Age

Conscientiousness: It was verified that patterns that occur in partnership and work show that the most significant increments in conscientiousness may take place in the twenties, this is followed by a low but continuous growth rate.

Agreeableness: It increased in women but the magnitude of the differences was not substantially different between women and men.

Neuroticism: It shows that women reduced significantly in Neuroticism during adulthood; Men reduced by a smaller margin (Srivastava et al., 2003).

Openness: Both women and men reduced in openness as they got older, but by a small margin. A small, random interaction shows that men entered adulthood showing wore openness then it lowered at a fast rate.

Extraversion: The slope for extraversion resulted in a best fit line with a positive gradient. It was also determined that extraversion increased slightly in men as they got older while it lowered by a small margin in women. This caused a reduction in the difference in gender based on age.


Ruling out the plaster theory and the effects. In general, there was no evidence to confirm the plaster theory and the available proof refuted it. The average stages of character traits differed with age but gradually during an individual’s life, in some instances more change was registered after thirty as compared to before. Personality hypotheses which claim that traits are the basis of an individual’s character and the ones that do not value them both agree on one thing: character traits are not related to an individual’s personality, they are constant and not affected by social surrounding and life events (Feldman et al., 2016).

The personality complex can be analysed as a building with many storeys, placing traits at the ground floor and other components of personality— adaptations, motivations and personal narratives placed on top. If this metaphor is adhered to, the outcomes of the experiment can be named a Californian perspective of the personality complex. This is because foundations move slightly every year.


The proof shown by this paper does not entirely ignore the biological effects of personality, but it contradicts the five aspects of biology. We cannot refute that genes contribute to differences in individuals in the Big Five personality aspects (Srivastava et al., 2003). In spite of this, longitudinal genetic studies on behavioural patterns, which are able to detect pattern variations in traits and ordinary levels of trait reveal that the best description of personality is that it is affected by both genes and surroundings. The studies also show that personality traits reduce during early and middle adulthood.


Feldman, R. S. (2016). Development across the life span. Pearson.

Srivastava, S., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D., & Potter, J. (2003). Development of personality in early and middle adulthood: Set like plaster or persistent change?. Journal of personality and social psychology, 84(5), 1041.

April 26, 2023

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