Avshalom Caspi and Brent Roberts address five questions in terms of the development in personality, in the article “Personality Development across the Life Course: The Argument for Change and Continuity”. Many scientific and extensive experiments were conducted in order to provide the authors with the information needed to answer the proposed questions. The developmental changes in which an individual forms his/her own personality throughout the course of one’s own life is the primary focus of these studies. In depth studies as such, give light to both change in personality over time, as well as continuity.
Caspi and Roberts address the first question by evaluating evidence in which the first signs of personality development were documented. Findings in recent experiments show a modest level of continuity from childhood to adulthood; contradicting earlier theories and studies which stated that the early years of life create a gap in personality development. Addressing perhaps the most controversial question, Caspi and Roberts find resources needed to properly answer the second question, “When in the life course is personality fully developed”? Studies of age in which complete personality development is reached date back as early as 1923 when Freud created a theory for such questions. It has been stated, until recently that personality traits become fixed at a certain age in childhood. However, recent studies are able to debunk these theories as research proves that personality change can occur even in late adulthood. Existence in the ability for change in personality to occur, no matter how minuet in size, creates an entirely new definition for consistency and change within the personality, marking a new chapter in future research. Thirdly, Caspi and Roberts address the question concerning the factors that moderate continuity and change. Research on this topic has been covered in great detail as many factors were placed into consideration such as age, the effects of time, biosocial transitions, and historical context. Contrary to what many might believe, time is negatively related to continuity while age is positively related. It is through transitions that individuals are able to open themselves to new experiences, and perhaps change some personality traits. Next Caspi and Roberts sought to determine the question of how continuity was achieved. Focusing on three main mechanisms that affect continuity, discussion about the environment, genetics, and person-environment transactions were addressed. It has been believed for many years that the environment is often the main affecter for continuity in personality, however, the authors are not able to find supporting evidence of such. Genetics seem to play a slight factor during adulthood in the consistency of personality while person-environment transactions deliver elusive ways in how personality continuity is achieved. Recent research provides a new light and perhaps the most powerful affecter on personality continuity – the unconscious. Finally, mechanisms that promote change in personality are discussed. No simple answer is provided as change cannot occur from any one thing. Change is usually achieved from a multitude of different affecters. Researchers state that no new environment will fit an individual’s life perfectly, yet it is the imperfections that allow these individuals to be exposed to such variety of change.
Many factors play a role in the development of personality, as well as maintaining continuity or creating change. It has been proven that personality becomes more consistent with age as individuals learn to adapt to environments in order to maintain consistency. Caspi and Roberts summarize the topic perfectly, stating “the forces of consistency outweigh the forces of change, with time and experience the battle between change and consistency is won out by the forces of continuity”.