Personality Stabilizes as We Age, Says TAMIU Professor
Posted: 04/16/2010

Personality Stabilizes as
We Age, says TAMIU Professor

Christopher Ferguson
Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson is an associate professor of psychology at TAMIU.

If a leopard cannot change its spots, can adults change their personalities? Not really, according to a recently published meta-analysis by Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson, associate professor, psychology, Texas A&M International University.

The study, “A Meta-Analysis of Normal and Disordered Personality Across the Life Span,” appears in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,” 2010 Volume 98, Issue 4 (April).

“Basically, personality is more stable across the lifespan than some scholars had thought. Even individuals in therapy don’t experience much personality change,” said Dr. Ferguson.

He writes, “The issue of personality stability is one that is important beyond the scientific and public debates. Many decisions made in therapy as well as by persons in normal life may hinge upon this issue.”

For example, Ferguson says that patients and therapists might set personality change as a role of therapy, but if the personality is highly stable, this may not be a realistic goal.

“Many personal decisions are made in hopes that individuals—ranging from failed employees to abusive spouses—can ‘change.’ Elucidating the degree to which change is possible may be valuable for individuals making decisions based upon the hope for personality change,” he explains.

All hope is not lost, though.

“By contrast, personality during childhood is significantly more changeable,” he concludes.

Data suggest that personality is relatively changing during youth, yet quickly becomes stable by early adulthood.

“It is important to emphasize that the current data do not provide evidence either for or against the belief that personality is necessarily the product of genetics, only that whatever its origin, it remains largely stable in adulthood. This was true both for normal personality traits and for disorders of the personality,” Ferguson stresses.

Ferguson has a B.A. from Stetson University, an M.S. from Florida International University and Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida.

He has published several articles on a variety of topics including youth violence and effects of violence in video games and edited “Violent Crime: Clinical and Social Implications” (Sage, 2010).

For more information, contact Ferguson at cferguson@tamiu.edu, 326.2636 or visit office in Dr. F. M. Canseco Hall, room 302C.

University office hours are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

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