4 life events that can change our character as adults
What shapes our personality – is it fixed from birth or does it continue to develop over the course of life? According to a study, some events can still change our character traits.
For a long time, science has struggled to unequivocally answer the question of whether our personality is fixed from an early age or whether it can still change significantly over the course of our lives. “That’s just how I am,” a lot of people like to say. But, is this really the truth? For a long time, research did not provide a clear answer.
A new study now indicates that some drastic experiences can certainly ensure that our character traits change later in life. Data from 35,000 Australians over a period of 16 years was analyzed for the research work. The researchers worked with the psychological concept of the “Big Five” – i.e. the five essential aspects of our personality. We all carry parts of it within us, but to different degrees. These traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. According to the theory, the different characteristics of these aspects form something like the basis of our personality.
For the most part, science has assumed that the level of agreeableness, or how extroverted or introverted we are, is established fairly early in life. The study now suggests that there are some life events that can still alter the scale of these traits over the course of our lives.
These 4 experiences can change the personality in the course of life
1. Money problems
The evaluated data suggest that great financial hardship can, among other things, ensure that our character traits shift. The researchers found that people who suffer from money worries tend to become more extroverted and less conscientious as a result. They also found that men became more emotionally unstable. This effect was apparently not evident in women.
2. Illness and Health Problems
The participants who suddenly became seriously ill or injured were on average more extroverted than before. Incidentally, this change was three times more visible in women than in men. Apparently, when family members suffered from health problems, women also became more extroverted and open – men did not. This may have something to do with how care work is distributed in our western society and that women may care more about others than men.
Another decisive event in the life of many people is a wedding. And that can also affect our personality. It was interesting that there were clear differences between the sexes: According to the study, marriage often made women less emotionally stable and also less empathetic and considerate. Men, on the other hand, did not change much through saying yes.
It seems to be the exact opposite when it comes to retirement, because here the researchers were able to confirm their so-called “grumpy old man” hypothesis. Accordingly, men became less socially acceptable, less empathetic and considerate when they retired. Women, on the other hand, did not seem to experience any major changes as a result of the onset of retirement. At least that might offset the effect of the wedding a bit.
Despite the large amount of data, such studies should of course be treated with caution and cannot necessarily say anything about how individual people develop over the course of their lives. But the results still give an exciting insight into the human psyche and the influences that certain events can have on it.
Sources used: psychologytoday.com, businessinsider.de