Personality Development From Late Adolescence to Young Adulthood: Differential Stability, Normative Maturity, and Evidence for the Maturity-Stability Hypothesis


  • This research is currently supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Mental Health (HD047573, HD051746, and MH051361). Support for earlier years of the study also came from multiple sources, including the National Institute of Mental Health (MH00567, MH19734, MH43270, MH59355, MH62989, and MH48165), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (DA05347), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD027724), the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health (MCJ-109572), and the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Adolescent Development Among Youth in High-Risk Settings. We thank Brent W. Roberts and Fred Oswald for very helpful comments.

regarding this manuscript should be addressed to M. Brent Donnellan, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 488233. E-mail:


ABSTRACT This investigation examined personality development during the transition from adolescence to adulthood using the brief form of the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (Patrick, Curtin, & Tellegen, 2002). Parent and self-reports of personality were obtained in 1994 (average age=17.60 years), and self-reports were obtained in 2003 (average age=27.24 years). There was evidence of both differential stability and normative changes in the direction of increased functional maturity during this transition. Moreover, adolescents with more mature personalities in 1994 tended to show fewer personality changes from 1994 to 2003. These maturity-stability effects held when parent reports were used to assess personality. All told, there was evidence of both stability and change in personality during the transition to adulthood.