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Abstract

Different perspectives on personality development propose a range of possible degrees to which traits are free to change, from hardly at all to very much. This essay reviews the empirical evidence on just how consistent and changeable personality traits are across the life course. To gain a thorough perspective on personality trait development, we review developmental studies that focus on three different types of change: rank-order consistency, mean level change, and individual level change. Starting in late childhood, personality traits exhibit modest levels of rank-order consistency that increase with age. In addition personality traits show mean level changes, especially in young adulthood, that are consistent with the idea of increasing maturity. Finally, despite these general trends in personality continuity and change, there is evidence that individuals may change in ways that contradict general trends and that these individual differences in change are related to life experiences.