Personality Development at Work: Workplace Conditions, Personality Changes, and the Corresponsive Principle


  • This research is currently supported by grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (HD064687, HD051746, MH051361, and HD047573). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies. 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. Fred Oswald and Sarah Spilman provided helpful comments related to this article, and Brent Roberts graciously answered our questions. Marvin Hokom, Monica Martin, and Sarah Spilman provided some important data analytic assistance and help with SES-related variables.


Investigations concerning adult personality development have increasingly focused on factors that are associated with apparent personality trait changes. The current study contributes to this literature by replicating and extending previous research concerning personality trait development in young adulthood and perceptions of workplace conditions. Analyses were based on up to 442 individuals who participated in the ongoing Family Transitions Project (e.g., Conger & Conger, 2002). The current analyses included personality trait data from 1994 and 2003, high school grades and socioeconomic status indicators from 1994, and reports about work conditions in 2001, 2003, and 2005. Personality attributes were prospectively associated with work conditions and income. Findings also support the corresponsive principle of personality development (e.g., Roberts, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2003): Traits that were prospectively associated with particular workplace conditions often seemed to be accentuated by those conditions. Personality traits are prospectively associated with perceptions of the workplace. Workplace conditions are also associated with trait development.