Relationships and Personality Trait Levels and Change in Adulthood
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How does the role of parenting and marriage relate to personality development over three age decades in adulthood? To examine this, participants (T1AgeRange = 20 to 55) self-reported on their personality traits (at the domain and aspect level) and investments in their children and relationship partners in up to four annual measurement occasions. Consistent with the predictions of social investment theory, being a parent (NParent = 260; NNever-Parent = 359) or being married (NMarried = 341; NNever-Married = 255) was associated with a more mature personality, especially in terms of agreeableness. The magnitude of differences between parents and never parents (and married and never married participants) in personality trait levels differed as a function of age decade, and for some of the personality traits, the pattern of level differences across the three age decades were explained by different rates of change among parents and never parents (and married and never married participants). Most notable, the difference between parents and never parents in levels of agreeableness and its politeness aspect that emerged during the 30s age decade (and continued into the 40s age decade) was due to the greater increase among parents in these traits from the late 20s to the early 30s. Parents’ investment in their children and married participants’ investment in their spouse was related to personality trait levels but not personality trait change, which is inconsistent with the predictions of social investment theory. Overall, these results indicate the importance for future research to focus on both the acute effects of an event and the ongoing effects of a role on personality development.