Getting older, getting better? Towards understanding positive personality development across adulthood

Anne Reitz, Ursula Staudinger

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter aims to clarify the terminology and to integrate the different notions of positive personality development in an overarching framework. This framework proposes that there are two types of positive personality development across the adult lifespan: one is linked with adjustment and the other one with growth. Adjustment involves desirable change toward an individual’s greater functionality (or success) in the face of developmental tasks and societal norms and expectations. Growth, in contrast, refers to growing beyond functionality for oneself and others; it involves transcending one’s own limitations and interests, embracing complexity and differentiation, and striving toward insight and wisdom. This may often imply to transcend given societal rules and structures for the greater good at the cost of jeopardizing personal well-being. This framework maintains that not all positive age-related trajectories are indicative of maturation in terms of growth. While the majority of people develop a personality that helps them to be well adjusted and more competent in dealing with developmental tasks and tasks of everyday life across the lifespan, not everyone (in fact, only a minority) experiences personality growth as defined here. By separating the two types of positive personality development conceptually and by delineating the different antecedents and processes underlying their lifespan trajectories, this framework provides a helpful guideline for future research on positive personality development. In the first section, we outline definitions and indicators of these two types of positive personality development. Next, we provide an overview of the current evidence for their age trajectories. Subsequently, we review research concerning their predictors and underlying processes. Finally, we discuss avenues for future research and provide concluding remarks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPersonality development across the lifespan
EditorsJule Specht
Place of PublicationSan Diego
PublisherElsevier Ltd.
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-804674-6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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