The current study sought to examine change and stability of personality in a sample of women over the course of 35 years. Existing research is mixed regarding whether or not personality changes over time or whether it remains stable. Using a sample of 187 women tracked over four time points (approximately 10 years between each time point), change and stability in openness to experience, extraversion, and neuroticism was tested using a stacked multilevel growth curve analysis. Four life course events (transition to parenthood, change in marital status, wife entering or leaving the workforce, and husband retiring) were added as predictors to attempt to explain any variance in personality change. When examining group means of the three personality dimensions studied, only openness to experience showed significant change over time, first decreasing and then increasing in subsequent years. Neither neuroticism nor extraversion showed significant group change over time. However, the results revealed significant within-person change, or individual variation in personality change, in all three personality dimensions over time. In examining the predictor variables, wives entering or leaving the workforce was a significant predictor of change in extraversion and the transition to parenthood had a significant effect on neuroticism scores at Time 1. Clinical implications suggest working with individuals, couples, and families using acceptance and change techniques. Limitations and directions for future research encourage researchers to study larger, more heterogeneous samples using long-term longitudinal methodology and to focus more attention on individual change over time using mixture modelling.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





personality, women, change, stability, life course transitions