Developmental tasks as a framework to study personality development in adulthood and old age

Hutteman, Roos; Hennecke, Marie; Orth, Ulrich; Reitz, Anne K.; Specht, Jule (2014). Developmental tasks as a framework to study personality development in adulthood and old age. European journal of personality, 28(3), pp. 267-278. Wiley 10.1002/per.1959

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Research consistently shows that personality development is a lifelong phenomenon, with mean-level and rank-order changes occurring in all life phases. What happens during specific life phases that can explain these developmental patterns? In the present paper, we review literature linking personality development in different phases of adulthood to developmental tasks associated with these phases. Building on previous work, we describe several categories of developmental tasks that are present in all phases of adulthood. However, the specific tasks within these categories change across adulthood from establishing new social roles in early adulthood to maintaining them in middle adulthood and preventing losses in old age. This trajectory is reflected in mean-level changes in personality, which indicates development towards greater maturity (increases in social dominance, conscientiousness, and emotional stability) in early and middle adulthood, but less so at the end of life. Importantly, developmental tasks are not only associated with mean-level changes, but the way in which people deal with these tasks is also related to rank-order changes in personality. We provide an outlook for future research on how the influence of historical time on the normativeness of developmental tasks might be reflected in personality development.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology

UniBE Contributor:

Orth, Ulrich


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology








Ulrich Orth

Date Deposited:

24 Dec 2014 11:01

Last Modified:

21 Oct 2015 09:43

Publisher DOI:





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