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How Personality Develops & Changes in Teenagers

Teenagers are undergoing a lot of physical and mental changes as they develop into adults. Knowing how their personality can change can make it easier to notice red flags, and can aid you in making the right decisions for their mental health. 

What Traits Make Up One’s Personality?

A popular theory on personality was developed by Costa and Mcrae. They used five descriptors that encompass the five major factors that make up a person’s personality.

  • Openness to experience: Teenagers who are more open to new experiences are typically described as more imaginative and independent. Those who are less open to new experiences tend to be more pragmatic, practical, cautious. 
  • Conscientiousness: Those with low conscientiousness are more spontaneous and flexible, but can often be undependable, whereas those who have high conscientiousness tend to be more calculated and organized.
  • Extraversion: Outgoing people are typically more assertive and thrive in the company of others, while more introverted individuals prefer solitude.
  • Agreeableness: Teenagers who are highly agreeable have a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative, but may be seen as naive. Whereas someone who is less agreeable people tend to be more competitive but can be perceived as argumentative.
  • Neuroticism: This level of neuroticism determines how susceptible a person is to extreme emotions. A person who has high emotional stability tend to be calm, whereas less stable teenagers may experience anxiety and depression and may experience mood swings. 

What Personality Changes are Most Common?

Much research has been performed on adults who have fully developed, but with adolescents and teenagers, there is still a lot that is unknown. In a 2017 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers analyzed data from a Dutch study that observed young adults from age 12 to 22. They concluded the following:

  • Changes in their friend’s personalities don’t necessarily mean that they will also develop those traits. Teenagers tend to associate with people who are similar to them, and they’re more likely to stop becoming friends with a person whose personality has changed rather than become more like them.
  • Agreeableness, or the need to be like by others, was found to increase over time.
  • In general, boys are less conscientious than girls. This means that they are less likely to follow rules and complete schoolwork. Both boys and girls were found to increase in conscientiousness over time, but boys tended to develop later.
  • Younger girls often experience a dip in emotional stability, but increase as they near adulthood. 

How to Deal With Personality Changes

Personality changes are completely normal for teenagers. But if your teenager is undergoing dramatic personality changes and your instincts are telling you that it may be an abnormal issue, speak with a specialist. At Pediatrics of Northeastern Pennsylvania, we help diagnose and treat children of all ages. To make an appointment, please call (570) 346-1464.

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