For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Work experiences and personality development in young adulthood"

by Roberts, Brent W; Caspi, Avshalom; Moffitt, Terrie E (2003)


This longitudinal study provides an analysis of the relationship between personality traits and work experiences with a special focus on the relationship between changes in personality and work experiences in young adulthood. Longitudinal analyses uncovered 3 findings. First, measures of personality taken at age 18 predicted both objective and subjective work experiences at age 26. Second, work experiences were related to changes in personality traits from age 18 to 26. Third, the predictive and change relations between personality traits and work experiences were corresponsive: Traits that "selected" people into specific work experiences were the same traits that changed in response to those same work experiences. The relevance of the findings to theories of personality development is discussed.

Key Passage

Research informed by the sociogenic framework has shown that work experiences are related to personality change. Unfortunately, much of the research inspired by the sociogenic perspective overlooks the reciprocal relationship between personality and work (cf. Kohn & Schooler, 1982). For example, longitudinal studies show that early-emerging traits, detectable in the first decade of life or in adolescence, also influence what people do for a living as adults (Caspi, Elder, & Bem, 1987, 1988; Helson, Elliott, & Leigh, 1989; Judge, Higgins, Thoreson, & Barrick, 1999). The association between personality and work is thus likely to reflect two mutually supportive life-course dynamics: social selection, wherein people select environments that are correlated with their psychological characteristics, and social influence, wherein environmental experiences are likely to affect psychological functioning (p.583)


Social Psychology, Personality, Personality Trait, Work Experiences, Personality Development, Personal Development


Psychological Centrality of Work

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