ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Dimensiuni şi criterii personologice în dinamica vârstelor

 Dimensions and personological criteria in age dynamics

First published: 30 septembrie 2021

Editorial Group: MEDICHUB MEDIA

DOI: 10.26416/Psih.66.3.2021.5369

Abstract

The human personality is always confirmed as a complex and dynamic structure. It integrates dominantly inherited as well as acquired traits, the latter mainly being flexible and malleable in roles and throughout the ages of life. The psycho-behavioral attributes of young age, adulthood and old age can shape personality traits but can also mask their maladaptive variants. The five dimensions of the Big Five model offer the chance for dimensional comments and scenarios that confirm the interferences between personality traits and also their sociocultural conditioning. The dimensions with a protective role or with a dominant adaptive role prove to be, regardless of age, conscientiousness and agreeableness, and the role of stability and depth of emotional feelings in conditioning the subjective well-being and self-esteem should be noted. 
 

Keywords
personality, dimensional perspective, Big Five model

Rezumat

Personalitatea umană se confirmă mereu a fi o structură complexă şi dinamică. Ea integrează trăsături moştenite dominant, precum şi dobândite, ultimele cu precădere fiind flexibile şi maleabile în rolurile şi de-a lungul vârstelor vieţii. Atributele psihocomportamentale ale vârstei tinere, vârstei adulte şi ale vârstei a treia pot modela trăsăturile personalităţii, dar pot şi masca variantele maladaptative ale acestora. Cele cinci dimensiuni ale modelului Big Five oferă şansa unor comentarii şi scenarii dimensionale care confirmă interferenţele dintre trăsăturile personalităţii şi, de asemenea, condiţionarea socioculturală a acestora. Dimensiunile cu rol protector sau cu rol adaptativ dominant se dovedesc a fi, indiferent de vârstă, conştiinciozitatea şi agreabilitatea, de remarcat fiind şi rolul stabilităţii şi al profunzimii trăirilor afective în condiţionarea stării de bine subiectiv şi a stimei de sine. 
 

The human personality is always confirmed as a complex and dynamic structure, its features – especially the acquired ones – being flexible and malleable in the roles of life and in the succession of the ages of life. Seneca said that seeds of all ages are planted in humans, but life remains a wandering if its major purpose, and not the search for meaning. Thus, we can believe that, in this way, a man hardly changes his way of being (to feel, to think and to behave), even though the environment is always changing. So, in this context, any person can reach – and often does – the end of life without knowing who he really is.

Throughout life, people are attracted to roles and environments that suit them and do not particularly “challenge” their adaptive abilities. They form and select those interpersonal relationships that are favorable to self-esteem and give them security and protection and which do not try to change the environmental conditions, except according to personal or their own support group’s needs and goals. Over time, people build those adaptive strategies and cultivate those values that maintain their subjective well-being and give them a sense of personal ascendancy.

The adaptive and maladaptive behavior of the human person in the roles of life is overwhelmingly conditioned by its structural features. They are components of personality dimensions and have both normal and pathological levels, but the latter are not mandatory – for example, increased awareness or low extroversion – expressions of personological abnormality. Moreover, the diagnosis of pathological personalities is a process of extreme complexity that confirms the anthropological diversity and the interindividual differences. It is considered today that a personality disorder is obvious and clinically manifest when it negatively and constantly affects the subjective well-being, adaptation and efficiency in the roles of life and the relationships with others.

The human being travels the path to the status of a person under genetic and environmental influences. In this process of self-determination, a coalition of dominantly inherited traits (more stable) and dominantly acquired (more flexible) traits is progressively matured, to which spiritual traits are associated in a variable extent.

The personality dimensions substantiate individual adaptive abilities starting in adolescence, the age at which they are fully developed. They become stable after 30 years old, but they remain open and malleable systems by the social and cultural environment. Representing the foundation of individual existential motivations, the structural dimensions also change in relation to the ages of life. In the same context, however, the psycho-behavioral peculiarities of the ages of life can mask, for example, the low levels of emotional stability, agreeableness and conscientiousness in the Big Five model that can be described in all pathological personalities.

The psycho-behavioral attributes define the young age as that stage of life to which the beginning of the personality maturation process and integration in the roles of life is linked. Self-image is not yet well defined at this age and self-esteem is fragile. The desire for knowledge and curiosity is obvious, but self-knowledge is also deficient due to emotional instability and increased intensity of emotional feelings. Nonconformity, superficiality and intuition characterize the interpersonal relationships – frequent and unstable –, as well as the sector of personal motivations. The abusive consumption of psychotropic substances and the attachment to idols and inauthentic and ephemeral life patterns can also accompany this period of life.

But youth also integrates the harmony between biological and psychological maturity, as well as the need for authenticity, curiosity and idealism, assertion of artistic or professional skills or talents along with the ability to decide on career guidance. We can synthesize the individual destiny by the phrase “you are young only once; you can be immature all your life”.

The stage of adulthood is marked by the harmony between self-image and self-esteem based on self-knowledge and self-acceptance progressing in the roles and experiences of life. The elaborated cognitive strategies and emotional feelings favor an efficient involvement in the diversity of existential hypostases. The interpersonal relationships are selected and stable and the sense of responsibility and the appeal to common sense rules complement the personal adaptive abilities. Social and professional hierarchies and ascendancy in roles are approached mainly objectively and are associated with the need for appreciation from peers and with that of self-fulfillment.

At the third age, they are aware of the impairment of somatic health and functional abilities – “learning impotence”, and self-esteem becomes fragile again. There are common tendencies of self-devaluation and social isolation which are also favored by the thinning of the social support network and the failure to comply to responsibilities in roles of life until then. The fear of addiction, of poverty and of the end of life can maintain the subjective discomfort and the disadvantageous, negative autobiographical hypermnesia.

However, the same stage of life also means the acceptance of personal biography, the ability to select values and deepen the meanings of life, perseverance, temperance and emotional and attitudinal depth. In the fight against “ageism” – the discrimination on the basis of age – the elderly can reach a moral and spiritual ascendancy in search of a symbolic immortality through faith or through the achievements and accomplishments of children.

The peculiarities of the age stages can shape the personality traits or dimensions, they can mask the adaptive but also the disadvantageous ones and can favor the decompensations of the personality structure, in a quantitative and dimensional sense, which become manifest in the form of psychopathological episodes. Therefore, the most pertinent approach to the ages of life is the dimensional one, allowing the decipherment of the continuum between the normal personality, the pathological one and the diseases of Axis I, as well as the sociocultural conditioning of the individual personality structure.

Corresponding to the dimensions of the Big Five model, a first approachable dimension – whose component features are generally present in the structure of any individual and which also allow the blurring of interpersonal differences – is openness. It always means emotional hypersensitivity, intellectual and philosophical concerns, curiosity, nonconformity and the artistic sense.

At a young age, the increased values of this dimension mean idealism, inventiveness, fantasy, manifest curiosity, artistic sense, but also unpredictability and susceptibility to access extended or altered states of consciousness.

In adults, the same quantitative levels combine intellectual depth, reflective tendencies and meditative forays, erudition, charm, originality, artistic taste, debauchery, inconsistency and inconstancy in existential roles, and openness to psychoticism.

The increased values of openness at old ages involve emotional-relational hypersensitivity, unusual and bizarre intellectual concerns, meditative tendencies and a fine erudition which is marked and sometimes masked by theatricality and irony.

At a young age, the low values of openness correspond to an inefficient pragmatism, a careless, disinterested, conventional and banal style, lacking emotional and intellectual support. In adults, emotional and attitudinal rigidity, imaginative monotony, avoidance of the new, prejudice and lack of empathy dominate. The same motivational and relational deficit corresponds to the diminished values of openness to old age, a deficit reflected in indifference, conservatism, comfort, sterile meditations and indifference to authentic existential values.

Extroversion is the dimension that generically integrates sociability, enthusiasm, initiative, activism, the need for sensations and the need to be noticed. At a young age, its increased values mean increased but vulnerable self-esteem, neophilia, activism and superficial interpersonal relationships, a spirit of adventure but also disordered and impulsive behavior. In adulthood, on the other hand, increased extroversion implies a well-defined image and self-esteem, optimism and nonconformism that favor sociability and attitudinal flexibility, but also exaggerated libertine attitudes that disadvantage relaxation and health. At an old age, an increased level of extroversion ­develops egocentric attributes such as pride and audacity, spontaneity and intolerance of minor frustrations, but also the spontaneous manifestations of an erudition that remained latent in another context.

The low values of extroversion at a young age imply a low self-esteem, shyness, diminished affective resonance with a low capacity to experience positive emotions and possible achievements, reserved, subaltern behavior. In adulthood, the tendencies of internalization and incursions in personal intimacy, sobriety, rigidity, severity and sedentarism dominate. The diminished extroversion at the third age means low self-esteem with the deficient affirmation of one’s own needs and desires, pessimism, austerity and suspicion.

Conscientiousness is also a heterogeneous dimension whose dominant facets are the spirit of order, perseverance, attitudinal rigidity, prudence, meticulousness and hyper-responsibility. At a young age, the high levels of this dimension imply a high self-esteem, ambition, perseverance, valorizing aspirations, seriousness, perseverance, exigency in formulating the professional option, but also a low spontaneity. In adults, self-esteem is still high but fragile due to anxious feelings, ambivalence, careerism with hyper-involvement in activity and neglect of personal health.

Low values of conscientiousness at a young age mean low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence, nonconformity, impulsive behaviors due to poor self-control, irresponsibility and disorderly lifestyle, ignoring the personal potential. The diminished values of this dimension in adults correspond to a poorly structured, diffuse self-image, the feeling of meaninglessness of life, indecision, immoral attitudes with ignorance of social norms and common sense, and inefficient involvement in activity. In the elderly, in the same context, indifference, a diminished sensitivity, decadent, relaxed, distracted style, comfort and negligence are obvious.

The dimension of agreeableness has a major role in the appreciation and interpersonal solidarity, integrating trust in people, sincerity, modesty, altruism and availability, along with compassion. At an early age, the increased values of this dimension mean idealism, naivety, sincerity, positive emotional feelings, common sense, politeness, prejudice, docility and tolerance. At the third age, increased agreeableness implies tact and self-control, sociability, compassion, generosity and faith.

At a young age, a low level of agreeableness is manifested by selfishness, emotional indifference, arrogance, naughtiness, indolence, suspicion, envy, indiscretion, frequent appeal to lies, cynicism, greed and cruelty, with special expectations from those around them. Low values of agreeability in old age mean feelings of superiority and self-sufficiency, insensitivity, hypocrisy, indecency, mythomania, and conflicting style in relationships with peers.

The dimension of neuroticism in the Big Five model is ascribed to the affective life and integrates emotional stability, calm, a relaxed style that ignores and controls existential tensions, and affective reactions proportional to stimuli. At a young age, the high values of neuroticism correspond to a low self-esteem that associates feelings of inferiority and embarrassment, insecurity, pessimism, exaggerated reactivity in conditions of minimal stress, need for attachment, feelings of boredom and envy, and toxicophilic tendencies. In adulthood, a fragile and idealized self-image but with diminished self-esteem, negative emotions, irritability, inconsistency, recklessness, hypocrisy and cowardice are high. High levels of neuroticism in old age mean fragile self-esteem, self-devaluation feelings of embarrassment and humiliation, selfishness and egocentrism marked by pessimism, latent impulsivity and a particular simultaneous need for addiction and loneliness.

When neuroticism has low values at a young age, self-control, insensitivity, depth but also boldness, ambition and efficiency are evident along with attitudinal flexibility. Affective detachment, calm, underestimation of dangers and absence of remorse are associated. Overestimation of personal abilities substantiates self-control, realism, perseverance, courage and resistance to frustration, as well as competitiveness and superior decision-making abilities. Low neuroticism in old age means calm and detachment from daily stress, increased self-control and a sense of proportion, attitudinal maturity, but also a decrease in the sense of responsibility.

Dimensional correlations – which involve the compensatory interferences of the component facets – can explain the attitudinal and relational particularities of the personality in the age dynamics. Thus, the two components of the subjective well-being – affective and cognitive – are dominant at young ages and at the third age, being conditioned by the values of neuroticism, extroversion and conscientiousness, respectively by those of openness. Moreover, the first three aforementioned dimensions influence the subjective well-being and self-esteem at all ages, as well as the diversity and quality of interpersonal relationships at young ages and in the active period of life. The subjective state of well-being increases with the high values of extroversion and conscientiousness, and corresponding to a low neuroticism.

In general, extroversion decreases with age and the values of neuroticism increase, especially in females. Extroversion has a dominant role in adapting to adulthood and old age and increased neuroticism is always maladaptive at all ages. The low values of neuroticism favor in young people the early and stable conjugal relations and at the third age they are a first support of longevity. The socioeconomic and marital status can in turn shape the values of the two mentioned dimensions.

In adulthood, increased extroversion can promote success in the profession and in social life, but can also increase exposure to existential risks.
 

The increased values of conscientiousness and agreeableness have a dominant adaptive role at all ages, the second dimension being connected mainly to the active adult age and the third age. It favors a harmonious integration in the social and professional roles and ensures the quality of the individual social support network, defining, in an affective and moral sense, the major attributes of the human condition.

At all ages, the high level of neuroticism and diminished values of conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness have a confirmed maladaptive role. When high values of conscientiousness and agreeableness are associated, the adaptive capacities of adulthood are very well protected and stimulated. On the other hand, low values of neuroticism – the most involved dimension in personality pathology – can compensate all stages of life, confirming the adaptive potential of the affective nucleus of the human personality.

The stability and the profoundness of emotional feelings are a major determinant of subjective well-being and self-esteem and a protective element against existential stress. The facets of the five dimensions of the Big Five model have multiple mutual interferences that form the support of individual adaptive capacities and are, in turn, in a permanent interconditioning with the sociocultural environment, on the territory between normality and personological and psychopathological abnormality.  

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