How our teenage years shape our personalities

The mood swings and stress you experience as you go through puberty can shape your brain to determine the person you will become.

My four-year-old twins are similar in many ways – both are sociable, loving and cheeky – but a few contrasts are opening up. For instance, our son is more aware of time, endlessly curious about the future. Meanwhile our daughter is more determined to do things for herself.

As a psychologist focused on personality (and as their father), watching their characters emerge and develop fascinates me.
It’s early days, of course, and while the roots of our personality can be traced all the way back to infancy, I know there will plenty of change to come, especially when our twins become teenagers.

That’s because our teenage years are a time of rapid change. That’s why cognitive neuroscientist and teen brain expert Sarah-Jayne Blakemore recently described the unique challenge that adolescence represents as a “perfect storm” thanks to the simultaneous and sudden increase in “hormonal changes, neural changes, social changes and the pressures of life”. To that list, she could easily have added personality changes.

From infancy to later childhood, our personality and temperament typically become more stable as we adopt an ever more consistent way of thinking, acting and feeling. Personality stability increases once again from late adolescence into adulthood.


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