Studying the Motivated Agent Through Time: Personal Goal Development During the Adult Life Span

William L. Dunlop*, Brittany L. Bannon, Dan P. McAdams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This research examined the rank-order and mean-level consistency of personal goals at two periods in the adult life span. Personal goal continuity was considered among a group of young adults (N = 145) who reported their goals three times over a 3-year period and among a group of midlife adults (N = 163) who specified their goals annually over a 4-year period. Goals were coded for a series of motive-based (viz., achievement, affiliation, intimacy, power) and domain-based (viz., finance, generativity, health, travel) categories. In both samples, we noted a moderate degree of rank-order consistency across assessment periods. In addition, the majority of goal categories exhibited a high degree of mean-level consistency. The results of this research suggest that (a) the content of goals exhibits a modest degree of rank-order consistency and a substantial degree of mean-level consistency over time, and (b) considering personality continuity and development as manifest via goals represents a viable strategy for personality psychologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-219
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Personality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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