“environmental mastery,” “autonomy,”
or “personal growth” and “purpose in life,”
Ryff and Keyes (1995) find that the first two dimensions increase with age during adulthood and
old age and the latter two level off after midlife. The increases in environmental mastery and autonomy can be described as being highly functional and adaptive for mastering adult life.
Personal growth and purpose in life, however, level off in midlife. This developmental trend fits well with the decline observed in openness to new experiences in old age. It has been argued (Staudinger, 2005), that these observed declines in self-reported openness, personal growth and purpose in life, may indicate that in contrast to social adaptation, personal maturity is less likely to come with age for most people.
And indeed studies of wisdom (e.g., Staudinger, 1999b) and of ego development (e.g., Labouvie-Vief et al., 1987) find no normative increase with age during adulthood.
Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719–727.
Staudinger, U. M. (1999b). Social cognition and a psychological approach to an art of life. In F. Blanchard-Fields & T. Hess (Eds.), Social cognition, adult development and aging (pp. 343–375). New York: Academic Press.
Labouvie-Vief, G., Hakim-Larson, J., & Hobart, C. J. (1987). Age, ego level, and the life span development of coping and defense processes. Psychology and Aging, 2, 286–293.