Ethics-Relevant Values in Adulthood: Longitudinal Findings from the Life and Time Study


This study investigates a set of variables related to the relative valuing of narrow self-interest versus the concerns of a larger community. These values likely capture stable dispositions. Additionally, because ethics-relevant values are associated with ongoing cultural and moral socialization, they may develop over time as in May’s theory of mature values. We administered eight value priority scales (Mature Values, Unmitigated Self-Interest, Materialism, Financial Aspirations, and Horizontal and Vertical Individualism and Collectivism) to a national community sample (N = 864, 66% female, 71% White, mean age 36) on four occasions approximately one year apart (Time 4 N = 570). We examined the mean-level change as cross-sectional age differences and longitudinal change, and rank-order stability. Correlations with Big Five/Big Six personality traits are reported.As people grew older, they increased in Mature Values and Horizontal and Vertical Collectivism, and decreased in Unmitigated Self-Interest, Materialism, and Vertical Individualism. Rank-order stability of the values was nearly as high as personality traits over three years. Stability increased with age for some scales.The stability of values scores suggests that they capture dispositional aspects, but age differences and longitudinal trends are also consistent with the hypothesis of socialization toward more inclusive value priorities.

Journal of Personality