Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 205–216 | Cite as

Continuity of the prototypes of social competence and shyness over the life span and across life transitions

  • Marcel A. G. van Aken
  • Jens B. Asendorpf


The continuity of the prototypes of two personality traits, social competence and shyness, over the life span and across life transitions was studied. Teachers who were either familiar with children in a particular life phase, or who were themselves in a certain transitional or stable life phase, were asked to give a description of a prototypical socially competent person and a prototypical shy person in that specific life phase. Results showed almost no change across the life phases in the extent to which specific behaviors or personality characteristics are regarded as typical for social competence or for shyness. Social competence and shyness therefore can be assessed by the same judgmental instruments at different ages and in different kinds of life phases.

Key words

Construct continuity Q-sort method personality traits social competence shyness 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Asendorpf, J. B. (1990). Development of inhibition during childhood: Evidence for situational specificity and a two-factor model.Developmental Psychology, 26, 721–730.Google Scholar
  2. Asendorpf, J. B. (1992). A Brunswikean approach to trait continuity: Application to shyness.Journal of Personality, 60, 53–77.Google Scholar
  3. Baumrind, D. (1989). The permanence of change and the impermanence of stability.Human Development, 32, 187–195.Google Scholar
  4. Block, J. (1971).Lives Through Time. Berkeley, CA: Bancroft Books.Google Scholar
  5. Block, J. (1978).The Q-sort method in personality assessment and psychiatric research. Springfield, IL: Charles, C. Thomas. (Original work published 1961)Google Scholar
  6. Block, J., & Block, J. H. (1980).Rationale and procedure for developing indices of ego-control and ego-resiliency. Unpublished manuscript, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  7. Broughton, R. (1990). The prototype concept in personality assessment.Canadian Psychology, 31, 26–37.Google Scholar
  8. Caspi, A., & Bem, D. J. (1990). Personality continuity and change across the life course. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.),Handbook of personality theory and research (pp. 549–575). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  9. Caspi, A., & Moffit, T. E. (1991). Individual differences are accentuated during periods of social change: The sample case of girls at puberty.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 157–168.Google Scholar
  10. Emmerich, W. (1964). Continuity and stability in early social development.Child Development, 35, 311–332.Google Scholar
  11. Ford, M. E. (1982). Social cognition and social competence in adolescence.Developmental Psychology, 18, 323–340.Google Scholar
  12. Ford, M. E., & Miura, I. T. (1983, August).Prototypical conceptions of socially competent children and adults. Paper presented at the 91st Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association at Anaheim, CA.Google Scholar
  13. Furnham, A. (1995). Lay beliefs about phobia.Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51, 518–525.Google Scholar
  14. Furnham, A., & Kuyken, W. (1991). Lay theories of depression.Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 6, 329–342.Google Scholar
  15. Göttert, R., & Asendorpf, J. (1989). Eine deutsche Version des California-Child-Q-Sort: Kurzform. [A German version of the California-Child-Q-Sort: Short form].Zeitschrift für Entwicklungspsychologie und Pädagogische Psychologie, 21, 70–82.Google Scholar
  16. Horowitz, L. M., French, R. S., & Anderson, C. A. (1982). The prototype of a lonely person. In L. A. Peplau & D. Perlman (Eds.),Loneliness: a sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy (pp. 183–205). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. Kagan, J. (1969). The three faces of continuity in human development. In D. A. Goslin (Ed.),Handbook of socialization theory and research (pp. 983–1002). Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  18. Lerner, R. M., Palermo, M., Spiro III, A., & Nesselroade, J. R. (1982). Assessing the dimensions of temperamental individuality across the life span: The Dimensions of Temperament Survey (DOTS).Child Development, 53, 149–159.Google Scholar
  19. Levinson, D. J. (1986). A conception of adult development.American Psychologist, 41, 3–13.Google Scholar
  20. McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T., & Busch, C. M. (1986). Evaluating comprehensiveness in personality systems: The California Q-Set and the five-factor model.Journal of Personality, 54, 430–446.Google Scholar
  21. Ozer, D. J. (1994). The Q-sort method and the study of personality development. In D. Funder, R. Parke, C. Tomlinson-Keasey, & K. Widamon (Eds.),Studying lives through time: Approaches to personality development (pp. 147–168). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  22. Ozer, D. J., & Gjerde, P. F. (1989). Patterns of personality consistency and change from childhood through adolescence.Journal of Personality, 57, 483–507.Google Scholar
  23. Robins, R. W., John, O. P., & Caspi, A. (1994). Major dimensions of personality in early adolescence: The Big Five and beyond. In C. F. Halverson, G. A. Kohnstamm, & R. P. Martin (Eds.),The developing structure of temperament and personality from infancy to adulthood (pp. 267–292). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  24. Rubin, K. H., & Rose-Krasnor, L. (1992). Interpersonal problem solving and social competence in children. In V. B. van Hasselt & M. Hersen (Eds.),Handbook of social development: A lifespan perspective (pp. 283–323). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  25. Sternberg, R. J. (1990). Prototypes of competence and incompetence. In R. J. Sternberg & J. Kolligian (Eds.),Competence considered (pp. 117–145). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Sternberg, R. J., Conway, B. E., Ketron, J. L., & Bernstein, M. (1981). People's conceptions of intelligence.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41, 37–55.Google Scholar
  27. van Aken, M. A. G. (1992).A German translation of the California Q-set. Munich, Germany: Max-Planck-Institute for Psychological Research.Google Scholar
  28. van Aken, M. A. G., & Asendorpf, J. B. (in press). A person-centered approach to development: the temporal consistency of personality and self-concept. In F. E. Weinert & W. Schneider (Eds.).Individual development from 3 to 12: Findings of a longitudinal study. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  29. van Lieshout, C. F. M., & Haselager, G. J. T. (1994). The Big Five personality factors in Q-sort descriptions of children and adolescents. In C. F. Halverson, G. A. Kohnstamm, & R. P. Martin (Eds.),The developing structure of temperament and personality from infancy to adulthood (pp. 293–318). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  30. Waters, E., Noyes, D. M., Vaughn, B. E., & Ricks, M. (1985). Q-sort definitions of social competence and self-esteem: Discriminant validity of related constructs in theory and data.Developmental Psychology, 21, 508–522.Google Scholar
  31. Waters, E., & Sroufe, L. A. (1983). Social competence as a developmental construct.Developmental Review, 3, 79–97.Google Scholar
  32. West, S. G., & Graziano, W. G. (1989). Long-term stability and change in personality: An introduction.Journal of Personality, 57, 175–194.Google Scholar
  33. Zigler, E., & Trickett, P. K. (1978). IQ, social competence, and evaluation of early childhood intervention programs.American Psychologist, 33, 789–798.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcel A. G. van Aken
    • 1
  • Jens B. Asendorpf
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institute for Psychological ResearchMunichGermany

Personalised recommendations