Ask A Scientist

Why do people change as they get older?

Asked by: Ashley Slater
School: Maine Endwell Middle School
Grade: 6
Teacher: Kevin Wagstaff
Hobbies/Interests: Playing video games and listening to music.
Career Interest: Nascar driver or a singer

Answer from Debra Bohunicky, RN, MS, CCHT

Nursing Faculty: Psychiatric and Mental Health Nur

Research area:
Spirituality and Health, Applied Hypnotherapy, Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing

PhD School:
PhD Candidate in Educational Psychology, Capella University

Interests/hobbies:
Creative writing, gardening, needlecraft, music, theater, walking my dog, spending time with family and friends.

People change because their behavior changes. Behavior is the way someone acts or responds to a stimulus, situation, or person. The collection of behaviors that a person routinely shows is sometimes referred to as their personality. Let's use the example of being at a party. The person who is said to have an outgoing personality is the one that grabs the center of attention; they may be happy, laughing and joking around, and talkative. The person with a shy personality would be quieter, less chatty with everyone around them but friendly and talkative with a select circle of friends. While there are many more elements that make up the personality, the example of the outgoing and shy personality types is to show you how collective behaviors can be labeled. If a person is friendly with you and suddenly no longer wants to be your friend, you would think they changed because their behavior toward you had changed. There could be many reasons why someone's behavior toward another person may change. They could be influenced by a new circle of friends who define themselves differently than your circle of friends. They could be upset with you and not tell you why or perhaps they no longer feel there is anything in common with you. Oftentimes, especially in the pre-teen and teen years, a person who gets connected to the 'popular' crowd at school, may no longer be able to hang out with their old gang because of the way the group defines who can belong. The television show, 'the Beauty and the Geek' uses labels from behaviors that defines who can belong to which of these two groups. This process of change is called maturing and happens when a person begins to connect their experiences with the meanings those experiences have on their lives. They develop new coping mechanisms in life and begin to make different choices in how they want to act and be. For example, imagine someone's pattern of behavior to a stressful time, like during exams, is to eat a quart of chocolate ice cream. This person decides that they prefer a healthy living based on what they learned about cholesterol, or the experience of their father having had a heart attack. Now when exam time rolls around, instead of coping with stress by eating a quart of chocolate ice cream, they reach for vegetables, or go for a run, or meditate. This is what growing up is all about- maturing in thoughts, actions and behaviors. Maturing is about making choices that are healthy, positive and responsible. Hopefully, when this happens, no one is hurt by the changes. Sometimes, though, someone will get left out or left behind if their maturing takes a different path on a different time track. Ultimately, everyone matures. It is called 'growing up' and while it is different for each person, it is achieved by most every person in their lifetime. Even you.

Last Updated: 9/18/13