Goals as Building Blocks of Personality and Development in Adulthood

Authored by: Alexandra M. Freund , Michaela Riediger

Handbook of Personality Development

Print publication date:  April  2006
Online publication date:  February  2014

Print ISBN: 9780805847161
eBook ISBN: 9781315805610
Adobe ISBN: 9781317778073


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Since its very conception, personality psychology has seen goals as the building blocks of personality (e.g., Airport, 1937). Personal goals are typically defined as consciously accessible cognitive representations of states an individual wants to attain or avoid in the future. They provide consistency across situations, and structure and organize behavior over time into meaningful action units. We submit that the concept of personal goals is particularly well suited for a developmental approach to personality. Integrating motivational processes into a life-span context furthers our understanding of both the direction of development and of interindividual differences in the level of functioning in various life domains. One of the basic assumptions of joining an action-theoretical perspective with a life-span perspective is that people actively shape their own development in interaction with a given physical, cultural, social, and historical context (see Little, Snyder, & Wehmeyer, chap. 4, this volume). In this chapter, we put forth the idea that goals link the person to these contexts and thus are central to—or building blocks of—personality and development in adulthood.

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