Little is known about individual patterns of life satisfaction (LS) over the life course. Therefore, we examine individual long-term patterns by making a distinction between the shape of the LS pattern and its mean level. Further, in order to contribute to the discussion about the impact of personality and life events on LS, we examine the effects of both factors on the mean level and the pattern. A Dutch Panel Study is used in which young adults were followed for 18 years (N = 766). Six satisfaction patterns are defined: stable, increasing, decreasing, U-shaped, reversed U-shaped and fluctuating. A stable pattern is found to be most common, but the majority of the young adults have a changing LS pattern. The multivariate analyses show that neuroticism exerts negative and extraversion positive effect on the long-term LS mean. Life events in the relationship domain are related to the mean level and the pattern of LS. In addition, there are several interaction effects of events and personality.
Keywords: life satisfaction; relationships; life course; transitions; personality; set-point; family