Stability is essential because we are motivated to feel certainty, security and predictability in life, which may mean living in a stable society, being financially secure, or having dependable relationships.
Key to our survival are the stable attachments we form with primary caregivers, who enable us to explore the world safe in the knowledge that we have a secure base if danger arises. We develop a range of attachments with friends, partners and peers who provide additional bases of stable reassurance and comfort.
Relationships are fundamental, where continuous disruptions in relationships can cause cognitive, social and emotional difficulties.
A secure and predictable environment is especially valued when it gets difficult to adapt to changes in life. Generally speaking, older adults value stability more than younger people which may be linked to the physical decline in strength, cognitive speed and memory. Whilst young people generally prioritise values of hedonism, exploration, and stimulation.
Having stability becomes highly prioritised during times of uncertainty and change. Transitional points in life are examples of this, such as starting a family or when work responsibilities increase, or in times of instability, such as job insecurity. The latter has been linked to increased anxiety and depression, with periods of instability being generally associated with declined psychological well-being.
Uncertainty about the future triggers anxiety, hyper vigilance or stress in the same way that our brain reacts to an immediate threat. This alert mode, or better known as the fight or flight response, evolved as an adaptive behaviour because it prepares us to take action in ambiguous situations. Valuing stability becomes more important during these challenging periods of transition and generally having a secure and predictable environment is more valued when it gets difficult to adapt to changes in life.
Want to learn more?
Read all the details, including how this value presents itself through who we are, what we have, do, and need, in our Human Values Research Paper