This article throws light upon the three main factors influencing the development of personality of an individual. The factors are: 1. Genetic and Constitutional Factors 2. Socio-Cultural Factors 3. Significant Personal Experiences.
1. Genetic and Constitutional Factors:
The genetic and constitutional factors influence the ‘personality’ of an individual. The body type of a person, the type of nervous system, functioning of the endocrine glands, have all been shown to influence behaviour and consequently the personality. But here one has to make a distinction between genetic or hereditary factors, on one hand and constitutional factors on the other.
While there is not much valid evidence regarding the role of hereditary factors like genes in the development of personality in general, attempts have been made by Kallman to bring out the role of genes in the development of personality disorders like schizophrenia and paranoia. Similarly, Slater has attempted to study the relationship between body types and personality disorders.
Apart from these attempts, it has been shown that the nature of the nervous system, particularly the functions of the endocrine glands, have an impact on the personality of an individual. It may, therefore, be said that constitutional factors do appear to influence the development and functioning of the personality.
2. Socio-Cultural Factors:
The individual is born into a particular social and cultural milieu. The formation and development of personality takes place through interactions with others who are members of different social and cultural systems. Apart from actual persons, the individual also responds and reacts to the values, norms, expectations and controls of the socio-cultural systems to a great extent.
It is this, that prompted anthropologists and sociologists to advance a socio-cultural theory of personality. Each culture directs individual personalities to develop a ‘common minimum’. Thus, we talk of a German personality, a Japanese character, an oriental nature and so on.
In addition to variations between cultures, one also finds variations within cultures; socio-economic class differences have their own influences. Thus, one talks of middle-class morality, ‘proletariat or working class values’, etc. All these influence the personality of the individual.
The most important agency through which cultural and sub-cultural variations influence the developing personality is the home. The parents and the way in which they rear their children, in accordance with culturally fostered and supported norms, play the most important role.
Child-rearing or child training styles have been mentioned as the single most powerful influence on the developing personality. Anthropological studies by Mead, Benedict and others have produced evidence to support this view. Psychological studies like those of Baldwin have also shown how variations in child training attitudes and behaviours influence personality.
Parental attitudes, expectations and ways of dealing with children have been shown to be associated with a number of personality problems and disorders which develop in later years.
A few aspects which may be mentioned here are the tendencies on the part of the parents to be dominant or punitive, to reject children or to be indifferent towards them or be overindulgent. It must, however, be pointed out that even child-rearing attitudes and behaviours are to a considerable extent influenced and regulated by social and cultural factors.
Nevertheless, we find a lot of variations which can be attributed to the unique situations of particular homes. These unique situations include the personalities of the parents themselves. Parental personalities, reflected through unique child-rearing practices, therefore, constitute yet another important influence on the developing personality.
3. Significant Personal Experiences:
In addition to general factors such as constitutional and socio-cultural factors, unique personal experiences also influence the development of the personality. In fact, these unique experiences provide the basis for the unique and individual aspects of the personality. Such personal experiences can be positive or negative.
For example, prolonged and severe illnesses, accidents, traumatic experiences like loss of parents, etc. are negative experiences which can adversely affect the development of personality, preventing it from developing freely and fully. In extreme cases, they can also result in behavioural abnormalities.
On the other hand, success, achievement, thrilling experiences like unexpected meetings with a great person, etc. are positive factors which can contribute to a better development of personality. There is no dearth of instances where a single positive experience has completely changed the course of development of a person’s personality.
It may, therefore, be seen that ‘personality’ is influenced and its development is determined by a number of factors. The personality of an individual is a product of continuous and cumulative interaction among these various factors. This fact must always be borne in mind while one is trying to understand or compare the personalities of people and also while passing judgement on them.