This article throws light upon the top three factors influencing personality development. The factors are: 1. Biological Factors 2. Cultural Determinants of Personality 3. Family Influences on Personality Development.
Factor # 1. Biological Factors:
By and large, the influences of biological factors on personality structure are limited and indirect.
The biological factors include genetic, hereditary factors, physical appearance and physique and rate of maturation.
Most of these factors have been elaborately discussed in the chapter on development in this book. For personality development, the characteristics such as—aggressiveness, nervousness, timidity and sociability are strongly influenced by genetic endowment.
The constitutional make-up—which is also largely determined by heredity—influences a person’s personality characteristics and influences his personality development in an indirect way. The children reliably classified as active, moderately active or quiet are actually the differences attributable to hereditary endowments, although training and learning may produce noticable modifications. Here, the environment and culture provide a decisive role.
The influence cast by the physical appearance and physique have been thoroughly discussed on the section of physical development and needs no repetition. Only thing to be pointed out is that any deficiency in physical appearance or physique can be compensated by other achievements made in the individual’s life.
The rate of maturing is another important factor in causing striking variations at various ages at which the child reaches due to chronological development. The differences in behaviour is noticeable in the relatively mature or immature adolescents of the same age.
This difference may be due to the adolescent’s exposure to different social-psychological environments. A late maturing boy looks younger than his age and is likely to be regarded and treated as immature by others, while the early maturing boy is likely to be credited with being more grown-up socially and emotionally.
But a caution has to be considered in over-emphasizing the influence of physical characters on personality development. Because, although the rate of maturing and associated factors may affect personality development, the relationship between physical make-up and psychological characteristics is not very rigid and categorical. The relationship can be influenced by a vast number of complex, interacting factors determining the individual’s personality structure.
Factor # 2. Cultural Determinants of Personality:
From the point of view of personality development the most significant aspect of the individual’s world is his social environment. All human beings live in a society, an interacting group of people and each society has a distinctive culture, a body of stored knowledge, characteristic way of thinking, feeling attitudes, goals, ideals and value system.
Culture regulates our lives and influences the development of personality at every turn, primarily by prescribing and limiting what he will be required to acquire for the development of his personality. Such culture expects and trains its members to behave in the ways that are acceptable to the group. Each culture has its own concepts, needs and specific techniques of child rearing as well as a set of expectations regarding patterns of approved behaviour.
There are cultural variations in the methods of achieving such goals as to perpetuating the group and maintaining solidarity, or for satisfying basic needs of its members. There are cultural prescriptions for different types of child-rearing according to the necessity of the various groups. Again, there are social class differences—children from different socio-economic backgrounds differ in personality structure, behaviour and attitudes.
They differ with respect to achievement motivation —the basic need leading to success in life. Middle-class parents, in general, stress achievement strongly, but lower- class parents do not. Sociological analysis suggests that the lower-class child develops little capacity to “delay gratification”, because, for him, the future is uncertain. Therefore, the variation in social class leads to the setting of variety of aim, modes and methods in developing social behaviour and, thereby, cause individuals to vary in the development of personality.
Factor # 3. Family Influences on Personality Development:
The ultimate aim of personality development is the development of social behaviour in children. Socialization is the process by which the individual infant acquires the behavioural potentialities and, eventually, those behaviour patterns that are customary and acceptable according to the standards of his family and the social group. He starts acquiring those patterns of social behaviour from the immediate environment and gradually from the wide range of extended environments.
The child’s first social learning occurs at home, and his earliest experiences with his family, particularly his mother, are critical in determining his attitude toward—and his expectations of—other individuals. The mother remains most important to him because she gratifies his primary needs for food, for alleviation of his pain and source of pleasure, for warmth. The infant soon learns to search for and approach his mother whenever he is hungry, in pain and uncomfortable.
If the mother is nurturant and gratifies his needs promptly and effectively, she rewards the child’s “approach” responses and these are likely to be repeated. Positive approach responses then, gradually, generalize to other people as well and the child develops positive social attitude. As we have seen in Erikson’s theory that the earliest interactions between mother and child lay the ground-work for child’s development of trust and mistrust in the world. This leads to the trust and mistrust to be generalized to trust others when the child grows up.
Almost all the theorists of personality development maintain that early mother-child relationships influence not only a child’s immediate behaviour but also his subsequent and long- term adjustment.
The child-rearing practices also are taken into account as influencing the personality development. The parental attitude (in child-rearing process) toward the child’s growing independence and their reactions to exploration and the curiosity strongly influences the development of important motives, like, curiosity, and the drives for autonomy, independence, mastery, competence, and achievement, as well as intelligence. This is evident from the different cross-cultural studies of child-rearing practices and their influences on child behaviour.
Permissive and easygoing parents will allow their child to explore and investigate freely, encouraging and rewarding his curiosity and independent behaviour. As a result, their children will manipulate their environment actively, thereby developing self-confidence, spontaneity and the desire for mastery over their surroundings.
Parents who severely restrict their children in exploring and manipulating their environment and inhibit the development of motivation for autonomy will ultimately lead to the child’s dependent behaviour. The same result yields when the mothers become over-protective. The over-protected children tend to become submissive, compliant and, sometimes, passive.
The impact of various types of home atmosphere on the personality characteristics have been studied cross-culturally and the research results show the children from democratic homes—which are characterized by general permissiveness— frequent conversing with children, emphasis on the child’s decision-making, problem-solving and helping them to rationalize behaviour—lead to strengthening their (children’s) ego-strength and strong self-concept in future.
By contrast, children brought up in the authoritative (controlled, restricted) homes, homes with clear-cut rules, prohibitions and restrictions—tend to be quiet, well-behaved, shy, socially unassertive children. Those from the highly “indulgent” homes, show almost same behaviour, when they grow up, as shown by the restricted and overprotected children.
Thus, it can be surmised that the traits developed throughout the course of personality development depend, on the whole and in general, on the interaction of the biological, cultural and social factors and the congenial environment provided by the family and society.
The predictions given above (received from different research studies) are only generalizations and not absolutely conclusive. Most of the traits acquired by the child in future depend on many other factors he encounters in his own life, his own perception and reactions to them. A young child’s behaviour may be swayed by the reactions his peer groups show to him. Personality change do occur frequently during childhood because, at this stage, personality characteristics are not fixed or immutable.
As his world expands, the child faces and encounters many new situations and faces many a new social interactions that may produce radical alterations in personality structure and behaviour. Even simple social learning and formal training of attitudes and values in proper learning situations like school and other institutions play important role in influencing the personality change and development.