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personality weathers. Amongst these there are several criteria according to which a healthypersonality
his environment, shows a certain
unity of personality
, and is able to
the world and himself
. In considering that all of these criteria are relative toa child's cognitive and social development, we may look upon childhood, by definition, ashaving an initial absence of such criteria, and of developing them in complex steps ofincreasing differentiation.This principle is derived from the growth of organisms in the womb. It states that the growth ofliving organisms follows a pattern or plan. As this plan proceeds and unfolds there arisesindividual parts which eventually will form the functioning whole. Each separate part of thisdevelopment has a critical phase where there is a particular danger of defect.In addition to these, and following birth, the baby enters the system of his society and willproceed to develop his capacity to meet the opportunities of his culture. How well hesucceeds in this will depend upon any genetic defect, or damage that was sustained beforebirth, or subsequent to birth; or to the effects of his environment and the nature of parentalinfluences. There will be inner conflicts to be met and these idiosyncratic developments willdetermine how and in what manner the individual becomes a distinct personality.In all this development of identity there is a proper rate and a proper sequence, butnevertheless it does vary from culture to culture. The child who is met with understanding andrespect and who is given appropriate guidance will follow instinctively these inner laws ofdevelopment. These laws ensure a series of potentialities for significant interaction with thosewho will parent him and the society which responds to him. So we have the force from withinand the interaction from without, and these two will allow for the development of personalityover a period of time. This time may be contained mainly within the first seven years of life; or it may extend further in certain circumstances.What is worth considering is how these forces and interactions vary; not only in normal, healthychildren but in those who are handicapped
or who have a potential for becominghandicapped.
There is here a paradox in which the child, having instinctive energy (thegenetic endowment of developmental potential), is also vulnerable; and whilst thisvulnerability is always present in some respects, the child is also completely oblivious andinsensitive in others, and yet remains unbelievably persistent in the same respects in which he isvulnerable. If the child is to grow up
the family must reorient itself to accommodatehis presence and they must grow together as a group. A family can bring up a baby only bybeing brought up by him. His growth consists of a series of challenges to them to serve hisnewly developing potentialities for social interaction.If however the baby's instinctive responsiveness is damaged in some way, or if his societalenvironment is deficient, then this situation has the possibility of creating a damagedpersonality, which in itself may be the basis of a handicap, or at least contribute to causingthe handicap to be visible because the child becomes socially unacceptable due to thedifferences from the norm that are exhibited by him.It can be considered that the earliest and most undifferentiated
sense of identity
arises out ofthe encounter of maternal person and small infant; an encounter which is one of mutualtrustworthiness and mutual recognition. This is, in all its infantile simplicity, the first experience ofwhat later becomes love and admiration and can be called a sense of
,the need for which remains basic in man. Its absence or impairment can dangerously limit thecapacity to feel identical, when adolescent growth makes it incumbent on the person toabandon his childhood and to trust adulthood and, with it, the search for self-chosen lovesand incentives.