Definition Personality development is the development of the organized pattern of behaviors and attitudes that makes a person distinctive. Personality development occurs by the ongoing interaction of temperament, character, and environment. Description Personality is what makes a person a unique person, and it is recognizable soon after birth. A child's personality has several components: temperament, environment, and character. Temperament is the set of genetically determined traits that determine the child's approach to the world and how the child learns about the world. There are no genes that specify personality traits, but some genes do control the development of the nervous system, which in turn controls behavior. A second component of personality comes from adaptive patterns related to a child's specific environment. Most psychologists agree that these two factors—temperament and environment—influence the development of a person's personality the most. Temperament, with its dependence on genetic factors, is sometimes referred to as "nature," while the environmental factors are called "nurture." While there is still controversy as to which factor ranks higher in affecting personality development, all experts agree that high-quality parenting plays a critical role in the development of a child's personality. When parents understand how their child responds to certain situations, they can anticipate issues that might be problematic for their child. They can prepare the child for the situation or in some cases they may avoid a potentially difficult situation altogether. Parents who know how to adapt their parenting approach to the particular temperament of their child can best provide guidance and ensure the successful development of their child's personality. Finally, the third component of personality is character—the set of emotional, cognitive, and behavioral patterns learned from experience that determines how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. A person's character continues to evolve throughout life, although much depends on inborn traits and early experiences. Character is also dependent on a person's moral development. In 1956, psychiatrist Erik Erikson provided an insightful description as to how personality develops based on his extensive experience in psychotherapy with children and adolescents from low, upper, and middle-class backgrounds. According to Erikson, the socialization process of an individual consists of eight phases, each one accompanied

by a "psychosocial crisis" that must be solved if the person is to manage the next and subsequent phases satisfactorily. The stages significantly influence personality development, with five of them occurring during infancy, childhood, and adolescence.

During the first two years of life, an infant goes through the first stage: Learning Basic Trust or Mistrust (Hope). Well-nurtured and loved, the infant develops trust and security and a basic optimism. Badly handled, the infant becomes insecure and learns "basic mistrust."

The second stage occurs during early childhood, between about 18 months to two years and three to four years of age. It deals with Learning Autonomy or Shame (Will). Wellparented, the child emerges from this stage with self-confidence, elated with his or her newly found control. The early part of this stage can also include stormy tantrums, stubbornness, and negativism, depending on the child's temperament.

The third stage occurs during the "play age," or the later preschool years from about three to entry into formal school. The developing child goes through Learning Initiative or Guilt (Purpose). The child learns to use imagination; to broaden skills through active play and fantasy; to cooperate with others; and to lead as well as to follow. If unsuccessful, the child becomes fearful, is unable to join groups, and harbors guilty feelings. The child depends excessively on adults and is restricted both in the development of play skills and in imagination.
School Age

The fourth stage, Learning Industry or Inferiority (Competence), occurs during school age, up to and possibly including junior high school. The child learns to master more formal skills:
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relating with peers according to rules progressing from free play to play that is structured by rules and requires teamwork (team sports) learning basic intellectual skills (reading, arithmetic)

At this stage, the need for self-discipline increases every year. The child who, because of his or her successful passage through earlier stages, is trusting, autonomous, and full of initiative, will quickly learn to be industrious. However, the mistrusting child will doubt the future and will feel inferior.

Maturity starts developing during this time; the young person acquires self-certainty as opposed to self-doubt and experiments with different constructive roles rather than adopting a negative identity, such as delinquency. The well-adjusted adolescent actually looks forward to achievement, and, in later adolescence, clear sexual identity is established. The adolescent seeks leadership (someone to inspire him or her), and gradually develops a set of ideals to live by. The Child Development Institute (CDI) rightfully points out that very little knowledge is available on the type of specific environment that will result, for example, in traits of trust being more developed in a person's personality. Helping the child through the various stages of emotional and personality development is a complex and difficult task. Searching for the best ways of accomplishing this task accounts for most of the research carried out in the field of child development today. Renowned psychologist Carl Rogers emphasized how childhood experiences affect personality development. Many psychologists believe that there are certain critical periods in personality development—periods when the child will be more sensitive to certain environmental factors. Most experts believe that a child's experiences in the family are important for his or her personality development, although not exactly as described by Erikson's stages, but in good agreement with the importance of how a child's needs should to be met in the family environment. For example, children who are toilet trained too early or have their toilet training carried out too strictly may become rebellious. Another example is shown by children who learn appropriate behavior to their sex lives when there is a good relationship with their same-sex parent. Another environmental factor of importance is culture. Researchers comparing cultural groups for specific personality types have found some important differences. For example, Northern European countries and the United States have individualistic cultures that put more emphasis on individual needs and accomplishments. In contrast, Asian, African, Central American, and South American countries are characterized more by community-centered cultures that focus on belonging to a larger group, such as a family, or nation. In these cultures, cooperation is considered a more important value than competitiveness, which will necessarily affect personality development. Common Problems Infants who are just a few weeks old display differences between each other in how active they are, how responsive they are to change, and how irritable they are. Some infants cry constantly while others seem happy and stay fairly quiet. Child development research conducted by the CDI has identified nine temperamental traits that may contribute to a child's personality development being challenging or difficult:

activity level (how active the child is generally)

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distractibility (degree of concentration and paying attention when the child is not particularly interested) intensity (how loud the child is) regularity (the predictability of biological functions like appetite and sleep) sensory threshold (how sensitive the child is to physical stimuli: touch, taste, smell, sound, light) approach/withdrawal (characteristic responses of a child to a new situation or to strangers) adaptability (how easily the child adapts to transitions and changes such as switching to a new activity) persistence (stubbornness, inability to give up) mood (tendency to react to the world primarily in a positive or negative way)

Temperamental traits are enduring personality characteristics that are neither "good" nor "bad." Early on, parents can work with the child's temperamental traits rather than oppose them. Later, as the child grows up, parents can help the child to adapt to his or her own world in spite of inborn temperament. Parental Concerns Most children experience healthy personality development. However, some parents worry as to whether their infant, child, or teenager has a personality disorder. Parents are usually the first to recognize that their child has a problem with emotions or behaviors that may point to a personality disorder. Children with personality disorders have great difficulty dealing with other people. They tend to be inflexible, rigid, and unable to respond to the changes and normal stresses of life and find it very difficult to participate in social activities. When these characteristics are present in a child to an extreme, when they are persistent and when they interfere with healthy development, a diagnostic evaluation with a licensed physician or mental health professional is recommended.
When to Call the Doctor

Parents who suspect that their child has a personality disorder should seek professional help. It is a very important first step in knowing for sure whether there is a disorder, and if so, what treatment can best help the child. Child and adolescent psychiatrists are trained to help parents sort out whether their child's personality development is normal.


AACAP and David Pruitt. Your Child: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development from Infancy through Pre-Adolescence. New York: Harper Collins, 1998. AACAP and David Pruitt. Your Adolescent: Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Development from Early Adolescence through the Teen Years. New York: Harper Collins, 1999. Allen, Bem P. Personality Theories: Development, Growth, and Diversity. Harlow, UK: Allyn & Bacon, 2002. Berger, Elizabeth. Raising Children With Character: Parents, Trust, and the Development of Personal Integrity. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999. Erikson, Erik. Childhood and Society. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993. Erikson, Erik. The Erik Erikson Reader. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000. Goleman, Daniel. Working With Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam, 1998. Rogers, Carl. On Becoming a Person. Boston: Mariner Books, 1995. Shaffer, David R. Social and Personality Development. Independence, KT: Wadsworth Publishing, 1999. "Social, Emotional, and Personality Development." Handbook of Child Psychology, edited by William Damon and Nancy Eisenberg. 5th ed. New York: Wiley, 2000.

Biesanz, J. C. et al. "Personality over time: Methodological approaches to the study of short-term and long-term development and change." Journal of Personality. 71, no. 6 (December, 2003): 905–41. Hart, D. et al. "Personality and development in childhood: a person-centered approach." Monographs in Social Research on Child Development. 68, no. 1 (2003): 1–119. Jensen-Campbell, L. A. et al. "Interpersonal conflict, agreeableness, and personality development." Journal of Personality.71, no. 6 (December, 2003): 1059–85. Roberts, B. W. and R. W. Robins. "Person-Environment Fit and its implications for personality development: a longitudinal study." Journal of Personality. 72, no. 1 (February, 2004): 89–110.

Roberts, B. W. et al. "The kids are alright: growth and stability in personality development from adolescence to adulthood." Journal of Personality & Social Psychology. 81, no. 4 (October, 2001): 670–83. Shiner, R, and A. Caspi. "Personality differences in childhood and adolescence: measurement, development, and consequences." Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry. 44, no. 1 (January, 2003): 2–32.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). 3615 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, DC. 20016–3007. (202) 966–7300. Web site: American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 141 Northwest Point Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007–1098. (847) 434–4000. Web site: American Psychological Association (APA). 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002–4242. (800) 374–2721. Web site: Child Development Institute (CDI). 3528 E Ridgeway Road, Orange, California 92867. (714) 998–8617. Web site:
Web Sites

CDI. Child Development Basics. Available online at: (accessed March 5, 2005). Great Ideas in Personality. Available online at: (accessed March 5, 2005). The Personality Project. Available online at: (accessed March 5, 2005). [Article by: Monique Laberge, Ph.D.]

The Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Personality and Relationships
. During tough times in my life, one of the many meaningful lessons I learned, was the importance of maintaining happy relationships with the people I love and care about. Sometimes in our busy modern lives, we tend to forget this.

As the great teacher Brian Tracy says "85% of an individual's happiness comes from happy involvement with other people." So what are some of the personal communication skills we need to understand and frequently practice, in order to develop a healthy personality and maintain many happy relationships? 1. Practice indirect effort. In our relationships with other people, we have a tendency to get what we want by using an indirect approach, rather than a direct approach. Realise that people are more impressed by you, if you at first demonstrate genuine interest in them. The key to having quality relationships is based upon what you first put into those relationships. 2. Raise the self esteem of others. Develop your own "Personal Communications Strategy" which strives to make others at work and home feel important. By raising the self-esteem of others, your own self-esteem will rise. 3. Pay attention. Be attentive when people are talking to you. This means stopping what you are doing, looking straight at the person talking, avoiding distractions and not interrupting. Remember that your 100% attention tells a person that you genuinely value them. 4. Eliminate negative destructive criticism. Nothing is more demoralising to adults and children. Start to listen to how you are speaking to the people you care about. The first step towards ceasing destructive criticism of others is to recognise when you are using it. If unsure, ask people if you frequently use criticism on them. 5. Don't argue. Instead of taking a contrary stance just for the sake of it, start to listen and understand the other person's point of view at work and at home. Like any new habit, this may not be easy at first, but for the sake of the important people in your life, force yourself to do it. 6. Say "Thank you" more often. I am continually amazed at the lack of appreciation shown by people, particularly in business. It takes but a moment to say, yet can leave a lasting positive impression. Start a new "Thank You" habit today. Apply it regularly in your relationships with your children, your spouse or partner, your fellow workers, your boss and even in your letters and emails etc. 7. Practice "The Golden Rule."

This rule simply tells us that we should love others as much as we love ourselves. Next time you find yourself in a potentially difficult situation, ask yourself this question: "How would I like to be treated in this situation?" 8. Avoid self-pity. Sometimes we inwardly feel sorry for ourselves and just want to relieve the stress and strain by "taking it out" on somebody close to us. This situation is a sign of low selfesteem, which can be raised by re-focusing upon your true values and goals. Not knowing them, is a strong indication as to where you should start. 9. Make a commitment. Be sure in your own mind that you are putting in and openly demonstrating a 100% commitment in your important relationships. If improvement is required, then take the appropriate steps, starting today. 10. You can't change people. This is so important to understand. Nobody can change another person. Change only emerges from within a willing individual. We must therefore recognise that if we want others to change, then first we need to change. Finally, if you wish for happier relationships at work or at home, recognise that the starting point is always "YOU". Self-knowledge is an invaluable personal asset, it will steer you towards successful relationships throughout your life.

ATTITUDE What creates your attitude? Your outlook on life creates your attitude. You can look at everything that occurs in your life as positive and meaningful, and strive to make the best of everything. On the other hand, you can look at everything as being negative and meaningless, and let yourself be defeated by it. The viewpoint is yours to choose. You must have a burning desire to accomplish that which you set as your goal. A burning desire is your greatest accomplice in overcoming obstacles and achieving your goal or dream (or vision). This desire will keep you going

through thick and thin. It will not allow you to quit until the desired effect is accomplished. I once read something to the effect that if you are bound in such a manner you are rendered immobile and a burning coal is placed on your body, your desire to get rid of that burning coal would be awesome. Your entire focus would be on getting rid of that glowing ember. This is the type desire you need to accomplish your greatest feats. You must know why you desire success in whatever you have chosen. Your why must be strong enough to overcome all obstacles. Those who know why will always achieve more than those who only know how. When the why is strong enough the how doesn't matter. The right attitude, a strong desire and a well-defined why are the essential elements of success. These may well be used in conjunction with any or all of the items listed at the beginning of this article. How we put these elements together and use them is strictly an individual matter. No two of us will use the exact same combination of elements to achieve our goals. We have but to find what works for us and give it our very best. To your great success!

About the Submitter
This piece was originally submitted by Robert Taylor, who can be reached at, or visited on the web. To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. - Ralph Waldo Emerson