Personality Development

1. What are the four main factors that affect the development of personality? 2. How does isolation in childhood affect development?

• To social scientists, personality is the sum total of behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, and values that are characteristic of an individual. • Our personality traits determine how we adjust to our environment and how we react in specific situations. • No two individuals have the same personalities. Each individual has his or her own way of interacting with other people and with his or her social environment.

Personality Development
• People’s personalities continue to develop throughout their lifetimes. Specific traits change at different rates and to different degrees. • Some personality traits seem to remain constant throughout a person’s life, while others undergo dramatic changes. • Personality development is more obvious during childhood, when people are experiencing rapid physical, emotional, and intellectual growth. • At adulthood, personality traits change at a slower rate. However personality development varies form individual to individual.

Nature vs. Nurture
• Sociologists debate what determines personality and social behavior. • Some argue that it is heredity – the transmission of genetic characteristics from parents to children. • Others suggest that the social environment – contact with other people – determines personality. • This debate is usually referred to in terms of nature versus nurture, or inherited genes versus environment and social learning.

The Nature Viewpoint
• Since the 1800s this viewpoint states that much of human behavior is instinctual in origin. • An instinct is an unchanging behavior pattern. Instinct is most often applied to animal behavior. (Ex. Birds building nests) • Supporters of this viewpoint claim biology as the basis for human behavior. They claim that instinctual drives are responsible for practically everything – laughing, motherhood, warfare, religion, even the creation of society.

The Nurture Viewpoint
• From this viewpoint a person’s behavior and personality are the result of his or her social environment and learning. • The work of Ivan Pavlov helped this viewpoint gain acceptance. He found that supposedly instinctual behaviors could be taught. (Ex. Dog Experiment) • Sociologist John B. Watson suggested that what applied to dogs could apply to humans. He claimed that he could take a dozen healthy infants and train them to become anything he wanted – doctors, lawyers, artists, beggars, or thieves.

• The emergence of sociobiology – the systematic study of the biological basis of all social behavior – emphasized the nature viewpoint. • Sociobiologists argue that such varied cultural characteristics and behavioral traits as religion, cooperation, competition, slavery, envy, etc. are rooted in the genetic make-up of humans. • In general sociobioligists argue that most of human social life is determined by biological factors.

Blending of factors…
• Most social scientists assume that personality and social behavior result from a blending of heredity and social environmental influences. • They believe that environmental factors have the greatest influence. • Heredity, birth order, parents, and cultural environment are among the principal factors that social scientists see influencing personality and behavior.

• Everyone has certain characteristics that are present at birth. (body build, hair type, eye color, and skin) • Heredity characteristics also include certain aptitudes. An aptitude is a capacity to learn a particular skill or acquire a particular body of knowledge.
• Example: a natural talent for music and art would be considered an aptitude.


• However, some aptitudes can be learned and developed because of environmental factors.
• Example: Parents encouragement

• Heredity provides you with certain biological needs, but culture determines how you meet those needs.

• Our personalities are influenced by whether we have brothers, sisters, both, or neither. • Children with siblings have a different view of the world than do children who have siblings. • The order in which we are born into our families also influences our personalities. • People born first or last in a family have a different perspective than do people in the middle. • Example: first born are likely to be achievement oriented and responsible. Later born are more likely to be better in social relationships, affectionate, friendly, or rebels and risk-takers.

Birth Order

Parental Characteristics
• Parents influence their childrens’ personalities. The age of the parent can be a bearing on the children’s development. (EX. Younger vs. older) • Other parental characteristics like level of education, religious orientation, economic status, occupation, and cultural heritage can and often do influence a child’s personality and their social behavior.

Cultural Environment
• Culture has a strong influence on personality development. The cultural environment determines the basic types of personalities that will be found in a society. • Each culture gives rise to a series of personality traits – model personalities – that are typical of members of that society. • EX. U.S. personalities are competitive, assertiveness and individualism. • EX. The Ik (eek) of northern Uganda

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