The Process of Personality Development
How Do Personalities Develop?
Within the field of psychology, personality has been studied for many years. Psychologists have been conducting research in the field by engaging in experiments, case studies, self-reported research, and clinical research. As early as the mid-1700s, researchers began making evaluations and trying to learn more about personality.
Over the years, various people have conducted research into personality development, and each has his or her own ideas regarding it. Some viewpoints share similarities, and all attempt to explain why people are the way they are and how they got that way.
The results of all this research include such theories as:
- type theories, the psychological differences and classifications of people;
- psychoanalytic, our interactions with other mechanisms;
- behaviorist, which looks at what impacts our personality from the outside;
- social cognitive, involving the process of thinking and judging;
- humanistic, which looks at our "free will" to do things.
The mission of each research method is to learn as much as possible about how personalities develop, with some of the findings building off of prior theories.
Multiple Theories in Psychology
Throughout this article, you will be introduced to the multiple theories that exist in the field on personality psychology. Some of the more popular ones, such as personality type, you may be more familiar with than others. It is still important to learn about some of the other theories out there.
There are three main influences on personality development that we are going to look at in this lesson. Those are heredity, environment, and situation.
Heredity: This refers to the influences on your personality that you are born with. They are in your genes and there is not much you can do to change these traits. They can include your temperament, which helps to determine how you react to situations and how easygoing you are. In kids, it may affect how well they get along with others. Genetics, of course, also determines how someone looks.
Environment: Our environment is the nurturing aspect of our lives. It is the type of environment in which we live and grow up. Environment would include home, school, work, or other places that you spend a lot of time. Environmental factors also include such things as languages, religion, etc.
Situations: These are the experiences that each individual person goes through. The various things that people experience will leave imprints on and help to develop his or her personality. Everything from divorce, death, trauma, and even happy times fit into the "situations" category of shaping one's personality.
You have most likely at some point in your life heard someone say that people are a "product of their environment." This means their personality has been greatly influenced by the three things we just looked at. They were born with particular traits, and their living situation and any impacting situations they experienced all helped to create who they are.
Genes or Experiences?
Many people wonder if one's personality primarily comes down to nature versus nurture. This is a debate that has waged for quite some time. Is someone's personality determined more by genes and heredity or childhood experiences and situations?
The nature vs. nurture debate is one that does not have a clear winner. Researchers believe there is no way to tell which influences personality more. They go hand in hand to help develop someone's personality.
The Developing Personality
As you can see, how one's personality develops is not as simple as just saying that it is one thing; however, there is one thing that most researchers seem to agree on: one's childhood lays the foundation for the personality that one will have as an adult. The genes we are born with, coupled with the environment we are brought up in and the situations we live through, all work together. They end up creating the personality you see as an adult.
Stages of Development
In this article, we will begin to look at the stages of development that help to create who we are. These stages of development begin when we are children and play a key role in shaping our personalities.
Sigmund Freud's Stages of Development
You have probably heard of Sigmund Freud. If not, you will likely hear his name from here on out. His is one of the most widely known names in the field of psychology. While he is considered to be a great contributor to the field, he also is quite controversial. He had many theories that people thought were a little off or even completely wrong.
All the same, he made contributions to the field of personality psychology, as well as many other areas in the field, so they are worth learning about. Some of the theories that he lay out were later expanded upon by other psychologists, while still others set out to prove those theories invalid.
Freud's theory of personality development was that it was a result of a series of stages during childhood. He believed that the development process involved a pleasure-seeking source that revolved around psychosexual energy. His stages of development include:
Oral stage. This is the first stage, which begins at birth. Calling it the "oral stage" makes sense because it is often oral fixation that soothes babies; e.g., bottle, nipple, pacifier. The child seeks oral gratification in order to gain pleasure. During this stage, if a child does not have its oral needs met, for example, not being fed when crying, he or she learns to not trust. If children have those needs met, they learn to trust those around them.
Anal stage. This is the next stage in Freud's theory of child development. It focuses on learning to control bowel movements and maintain bladder control. When children gain this ability, they feel independent and a sense of accomplishment. This stage is affected by how parents approach potty training. If they punish and ridicule or are very strict, the child can go on to be anal-retentive and have such personality traits as being obsessive, rigid, etc. This stage lasts up until the child is around 3 years old.
Phallic stage. During this stage the focus is on the genitals. This is when males and females realize there is a difference. Freud believed that the girls suffered from "penis envy" because they were not males and that boys were in competition with their fathers to get their mothers' attention. This stage lasts until the child is around 5.
Latent period. This was believed to be an important period in personality development, when children focus on relationships with their peers, finding hobbies they enjoy, and pursuing interests. This stage takes place from age 6 to about 12.
Genital stage. This final stage starts when the child is about 12 years old. It is the period that children go through puberty and start gaining sexual interest. In this stage, the child begins to establish an interest in other people and, in turn, become well-balanced.
Freud's stages of psychosexual development may seem a little odd at first, but for a while they were all that people had to go off of. It is largely where some of the first ideas regarding personality development originated.
Erik Erikson's Stages of Development
Another popular psychologist in the field was Erik Erikson. His stages of development focused on trying to provide a theory on social development. He was influenced by Sigmund Freud. Erikson's stages of development did not stop when a child turned 18. He believed that the person continued to develop and have personality outcomes into adulthood as well.
His stages of development, considered his contribution to personality development, included:
Infancy. In this stage, the focus is trust versus mistrust. Hope is the virtue that comes out of this stage, as the child learns to trust or mistrust his caretakers.
18 months to 3 years. In this autonomy versus shame stage, the virtues gained are self-control and courage. It is the stage in which we learn to walk, talk, eat, and gain small motor control, as well as learning toilet training. This is a vulnerable stage. If parents are harsh, especially during potty training, it may create a child with low self-esteem.
3 to 5 years. This is the initiative versus guilt stage, in which children copy the adults around them. They also take the initiative to play on their own. Children learn to do some things on their own, such as get dressed. If children feel guilty about doing these things, they will have difficulties later.
6 to 12 years. This is the industry versus inferiority stage, and the virtues gained are method and competence. Children in this stage compare their own worth to those around them and may feel inferior if they do not measure up.
12 to 18 years. Identity versus role confusion is the outcome of this stage, with the virtues being devotion and fidelity. At this stage, peer relationships are most important and these teens question themselves. As they are trying to figure out who they are and what their plans are, they can experience role confusion if their parents are pushing a different version of themselves than they may feel.
18 to 35 years. The development outcome in this stage is intimacy and solidarity versus isolation. The basic strengths are love and affiliation. It is the stage that we seek out a satisfying relationship and start a family. If someone is not successful in this quest, he or she may turn to isolation.
35 to 55 years or so. This is the stage that people often feel they have a "mid-life crisis." It is the generativity versus self-absorption or stagnation stage. This is the stage in which people often size up all they have done thus far and measure to see if they feel they have accomplished enough.
55 or so until death. The basic strength in this stage is wisdom, and the ego outcome is integrity versus despair. At this stage, if people look back upon their lives and experiences and are pleased, they feel integrity, while those who are not feel despair.
As you can see, there are many stages that are believed to go into personality development. You may even be able to identify some of your own experiences in these stages.
In this article, you will be introduced to "needs." In discussing what needs are, you will also learn about how they affect one's personality development. We will also look at research within the field of psychology that pertains to needs.
Needs vs. Wants
When it comes to determining what needs are, it is important to distinguish them from wants. Needs are those things that are necessities to someone, while wants are those things that people can do without, but they just have a strong desire to have.
Examples of needs include basic food, water, shelter, health care, basic clothing, breathing, etc. They are the essential things in life that we need in order to survive.
Examples of wants include those things that you feel will improve the quality of your life, but you can survive without having. These things include dining out, Internet, computers, movies, vacations, fashion clothing, makeup, cable television, new cars, etc.
See the difference between needs and wants? When it comes to your breakfast tomorrow morning, you need food, and something basic will do. However, you may want to dine out at IHOP to get a Belgian waffle topped with whipped cream.
Believe it or not, psychologists believe that needs impact your personality. Consider this for a moment: If you lacked shelter, do you think it would impact your personality and the way you act? It absolutely would! You may suffer from low self-esteem, among other things. If all your basic needs are being met, you will feel more comfortable in life, which will make you feel more secure and confident, and your personality will reflect this.
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
To help put this all together we need to take a look at Abraham Maslow's famous Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow was a psychologist who in 1943 proposed his idea of the hierarchy of needs and how it affects who we are.
The Hierarchy of Needs is in a triangle shape, with the most important things being at the bottom and then it works its way up, with needs narrowing as you go along. Here are the layers of the hierarchy:
Physiological: These are the most important needs that must be met. They include food, water, breathing, excretion, sleep, sex, etc.
Safety: Once your basic needs have been met, the next most important thing is safety. In this layer, you will need security, employment, family, property, health, morality, etc.
Love and belonging: This layer in the hierarchy is smaller but still important. It includes the love and social relationships we have with people, including friends, family, and lovers.
Esteem: This is the layer that deals with your confidence. What matters here is that people respect you, your self-esteem is high, you respect other people, experience personal growth and accomplishment, etc.
Self-actualization: This is the need at the top of the triangle. It represents the idea that people are self-aware. The idea is that people focus on fulfilling their own potential and no longer worry so much about what others think. At this point, people are concerned with their own personal growth.
Maslow believed, much like the stages of development that we have already studied, that people gradually moved through these stages. Starting at the bottom, when each need is met in that level, we go on to the next. However, if something were to threaten our needs, such as not having food or safety, etc., we can easily go back down the hierarchy. If our needs are not being met, it can have a profound impact on our personality development. If all of our needs are being met, we will progress and continue to grow. Essentially, Maslow believed that we do not advance to the next level until the needs of each have first been met. For example, if someone is at the safety level, they cannot advance to love and belonging until all of their safety needs have been met.
Now you have an idea of the difference between needs and wants, why needs are so important, and how it all affects our personality development.
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