What theory of Human Development makes a person what they are? Why does a person do what they do? Where does personality come from and how does it grow? These are some frequently asked questions when discussing the topic of personality. Personality does originate from a specific point, and from then on it continues to grow and become exponentially more complex.
There are some commonly made assumptions when developing a personality theory. The first of these assumptions concerns whether one believes that the behaviors, any type of action, a person exhibits are produced by conscious choices and decisions, also known as free will, or “determined” by forces beyond ones control. I believe in the free will explanation, but not the type of free will commonly imagined. Humans do ultimately have the power to choose their actions, however the extreme influence of other factors, such as heredity, environment, and learned behaviors, may make it seem like a persons actions were predetermined. For example, If I take care of myself and eat healthy, have a healthy physical and mental state of being, I am still very likely to develop Hundtingtons disease because it is proven that it is transmitted genetically and my grandfather had the my father had the genes that carried it. For that reason, it can be assumed that human beings do have free will, however the choices made are greatly impacted and seemingly determined by inherited basic needs, environment, and learned behaviors
Another assumption to be examined that is normally a difficult one to address is the question of environment versus heredity. B.F. Skinner would argue faithfully that behavior is based solely on environmental contingencies, while Sigmund Freud would just as strongly maintain that the role of heredity determines the personality of an individual. Erikson would argue that personality is determined in the stage “trust vs. mistrust” I, on the other hand, believe that all sides of the debate are equally valid; personality is both the product of nature, in the form of the gratification of instinctual basic needs, and the product of learning and life experiences. For example, if a person was being attacked by something or someone, the basic need of safety would cause that person to seek refuge. However, where that person goes to find safety would likely be determined by learned behaviors and past experiences of the need for security. Therefore, personality is not a question of nature versus nurture, but is instead a combination of the two.
Some of the factors that effect personality include social groups, and learned behaviors. The Core Personality From the moments of conception, your parents’ genes determine what many of your physical traits will be. Among these are gender, height, and skin color. These sort of traits will have an effect on how the child perceives itself and how others perceive the child, consequently having an effect on the child’s personality. For example, this person could have some physical characteristic that is looked down on or made fun of by various people. This, in turn, would affect the individual’s self esteem and overall personality.
I do not believe that there is anyone that would honestly be able to say that they think that all babies are just as smart as each other when they are born. The idea is ridiculous. Just as everyone is born physically different, they are also born mentally different. Therefore, the only factor that could initially affect the intelligence level of an individual before birth is the inherited genes of that individual’s parents. What is also included in this inheritance is the passing on of basic needs. These basic needs include physiological needs, which are all of the body’s requirements (food, water, safety needs, curiosity, the need for relationships), which is first encountered in the relationship between the mother and her child.
There are, of course, certain circumstances which may have a later effect on personality and its development. Any sort of trauma to the development of the infant at this point could have mild to drastic effects that could cause damage to the body and/or brain. This would include the use of various drugs by the mother, such as alcohol, tobacco, and crack, or some sort of physical abuse to the mother during the pregnancy. Each one is capable of causing some sort of mental or physical handicap to the infant. Common sense tells you that this would affect the learning capability or the physical capability of the child, and having a definite change on the outcome of that child’s personality. Physical attributes, mental attributes, and basic needs are all passed down from parent to child. The core personality is therefore made up of all of these factors that are determined by heredity.
After birth, everything that is experienced by the individual has an effect on that person’s personality and is added onto the core personality and makes it much more complex as it continues to grow and mature. The core personality makes up the basis of an individual’s personality for the rest of that person’s life. Personality growth, therefore, takes place as new experiences are added to that core personality. These new experiences come directly from a person’s environment and from heredity..