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Systemic Influences on Personality Development

In layman’s term “personality” is mostly associated with the concept of social attractiveness (Pervin and John, 1999). That is, when an individual has a “personality,” he or she is physically attractive, has etiquette, and verbal facility. On the other hand, the term “personality” was derived form the Latin word “personare” which is literally translated as “to sound through” while the related word “persona” was referred to the mask worn by theater performers during the ancient time (Pervin and John, 1999).

Later, the term “persona” was used to describe the false appearance which the mask created as well as the characteristics portrayed by an actor in a stage performance. Then, Carl Jung utilized “persona” to pertain to the external appearance projected by an individual (Pervin and John, 1999). He argued that an individual wears a masked in response to social demand and convention. The “persona” of an individual is his or her role dictated by culture as his or her public personality.

Personality Development Personality is the set of unique attributes of an individual which encompass his or her behavior, emotions, habits, prototypical thoughts, and interests (American Psychological Association, 2007). Over time, personality attains relative stability and significantly affects one’s behavior in different situations. Individuals were observed to exhibit behavioral consistency for a long period of time, partly due to direct influences of one’s personality.

In various ways, human personality influences the individual’s actions, personality trait, behaviors, and dispositions (Monte, 1999). Hence, early career socialization, career changes, job performance, occupational choice, and job performance are highly dependent on personality. For instance, extroverted individuals are expected to enjoy sociable fashion and outdoor events throughout their lives. Nevertheless, personality alone does not absolutely determine the behavior of an individual. Rather, the behavior of an individual mainly changes on situational basis.

That is, in a “strong” situation, the situational or social expectation, rather than personality dictates the behavior of an individual. A gregarious and boisterous person, for example, may behave sedately and calmly during a meeting with his or her manager because his or her position calls for it; hence, the situation overpowered his or her real personality. On the other hand, in “weak” situations or conditions which do not require definite behavioral actions, personality determines the behavioral actions.

The development of one’s personality was ascribed to a myriad of factors. In sum, these factors were originated from the interactions between the environmental and hereditary attributes. In particular, the development of personality commences at birth and gradually develops. Even though potentialities for growth and development are already present during infancy, an infant only possess the barest personality rudiments (Monte, 1999). As such, every aspect of personality is influenced by hereditary factors and environmental conditions.

During “maturation,” heredity exerts its influence in the personality of an individual. Thus, the attributes in the early life that tends to persist serve as the basis for other individuals in predicting the later personality traits of a child. However, personality develops gradually and is generally affected by life events such as traumatic experiences, family problems, and frail health (Monte, 1999). In particular, the child, in his or her first five years, experiences the fastest development in physical, social, emotional, and mental aspects.

As the child enters the early education level, he or she acquires and develops understanding on the rights of others, and the capability to compete for attention or dominance within a group. The child, in his or her own, learns to get along and conform to other children. Meanwhile, in the adolescent period, individuals undergo transition from parental protection and direction to self-determination and independence. This period of development is marked by various changes in the physical, emotional, mental, and physiological being of an individual.

Since the adolescent stage is a transition from childhood to young adults, it is a great period for learning for self-dependence. Hence, adolescents naturally crave for autonomy, recognition, and self-expression. For the past decades, psychologists argued that hereditary factors have greater impact on personality development than any other factors (Monte, 1999). They pointed out, for instance, that heredity shapes the basic personality traits like emotional tone.

On the other hand, expectations, values, and beliefs are mostly acquired through personal experiences and socialization (Monte, 1999). As well, there are personality traits that resulted from the interactions among the hereditary and environmental factors. For example, others and even the individual judge his or her identity based on the inherited mental and physical characteristics. That is, if an individual has a poor motor capability, his or her friends, teachers and immediate relatives frequently remember him or her as a person with poor motor skills.

As this perception lingers to the mind of the individual, in the long run he or she develops pessimism that hinders the development of his or her motor capability (Monte, 1999). Similarly, the physical health and appearance of the individual also play a role in his or her personality development. As such, body built, sexual orientation, learning disability, and skin color in line with the cultural perception of beauty and social acceptance will definitely affect one’s perception of self.

Meanwhile, social psychologists gave primary importance on the socialization process in personality development(Pervin and John, 1999). Through social interaction, the individual absorbs and internalizes the norms and mores in his or her immediate environment. Then, the individual regulates his or her instinct’s motives and urges. In line with these, life conditions and traumatic events such as accidents, physical and sexual abuse, and mental stress negatively affect personalities. Those situations cause fear, emotional distress, mental scars which eventually induce mental and personality disorders.

In addition, the individual acquires the cultural stereotypes from his or her group like gender role, values, and beliefs in conformity with the societal expectations (Monte, 1999). However, as studies revealed that even identical twins brought up in the same social conditions tend to develop different personality, the major premises of social psychologists were denounced. One social factor that shapes the personality of an individual is the child rearing cultural practices (Cohen, 1999).

In North American Culture, children are commonly brought up and trained for independence and self-reliance. Parents usually give them equal rights and involve them in decision making concerning different family matters from simple choice of foods and clothing to tough matters like divorce, relationships, and marriage. On the contrary, Asian cultures inculcate high respect for parents; hence, Asian youths are expected to obey their parents and, most of the time, are cursed for traditional deviancy (Peterson, Bush, Wilson, and Hennon, 2005).

Sometimes, Asian parents choose the fiancee or fiance and decide for the marriage of their sons and daughters. Despite the differences in child rearing traditions, similarities were also observed. Specifically, both sexes, at some extent, experience different forms of socialization. They were taught on the proper social behavior and the kind of profession or job appropriate for their sexes. Whereas, males are encouraged for physically risky activities, females are confined to household chores and domestic tasks like child rearing.

Thus, traditionally, masculinity was viewed as the male’s ability to control themselves on emotional situations whenever necessary especially within the workplace and even in their sexual relationships. This notion supported male personality attributes such as being competitive, assertive, independent, assertive, confident, tough, often angered and violent (Funder, 2004). With these characteristics on hand, males must keep in mind to evade having feminine characteristics such as being expressive on their thoughts, emotional, vulnerable and intimate.

On the other hand, being feminine is traditionally described as “nurturing, supportive, and assigning high priority to one’s relationships” (Funder, 2004). As such, women are socially expected to become dependent on males, open with their emotions, passive to their partner’s wills, cooperative, warm, and receptive of being a subordinate within their marriage and employment status. Also, females are expected to avoid manly personality traits like being competitive, assertive and often angry and violent.

Moreover, personality traits resulted not only from the training or conditioning done by the parents but also by the influences exerted by the surrounding individuals or media (Cohen, 1999). Based on these, the discretion made by a person will shape his or her personality identity. Thus, one’s personality is not merely a synthesis of all underpinning personality determinants; rather, the discretion of an individual on these determinants is the most crucial factor. Still, modeling take precedence on the promotion of values, attitudes or behavioral pattern (Bussey and Bandura, 1999).

Modeled behavior is perceived by the individual and more often than not, generates a new behavioral pattern. Hence, personality traits are possibly acquired through a modeling process. Theoretical Implications Contemporary psychologists argued that the development of one’s personality largely depends on the individual’s internalizations (Funder, 2004). That is, societal influences, to which the individual were exposed to, are not the most significant part of the process; rather, the manner on which the individual reacts to the process significantly shapes his or her personality.

While the psychological theory established the notion that one’s personality is a product of the interaction between the hereditary traits and social dimensions of an individual, every individual then actively acquires his or her personality. Although, the individual conforms with the expectations of his or her cultural group, psychologists found that specific personality traits have certain dimensions (Funder, 2004). The integration of these traits creates the holistic personality profile of an individual. Further, based on interactional psychology, behavior is both shaped by the situation and the personality of an individual (Monte, 1999).

As individuals direct situations, the situations influence individuals that create behavioral patterns. In addition, the interactional approach maintains the crucial role of personality in predicting the kind of situations one enters into. For instance, an introverted individual may choose jobs which do not necessitate frequent contact to other individuals. Since every individual actively participates in the complex process of changing, selecting, and interpreting situations, it follows then that every individual can mold situations suited into their personality.

In particular, to make work situation cozier, individuals are capable of changing task assignments, methods, and procedures.


American Psychological Association. (2007). APA Dictionary of Psychology. Washington, DC: APA. Bussey, K. , and Bandura, A. (1999). Social Cognitive Theory of Gender Development and Differentiation. Psychological Review, 106, 676-713. Cohen, D. B. (1999). Stranger in the Nest: Do Parents Really Shape their Child’s Personality, Intelligence, or Character? New York: Wiley. Funder, D. C. (2004). The Personality Puzzle, 3rd ed. New York: Norton.

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