Our personalities are developed over time and are determined by how our temperament, environment and character interact with each other. Psychologists have said that among these three factors, it is the environment and temperament that affects our personality most. Our personality is that aspect of our lives that make us who we are. It is by our personality that people know us. It is developed through the process of time. An individual's personality can begin to be seen right from childhood even before he/she has been influenced by any external factor.
When we talk about the temperament, it refers to the traits which determine how a child approaches the world and learns from it. It is that characteristic of an individual that is said to have a biological basis and determines the response an individual gives in certain situations. It also affects how the social interactions of the individual would turn out throughout their life. It manifests early in life and affects the personality development process of an individual and contributes to our perception and interaction with the environment.
The other factor that affects personality development is the environment. This includes our culture; the family where a child is raised; friends and social groups which affect our personalities. The environment which the child is exposed to right from the womb plays a role in determining its personality. The child receives nourishment from the mother through
the umbilical cord and if the mother is undernourished, it affects the child negatively. Any behavioral defect in the mother is likely to affect the unborn child and this can cause problems. When the child is born into the world, the environment changes and he begins a new life. In this new environment, there is a different culture and set of values which he would be required to learn and live by. He also experiences a new family which is known as a social environment. This impacts on the child positively or negatively depending on how he is brought up. If he is shown adequate love and care by his parents or guardians, it helps in the proper development of his personality. The relationship with siblings also contributes to it, so also the influences of peers and friends. From here, the environment changes and the child begins school and enters a new phase in his development. His teachers and learning also contribute to the type of personality he eventually has.
Character refers to the emotional, behavioral and cognitive patterns that an individual learns from experience which determine how he thinks, feels and acts. It evolves all through the life of an individual but is very dependent on the innate traits of an individual, their experiences and the level of their development morally.
Various psychologists have provided us an insight into the history of personality development. Erik Erikson in 1956 provided an understanding into the development of personality based on his years of research and study on the subject using individuals from various backgrounds in society. He said that there are stages of personality development process in individuals. I shall be examining these stages here.
- Infant stage
The process of personality development generally starts at this stage. This is the 0-2 year period and the child begins to learn trust. Those who are nurtured properly develop a sense of security and trust. They are also said to be optimistic about issues. For those who were not raised well, there is the tendency for the child to become stubborn and rebellious. These ones easily distrust people. It is therefore, important to emphasize the need for careful attention by parents to the upbringing of children as this will impact their personality positively or negatively.
- Toddler stage
occurs in early childhood between the ages of 18 months - 4 years. At this stage, the child begins to develop strength and will power or shame and doubt depending on how they are raised. They become confident and develop their will power. If they are not nurtured properly, there is the tendency for them to become impulsive.
This is the stage when the child is going to formal school. They start to explore and to have adventures. If they are nurtured properly, they begin to use their imagination and develop skills. They are also able to develop their will power and self control abilities; are able to play and work together with their age mates. The negative effects of wrong upbringing at this stage may lead to fear or feelings of guilt and inferiority.
- School age
At this point, the child begins to learn formal skills and gradually begins to relate with peers according to the rules; learns basic intellectual skills. The child begins to show level of industry and competence. If the environment and upbringing have a negative effect on the child, he begins to doubt the future and feels inferior to others.
This stage occurs between 13-14 years and it is a time of maturity. The child begins to develop some level of confidence and direction in life. They become more certain about things and avoid all forms of negativity. Those that have been raised well start at this time to strive to make positive impact. They also seek mentors to guide them properly in the steps they take. It is the stage of puberty and they become more aware of their sexuality. Some may have problems identifying what their roles should be.
There are also other stages such as the young adult stage where they begin to learn or want to know more about love and some would desire greater intimacy with the opposite sex. Others may have difficulty in this area and struggle with isolation. As they grow older they get to the mid adult stage and start having children of their own. At this stage, they start to give back to society and the community. Much of their concern now is giving a helping hand to others. The last stage is the late adult where the individual who lived a positive life has a legacy to pass on while the one who struggled all through is desperate.