From early childhood, there are various influences that affect the personality of a child. These include genes, parental upbringing and the environment in which the child is brought up. All of these influence the formation of the child's personality and play a great role as he goes through life.
It is our personality that makes us different and this has to do with our physical, mental and behavioural characteristics. It is our personality that makes us do and say things in a particular way. It is the organized set of characteristics that a person possesses that influences their ability to understand things, motivates them and makes them behave in particular ways. Our personality is seen not only in our behaviour but from our thoughts, feelings and social relationships.
Influences on a Child's Personality Development Process
It has been suggested that the genes of a family play a major role in the type of personality children born there will develop. The genes determine the physical attributes of children and their temperament. This is what determines if a child will be short or stout, tall and thin or muscular. It is important to point out that height, weight and physical defects all affect personality.
It has also been observed that there is a strong link between genes and behaviour. The temperament of a child begins to show from an early age and several studies carried out indicate that children can be categorized into
one of three temperaments: easy, difficult and slow to warm up. The child's temperament is also shaped by the influences of environmental factors and this includes family background. It has also been discovered that there are areas within the brain that affect the development of personality.
Sigmund Freud in his theory posited that there is a relationship between the personality of a child and the influences of the parent. He stated that an individual's personality comprises factors which include: instincts- aggression, food and sexual drives; the unconscious processes and early childhood influences.
He linked the behaviour of parents as a major reason why there is normal or abnormal development in the child. He stated that many problems related to mental health are traceable to the early years of the child and went further to provide us with the three (3) components that make up personality. These are: the id, ego and superego.
The Id: It is biological in nature and leads to the development of the other components. It is the instinctive part of an individual's personality which is also present when they are born into the world. This is what drives people to satisfy their basic needs and desires. It contains all the parts of our personality that are inherited. This is the impulsive part of our personality that responds easily to the instincts.
The Ego: This is the part of the personality that controls the urges of the Id and makes it behave properly. It mediates between the unrealistic aspects of Id and the real world. This is the decision making aspect of personality thus it is said to work by reason. It also seeks pleasure just like the Id and likes to avoid pain. It adopts a realistic and rational approach to problem solving.
The Superego: This develops between the ages of 3-5 years. It helps the individual develop and maintain the values taught by parents. It helps to control the Id's excesses in the areas of sex and aggression. It tries to force the Ego to behave accordingly and consists of the conscience and ideal self.
There are also other influences on the personality development of children which include:
- Identification: As children grow, they begin to assume that some characteristics of their parents belong to them and they feel satisfied
when their parents are appreciated for a particular thing. For example, a 5-year old boy that is identified with his father will be happy if the father is chosen for an award. Likewise if the father is criticized, he may experience anxiety. This plays a great role in personality development.
- Ordinal Position: The child's position in the family also influences their ability to accept or reject legitimate authority. It has been observed that firstborns are usually more obedient to authority and tend to be more motivated to achieve in school. They are also said to be less aggressive.
- Social class: It is said that the social class of a child affects their preparation and motivation to achieve academically. Those who are from middle class families seem to do better than children of lower class families. This is attributed to the value systems and practices promoted by individual families.
- Parental Socialization: This has to do with effect of parent's relationship with their children. Parents are classified as authoritative, authoritarian and permissive. It is observed that children who are mature and competent have authoritative parents that nurtured them but demanded maturity from them, while self-reliant children who are withdrawn have authoritarian parents. The children that were the least mature had permissive parents who lack discipline.
The Environment also affects our personality from early childhood. Here, the environment means everything else except the genes. It includes the place where the child lives and the people who are around them. The immediate environment that has a major effect on the child is the place where he was born. The behaviour of the parents and siblings play a great role in influencing the personality of the child. If he is brought in a loving and caring home, it has a positive effect. Such children grow up emotionally balanced and would easily give or accept love. On the other hand, if the environment is hostile and harsh, it affects the child negatively and leads to an imbalance personality. It could also cause various personality disorders as the child grows which would hunt him later on in life. The behaviour and attitude of parents, what they expect from the child, their level of education and attention given to the child all influence the child's personality.