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Personality

 

What do we mean by the concepts of self, identify, and personality?  As you will see in the following definitions that are commonly used for these concepts, there is a great deal of overlap in them (Corsini, 1999).  The self is all of the characteristics of a person.  Among the important dimensions of the self are self-understanding, self regulation, self-esteem, and self – concept.  Identity is who a person is.  It is believed that adolescence plays a special role in identity development.  Personality refers to the enduring personal characteristics of individuals.

Theorists and researchers who focus on the self usually argue that it is the central aspects of the individual’s personality and that the self lends an integrative dimensions to understanding different personality characteristics (Moore & Lemon, 2001).  As we mentioned above, important aspects of the self include self-understanding, self-regulation, self-esteem, and self-worth, which we will discuss shortly.

Theorists and researchers who study identity often focus on the role adolescence plays in identity development.  The interest in identity was especially promoted by Erik Erikson’s belief that adolescence plays a pivotal role in the extent to which a person develops a positive or negative sense of who she or he is as a person.

What is Self-Understanding? Self-understanding is the cognitive representation of the self, the substance and content of self-conceptions.  For example an 11 year old boy understands that he is a student, a boy, a football player, a family member, a video game lover, and a rock music fan.  A 13-year-old girl understands that she is middle school student, in the midst of puberty, a girl, a cheerleader, a student council member, and a movie fan.  Self-understanding is based, in part, on the various roles and membership categories that define who children are (Harter, 1990, 1991).  Though not the whole of personal identity, self-understanding provides its rational underpinnings  (Damon & Hart, 1988).

Three facets of self-understanding are (a) personal memories, (b) representation self, and (c) theories of the self (Garcia, Hart, & Johnson-Ray 1998).  Personal memories are autobiographical episodes that are especially important ill thought, about oneself.  These might include memories of a fight with one's parents, a day spent with a friend, a teacher saying how good your work is, and so on.

Children are born without a typical personality, but possess characteristics and temperamental differences as shown in the activity rates and sensitivities from which the potential qualities from which the personality pattern of each individual develops. Individual differences in these potential qualities are apparent at birth (All port, 1961). Since, the personality of a child is developed during the period of infancy to adolescence, it was considered worthwhile to find out how the various factors of child rearing influence the personality of a child and whether these Personality traits vary in accordance with the type of child rearing.
Griffith (1926) wrote that, "The fusion of unnumbered experiences into a single unit bearing a total character of its own or the fusion of behavior patterns of different kinds into consistent and internally coherent systems is a problem that the psychologist has barely touched. Even his generalizations about a `common factor' are vague in the extreme. A problem lies here, however, that cannot be ignored. The totality of mental life and behavior called 'personality' or 'character' is, perhaps, the most unique thing about the human organism." The first step in the solution of this problem is to determine the extent to which a personality is to be treated as an integer. If it is a true integer, then each trait must reflect but an aspect of a synthesis in which all components are congruous. Under such a condition it would be true of the personality, as Lavater (1772) said of the human body, that no member contradicts another, for each has the character of the whole.

Self-understanding is the cognitive representation of the self, the substance and content of self-conception.  For example a 11 year old boy understands that he is a student, a boy, a football player, a family member, a video game lover, and a rock music fan.  A 13-year-old girl understands that she is a middle school student in the midst of puberty, a cheerleader, a student council member, and a movie fan.  Self-understanding is based, in part, on the various roles and membership categories that define who children are (Harter, 1990, 1991).  Though not the whole of personal identity, self-understanding provides its rational underpinnings (Damon & Hart, 1988).

The ability to attain autonomy and gain control over one's behavior in adolescence is acquired through appropriate adult reactions to the adolescent's desire for control.  At the onset of adolescence, the average individual does not have the knowledge to make appropriate or mature decisions in all areas of life. As the adolescent pushes for autonomy, the wise adult relinquishes control in those areas in which the adolescent can make reasonable decisions, and continues to guide the adolescent in areas in which the adolescent's knowledge is more limited. Gradually, adolescents acquire the ability to make mature decisions on their own. The discussion that follows reveals how it is erroneous to view the development of autonomy apart from connectedness to parents.
Adolescents do not simply move away from parental influence into a decision making world all their own. As they become more autonomous, it is psychologically healthy for them to be attached to their parents.

In sum the old model of parent-adolescent relationships suggested that, as adolescents mature, they detach themselves from parents and move into a world of autonomy away from the parents.  The old model also suggested that parent adolescent conflict is intense and stressful throughout adolescence.  The new model (Santrock 2001) emphasizes that parents serve as important attachment figures, resources, and support systems as adolescents explore a wider, more complex social world.  The new model (Santrock 2001) emphasizes that, in the majority of families, parent-adolescent conflict is moderate rather than severe and that everyday negotiations and minor disputes are normal, serving the positive developmental function of promoting independence and identify.

Freud (1917) believed that personality has three structures:  the id, the ego, and the superego.  The id is the Freudian structure of personality that consists of instincts,  which are an individual's reservoir of psychic energy.  In Freud's view the id is totally unconscious; it has no contact with reality.  As children experience the demands and constraints of reality, a new structure of personality emerges-the ego, the Freudian structure of personality that deals with the demands of reality.  The ego is called the executive branch of personality because it uses reasoning to make decisions.  The id and the ego have no morality-they do not take into account whether something is right or wrong.  The superego is the Freudian structure of personality that is the moral branch of personality the part that considers whether something is right or wrong. Think of the superego as what we often refer to as our "conscience."

In addition to describing personality in terms of three structures (id, ego, and superego), Freud also said that defense mechanisms are important in understanding, how personality works.  The ego calls on a number of strategies to resolve the conflict between its demands for reality, the wishes of the id, and the constraints of the superego. Defense mechanisms are the ego’s protective methods for reducing anxiety by unconsciously distorting reality.  In Freud's view, the conflicting demands of the personality structures produce anxiety.  For example, when the ego blocks the pleasurable pursuits of id, a person feels inner anxiety.  The anxiety alerts the ego to resolve the conflict by means of defense mechanisms.

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) recognized Freud’s contributions but believed that Freud misjudged some important dimensions of human development.  One, Erikson (1950, 1968) said we develop in psychosocial stages, in contrast to ……..psychosexual stages. For another, Erikson emphasized developmental change thoughtout the human life span, whereas Freud argued that our basic personality is …… in the first five years of life.  In Erikson’s theory, eight psychosocial stages of development unfold as we go through the lift span.  Each stage consists of a unique developmental task that confronts individuals with a crisis that must be faced.  According to Erikson, this crisis is not a catastrophe but a turning point of increased vulnerability and enhanced potential.  The more we resolve the crises successfully, the healthier development will be (Hopkins, 2000).

Erikson’s eight stages are trust versus mistrust, autonomy versus shame and  initiative versus guilt, , industry versus inferiority, identity versus identity ,intimacy versus isolation, generativity versus stagnation, and integrity versus.

Erikson did not believe that the proper solution to a stage crisis is always compositive.  Some exposure or commitment to the negative end of the person’s conflict is sometimes inevitable – you cannot trust all people under all circumstances and survive, for example.  Nonetheless, in the healthy solution to a stage is the positive resulting dominates.

Piaget (1896-1980) proposed an important theory of cognitive development.  Piaget theory states that children actively construct their understanding of the world and go through four stages of cognitive development.  Two processes underlie cognitive construction of the world : organization and adaptation.  To make sense our world, we organize our experiences.  For example, we separate important ideas from less important ideas, and we connect one idea to another.  But not only do we organize our observations and experiences, we also adapt our thinking to include new ideas, because additional information furthers understanding (Piaget, 1954).

Piaget also believed that we go through four stages in understanding the world.  Each of these stages is age-related and consists of distinct ways of thinking.  Remember it is the different way of understanding the world that makes one stage more advanced that another.  Knowing more information does not make the child’s thinking more advanced, in Piaget’s view.  This is what Piaget meant when he said that the child’s cognition is different in one stage compared to another John W.Santrock pp 21). 

The first dimension ranges from generalizing to all people to focusing on single individuals and was captured by Kluckhohn & Murray (1948) as emphasizing how all people are the same, some people are the same, and no people are the same. These ways of knowing (McAdams 1994) can be crossed with a second dimension of analysis, ranging from analyses of the genetic code, through biological mechanisms, learning and developmental processes, and temporary cognitive and emotional structures and processes, to the study of overall life meaning and satisfaction. Phenomena at one level of analysis are only loosely coupled with those at different levels.

The third dimension is one of adaptability and functioning. Personality theories need to account for normal adaptive processes as well as extreme psychopathologies. Although broad theories consider issues across these three dimensions, most theorists focus on phenomena that range across levels of analysis at one level of generality, or across levels of generality at one level of explanation.