The fact is that we have no clear means of knowing what children inherit individually. All that can be stressed is that the teacher should be on the lookout for indications of innate abilities and tendencies of children.
It is possible to know about the intelligence of children but their emotional and social development is so largely determined by environmental influences that it is not possible to say how much an individual owes to heredity.
In fact in every facet and phase of human development heredity and environment interact so closely as to make it difficult to indicate their separate contributions. Biological factors set the limits within which the personality will develop.
Biological influence on personality relates to secretion from endocrine glands, physiques and neural constitution. Hereditary factors may be summed as constitutional (physique) and chemical or Glandular Bases (Endocrine Glands). Let us consider them separately in details.
(I) Constitutional Factors (Physique):
The constitution of the body is said to be an effective factor in determining the type of one’s personality. Earnest Kretschmer, a German Psychiatrist distinguishes three ‘body types’ of personality (a) the ‘Pyknic’ is short and stout (b) the ‘Leptosome’ or ‘Asthenic’ is tall and thin (c) the ‘Athletic’ is muscular and well-proportioned.
Overt aspects of an individual’s personality like his height, weight, body-built, colour and other physical characteristics have some influence on personality development. The physique of a child helps to determine his self-concept.
An individual with an imposing body-built and a healthy appearance definitely influences those around him. He gains recognition and status in his group. People take them as their leader in times of crisis.
It flatters his ego. Contrary to this is the small, lean and thin person, even if he has some merits, these are overlooked because of his physique. This leads him to self-pity and gradual self-withdrawl. Tall and fair persons enjoy an advantage over their short and ugly associates. A bodily defect or deformity may, again alter the whole personality. A blind man has to depend upon another person.
A stulterer’s speech is affected by his handicap. Fatty persons are often of an entertaining and ease-loving nature. We thus have the examples of an extrovert and an introvert personality because of physique. It is said that introverts have vertical body growth and extroverts horizontal growth. However, it would be incorrect to separate the social and constitutional influences in personality. A different type of nose, eyes and having scars on the face may be thought as a thing of beauty in some cultures, but not in others.
Again, different organic states produce changes in personality. A fatigued and hungry man loses his temper for nothing. Persons whose blood-circulation is abnormal and whose oxygen supply runs short, lack encouragement to work. Also, application of drugs like alcohol produces bodily changes and alter personality.
The excess or shortage of sugar in blood also affects personality. Factors like fasting and disease may also produce changes in it. Last but not the least; brain disorders may cause remarkable changes in personality.
(II) Chemical or Glandular Bases:
The biological basis of behaviour makes some aspects of behaviour consistent. The nervous system, the glands and the blood chemistry largely determine the characteristics and habitual modes of behaviour. These factors form the biological basis of personality. Berman has shown that glands are tremendously important as they regulate personality.
According to him ‘adrenal personality’ is vigorous, energetic, persistent and efficient. Adrenal women have masculine traits, and excel as administrators. Their secretion ‘adrenalin’ intensifies bodily reactions. They exist near kidneys.
Lack of their secretion results in the lack of energy, irritability and indecisiveness. They are aroused by an emergency.
Endocrine glands secret ‘hormones’ or the ‘exciters’ into the blood. Co-operation between these is very important. Pituitary gland, existing between the brain and the roof of the mouth, sees that they are working in harmony. It influences our emotions.
Its first part governs our bony structure. If it works overtime, the person will become a giant. The other part is connected with the proper working of the digestive and reproductive organs. Thus, mental and physical conditions are to a very great extent dependent upon the normal working of this gland. Berman describes two pituitary personalities-pre-pituitary and post-pituitary. The pre-pituitary type, caused by its anterior lobe overactivity, is predominantly masculine. Post- pituitary caused by the overactivity of the posterior lobe is excessively feminine.
The thyroid gland in two parts exists in the base of the neck in front of each side. Excitability and nervousness result from the over-enthusiasm and over-activity of this gland. Deficiency in thyroid gland leads to sluggishness in mental activity, lack of initiative and concentration of attention. Berman says sub-thyroids are underdeveloped physically, listless, dull and susceptible to disease. Hyper-thyroids are restless, energetic, keen and impulsive.
The thymocentric personality dominated by the thymus gland in the upper chest is physically fragile, uninhibited, often abnormal sexually and criminal in tendency. Thus, no psychologist denies that abnormal glandular conditions seriously affect personality.
2. Psychological Determinants:
The role played+ by love and affection in the development of personality can’t be over— emphasized. Affection is the positive emotion towards persons, pets, objects etc. A child who gets plenty of love and affection has better opportunities of becoming a good mixer and a socially efficient person.
On the contrary, an unfortunate child who is denied the blessings of love and affection during infancy and childhood finds it rather difficult to adjust to other children and adults around him. A child is a natural object of love and affection within a family. Given a proper dose of parental affection he feels quite secure and happy.
A denial of this privilege lead to a number of serious personality problems. Love and affection, however, are not to be merely passively received by the child from his parents. He is not simply to be patted and loved but is also to be taught to display the same feelings towards others. He must learn how to be considerate, affectionate and loving. Such a learning is indispensable for a healthy development of his personality.
Through interesting group activities, suitable teaching and personal demonstrations, parents and teachers should instill in the mind of the child the basic ideas that both loving and being loved are fundamental to a healthy social living.
Friendship and social relations also influence a child’s personality development. The bases of friendly relations, the social interaction between friends, the quality and duration of friendly contacts etc., contribute immensely towards the growth of a child’s personality.
During infancy the basis of friendship is nearness in space. Children residing in the same home or street are usually chums. Early friendships are usually short—lived. Later friendships, however, are generally founded on wider basis and may last even for a life—time. Similarity of interests, likes and dislikes etc., are the most common determinants of friendship during childhood.
In the field of friendship few children are liable to develop certain undesirable tendencies e.g., over-attachments, selfishness, jealousy, hostility, exploitative attitudes towards friends etc. Such developments should be critically watched by the parents and teachers. Care should be taken to uproot them during early infancy.
Thus, an adequate and healthy form of friendship is one through which two individuals mutually satisfy the needs of their personality. Through friendship they minimize each other’s undesirable personality traits. They enrich each other’s personality and promote its proper development. It is one of the foremost tasks of teachers and parents to educate their children in the fundamentals of such a healthy and creative form of friendship.
The sense of personal achievement also plays a vital role in child’s personality development. Human beings have a natural fascination for the attainment of reputation, fame, prestige, honour, distinction, recognition, success, skill etc. All of these ambitions are values of personal achievement.
As an infant, the child snatches and grabs everything he can possibly lay hands on it. As he grows older he needs to be taught gradually that thwarting another’s desires in order to fulfil one’s own is an undesirable attitude.
Organized sports, group recreations, competitive activities and even occasional theoretical social instruction at school and home enables the child to grasp the truth that one can often harmonize the demands of personal achievement with those of love and affection for others.
The understanding of such a great level will lead to the development of child’s integrated personality, which is socially far mature and far more beneficial than a purely selfish behaviour focussed exclusively on personal achievement. This realization is a significant milestone in the personality development of the child.
Parental attitudes towards children also affect the course of their personality development. If the general attitude of the parents is affectionate and balanced, children feel secure and happy. They develop into cheerful and adjusted personalities.
On the contrary, if parents adopt unhealthy and unwholesome attitudes towards children their personality development is liable to be affected very adversely. Two of such wrong parental attitudes which prove personality spoilers are—
(I) Parental Negligence, and
(II) Parental Over Protection
(I) Parental Negligence:
It is the fundamental duty of every parent to provide affection and security to a child at home and looking after his basic needs. Some parents, however, neglect to perform their duties properly and thus harm child’s Personality.
Several causes are responsible for such parental negligence. Some of the prominent ones are as follows—
(a) Lack of proper understanding on the part of the parents regarding child development.
(b) Some parents receive negligent treatment from their own parents, and, hence, exhibit the same attitude towards their own children.
(c) Extrovert, poverty-stricken or ultra-social parents might be so preoccupied with their own economic, social or political problems that the poor children figure nowhere in their attention and consideration.
(.d) Unwanted children are common victims of parental negligence. This group of children includes the ugly, the handicapped, the child of the sex other than the one which the parents had wished etc.
(e) Parental jealously is yet another causative factor. If one parent finds the other to be so attached to the child as to neglect him altogether he is liable to feel jealous and adopt a negligent attitude towards the child.
The extreme form of parental negligence is parental rejection. The gists of some prominent studies revealing the adverse effect of parental rejection on child’s personality are as follows—
1. Levy’s Studies:
Levy reveals that some children are apt to react to parental rejection by adopting attitudes of extreme indifference or apathy. They might even develop diminished ability to respond to any affection whatsoever.
2. Bender’s Research:
Bender highlights cases of rejected children who have developed compulsive dependency and clinging attitudes.
3. Symond’s Investigations:
Symond points out the possibility of the rejected child’s becoming an over—aggressive and hostile person who might occasionally, resort to truancy, lying and stealing.
(II) Parental Over-Protection:
Parental over-protection, over-solicitude or over-indulgence is as injurious for the personality growth as negligence and rejection. Over- protection means excessive caring for, loving and shielding the child by one or both the parents. Usually mothers are more guilty of this excessive parental attitude towards children.
Levy mentions the following immediate and remote factors which cause mothers to adopt over- protective attitudes towards their children—
(a) Long period of anticipation and frustration during which the mother’s desire for a child is thwarted by sterility, miscarriages, or deaths of infants.
(b) Conditions in the child that make him less likely to survive or illness which frighten the mother.
(c) Her sexual incompatibility with her husband.
(d) Social isolation, lack of common interests between husband and wife, lack of other social contacts.
(e) Emotional deprivation in early life, unhappy childhood, mainly from individual satisfaction point of view.
(i) Development of a dominating role in married life.
(g) Mother’s own thwarted ambitions.
The most common effect of over-protection on child’s personality is development of dependent, aggressive and demanding attitudes. The spoiled child is the typical product of such a parental
attitudes. Being over-indulged and over-protected the spoiled child strives to bend the entire universe to fit in with his personal whims and fancies through an aggressive and over-demanding behaviour.
To conclude all this, healthy development of personality is dependent upon a number of favourable factors. Adverse influences in the home, the school, the culture and social environment of the child harm the cause of a frank and smooth development of personality.
Care should, therefore, be taken to place the child in such situations as are conducive to the growth of a cheerful, balanced and creative personality in him. This also involves keeping undesirable and frustrating elements at a sufficient distance from his home and school surroundings.
3. Social Determinants:
An individual is born and nurtured in society. He acts in response to environment stimuli. The school environment consists of social code and social role of a person. He abides by the rules and prohibitions of his society and finds in it a place of his own. Social rules and prohibitions or taboos regulate the individual’s customs, manners and conduct.
The child, for example, has to court ridicule, punishment and even expulsion, if he violates the social code. So, he deems it prudent to abide by it. Yet in spite of being regulated by it each individual develops in his own way. Personality is no mere social product, but also the product of the individual’s nature. Again, nor is the society a creation of individuals. The social rebel, therefore, is taken to task, punished or even expelled by the society.
The individual acquires social code in his childhood. Even the child play has to obey the rules of the game. On telling a lie he is disbelieved. Thus, he draws conclusions that it is wise to obey rules and one should never tell a lie. Further, he wants to make his place and function in the society. Actually, life is a stage of drama, where one is supposed to be an artist, the stage- maker and another audience.
Again, on the play ground, the place and function of each player is fixed. Alike in social life one may lead the groups, while others are mere followers or one may be a social reformer. In family life also, one is the father, mother or the son and daughter, who will have to play different roles in different life situations. Thus, we may call that social life is a life of inter-personal relationship.
4. Cultural Determinants:
Culture gives a permanent mould to the personality of the child. A child is born in a particular cultural group. Soon after birth he is gradually conditioned to the demands and expectancies of that culture. He finds that in order to become a successful participant in the life of the group he must accept their ideas, habits, attitudes, outlooks, etc.
This process of accepting or identifying oneself with the modes of thought and behaviour in vogue in one’s group determines considerably the formation and development of children’s personality.
In every culture parents have a certain outlook on child’s habit, discipline or training. The infant is trained to observe some sort of a discipline about feeding, sleeping, bodily elimination, toilet habits, behaviour regarding sex and other fundamental urges. A child who deviates markedly from the expected norms of behaviour, forms of discipline and authority is usually subjected to criticism, ridicule, punishment etc.
This frustrates the child leading him to angry and aggressive behaviour. It may also drive him to the realm of fantasy and introversion. The cultural group of the child also conditions him to socially acceptable modes of expressing aggression and anger through sports, debates, discussions, competitive activities etc.
Along with this development cultural forces prepare the child for affection, love and sympathy as well. Certain moral control and sanctions are also imposed on him to prevent from doing what the adults around him dislike. Fear, ridicule, guilt, guilt feel etc., are the common techniques employed by society to condition the child to accept and practice the controls imposed upon him by culture.
The self or the ego or the personality of the child gradually emerges out of this wide and diversified instruction and discipline imposed upon him by the culture. Whatever the methods and techniques are adopted by the society to colour the child’s personality with these cultural demands and expectations, the majority of children generally succeed in acquiring the spirit of the culturally imposed injunctions and prohibitions.
Most of the children are usually able to come up to the expectations of their respective cultures to a degree proportionate to their capacity. If they feel that certain personal demands or other forces are clashing with a cultural demand they are usually able to achieve harmony by making some sort of a compromise, reconciliation, adjustment etc.
Certain children, however, fail to achieve a good adjustment to the demands of their culture, which might seriously clash with another equally strong inner or outer force. This phenomenon is known as a ‘culture conflict’. A child who fails to face a culture conflict effectively and to resolve it adequately is liable to develop into a maladjustment personality.
Thus, it is evident that cultural pressures are immensely responsible for moulding the personality of the child towards healthy or unhealthy directions. A child’s learning gets its contents, direction and inspiration from his cultural background. His attitudes, habits, values, moral behaviour and entire outlook on life are largely coloured by the culture of the family and the place in which he happens to have been given birth.
The individual child, however, is not a mere passive recipient of all these cultural influences. He receives the impact of these forces, accepts them, modifies them, adds to them and even rejects them at times.
Frequently, he even strikes a compromise between the demands of the culture and his own personal likings and preferences. In such situations he often makes valuable contributions to the spirit and content of his culture.
A child, therefore, is not merely clay in the hands of his culture, passively assuming the shape its pressures dictate. He influences and is perpetually influenced by the various cultural forces in his surroundings. He is both the carrier as well as the creater of his culture.
5. Environmental Determinants:
Sociologists and anthropologists stress the importance of environmental factors in the personality-development. John Dollard of Yale University believes that,
“personality is shaped by and inter-woven with the social environment.”
Lawrence K. Frank says that,
“culture is the ground from which personality emerges.”
All behaviour-patterns are cultural products. Important among them are moral ideas, social attitudes and interests. William James and Baldwin have noted how a child’s early social contacts help to build his ‘self or ‘social life’, later termed ‘personality’. Cooley says that “selfhood” or ‘personality’ which is just a bundle of ideas, attitudes and intelligence depends a good deal on the people with whom the individual constantly associates.
Thus, a number of environmental factors react upon the organism of the individually and ultimately give a quality to his personality. These factors may be summed up as the home atmosphere, the parent-child-relationship, the school environment, the teacher-pupil relationship, social and cultural factors and other political- economic factors exert a great influence upon their personality development. Let us consider them separately in detail.
(I) Homely Factors:
The effect of the family on the development of a child’s personality cannot be exaggerated. The parents induct him into the rhythm of the demands of the adult world. The child is immensely influenced by the personality traits of his parents that mould his personality at all levels, right from early infancy to adolescence and even till death. Psychologists laid special stress on the importance of the very first events in the child’s life on behalf of study performed on animal infants.
It was found in birds that as soon as the young one emerges from the egg, the first moving object acquires a perceptually distinctive character for it, and follows it devotedly. This is called imprinting phenomenon. And so it may be true that human infant ‘imprints’ the mother and develops closer attachment with her than the father.
The family structure exerts a great influence on child’s personality. In the family the pattern is already set for the individual as to what is expected of him and what will be discouraged. The parents punish him for disapproved behaviour and reward him for approved behaviour. The role of the father and the mother is very important.
On the whole, friendly and tolerant fathers help children to have greater emotional stability and self-confidence. Domineering and rigid fathers will only help the development of submissive and frightened dependent children. Mothers influence children according to their degree of dominance, submissiveness, over-protectiveness or rigidity.
Over-protective mothers will influence children in the direction of dependence and a total disregard for others. Nagging mothers will make children shy, submissive and emotionally unstable. Besides the role of the parents, the atmosphere in the family is greatly influencing. A peaceful and loving atmosphere results in children being orderly, peace-loving and very affectionate. Without undue strain they develop mature and pleasant personalities.
Whereas in a family where there is tension, constant quarrels among parents, the child is likely to develop strong feelings of insecurity and inferiority. The child becomes emotionally confused and unstable. His own attitudes and feelings towards parents in such a situation becomes a feature of his behaviour outside the home. Rekha hates her papa, who ill- treats her mama.
As a result of this, she hates all males in general. This developed hatred made it difficult for her to adjust in a new school which was co-educational. Rekha hated the boys for no apparent reason, which in turn made them hate her. She therefore withdraws into a shell of her own, thus developing a lop-sided personality.
There are children who are rejected. Mothers, who reject their children, are likely to produce future delinquents. Psychologists have studied in detail the motive for the mothers to reject their children. A mother rejects a hairy child because of lifelong anxiety about excess hair on his body, then there is mother very conscious about her figure, and she may feel that the child is responsible for the change in the contour of her breasts or increase in the body-weight.
Other motives for rejection may be financial burden or interference in the professional career of the mother. Apart, every child has a unique position in the family which definitely influence his personality. The eldest child is very often overburdened with responsibility; hence he grows up to be very independent, while the youngest is petted and spoilt. At times the opposite is also true. The eldest may be given too much of affection, while the youngest may be an unwanted child.
The youngest may therefore try to excel himself in some field in order to attract attention or he may develop feeling of insecurity or inferiority complex. Being the only child also affects personality formation in either direction. The common view is that such a child who is overprotected would be pampered and spoilt. An illustration is given here by Gates et. al. reported from a newspaper.
A. K., an elderly man of about 55, lost his mother when she was 82 years old. Until her death he was very well adjusted in his job and was quite happy. Says A.K., “My mother was a wonderful woman”. She was a real, old-fashioned home lady who believed in keeping the home right. I never had to send my shirt to the laundry. They were always fresh and clean in my drawer.
When I come home at noon my lunch was there and when I come home for supper my supper was there. And she made my breakfast, too. She put money on the side for me and when she was ready to kick off she told me where she had put it away, and I found it there, too.
“I had the best mother anybody ever had. As long as I had her, I didn’t worry about anything. I loved my mother and when I lost her I lost everything. I didn’t give a damn what happened to me after that, I just let myself go. I started drinking and I worked only when I felt like it. Until then I wasn’t a drinker.”
Certain other factors at home viz., presence of siblings, faulty parental attitudes, dangers of verbalism on children’s morality, low socioeconomic status and the feelings of inferiority, chronic or frequent ill-health of parents and other members, undesirable family habits, traditions of vice and crime etc. may also become responsible for causing much maladjustment in the personality of the child.
(II) Factors Relating School:
The influence of the school on a child’s personality is more powerful than is generally recognized. School covers a significant part of child’s formative life from nursery to college education. When children join a school they bring with them well established attitudes and learnings, feelings, and fears etc., and hence transfer all these to school situations.
If the child develops hostility towards parents, then this is expressed towards the teachers in the school. If he feels insecure in the family, then he becomes aggressive to other children, and if he experiences intense sibling rivalry, then he is also more jealous of his classmates.
However, it would be wrong to think that school situations are mere continuation and duplication of family situations. Each day in and outside the class child has to face new rules, requirements, tasks, problems, new models for imitation and identification, and all these have their distinct influence on the personality of the child.
At the primary stage the child looks up to the teacher for guidance identifies himself with him, considers him wise and clever and imitates him as a model. A few teachers in every school are popular with adolescent students and the latter are able to open their minds to them more freely than they do to their parents.
Such teachers have a large potential in moulding the personality of their pupils. The most important influence of school on personality development relates to the emotional tone of the school. This is determined by the school administration, the head of the institution, and the teachers. Democratic procedures in the classroom and in the organization have beneficial effects on personality development.
An autocratic, controlling and rigid administration is responsible for developing unfavourable attitudes towards the school among its children. If aggression is frequently elicited by school conditions, then teachers are also perceived as objects of hostility by students.
If the teacher professes freedom and individuality but fails to conform to them in practice then this would lead to create conflicts and frictions among students.
The school activities are so designed and organised that most of the students have had the experience of failure. Even a child who tries to better his performance in the class, but is not able to reach the arbitrary standard set by the teacher is made to feel as if he is defeated, and done something he should be ashamed of. Repeated failure causes fear and hatred of the whole situation.
In such conditions just an affectionate patting on the shoulders, and a calm reassurance that the child will be able to face his problems successfully, are enough for him to regain his smile and confidence. If opportunity for catharsis are provided to children in the class, the effects of tension can be very much reduced.
Next, the personality of his friends and classmates has a very impressive role on his personality. In the varied programmes of the school he comes in closer contact with some works, plays, co-operates with some and competes with others. Our schools emphasize rivalry and competition at the cost of group work and achievement. Both seem to be essential.
The pupil must compete with his peers and previous achievement, and yet he must learn to work with others in a spirit of mutual helpfulness and goodwill. Hence, they become integrated into his personality. Briefly, we may say that school system ranks next to the family in terms of its importance and influence on the personality of the child.