Background of the study
Lifespan development entails all the stages that a person goes through from the time of conception through infancy, childhood, adolescence, early adulthood and late adulthood to death. However, it is not all the changes in the life of a person that can be considered as being development (Sugarman, 2001, p.3). Therefore, development can be regarded as a process that involves value-based improvement in a person’s life in terms of quality and amount (Sugarman, 2001, p.4). This involves processes that enable people to feel comfortable with what they do in fulfilling their personal goals. This also involves activities that a person does that do not hinder the welfare of others besides fulfilling all the responsibilities within their capacities. Finally, individuals are said to have developed when their personal characteristics do not allow other individuals to mistreat or deny them equal recognition and opportunities (Sugarman, 2001, p.5).
One major issue in lifespan development currently is personality development which is considered as being imperative in the development of language and ethnic identity. Personality development has been a topic of discussion by psychologists, philosophers and theologians for a very long time. It is documented that different people hold varying theories and beliefs about the psychological development of people within their respective cultures and societies (Breger, 2009, p.1). The problem facing many scholars in this field is that these beliefs and theories are not formally documented or represented in any formal manner. They include the laws, values, beliefs and other social practices that guide parents and other social institutions through the process of child-rearing and in influencing their behaviors such that they become responsible members of their respective societies (Breger, 2009, pp.1-2).
The essay entails an analysis of personality development in relation to its connection to language, ethnicity and self-identity and other critical periods in life-span development. The essay also involves a description of the distinctive features of personality development, the controversies associated with it and the impact of personality development issues on the study of lifespan development.
Current Issue in Life-Span Development
Personality development involves all the decisions made by an individual during one’s lifetime from infancy to death that is bound to introduce changes to one’s life that are regarded as development (Personal Development, 2010, par.1). It also includes all the characteristic traits, beliefs and attitudes that differentiate one individual from others. These decisions and beliefs are influenced by natural, hereditary and environmental factors existing in an individual’s life or surrounding. The hereditary factors that influence personality development include the physical outlook and temperament among other characteristics which are determined at conception. They are highly dependent on biological, psychological and physiological characteristics. These characteristics are further shaped by the societies in which an individual is exposed to thereby leading to the development of personality. However, different situations in an individual’s life demand that different aspects of personality have to be employed in dealing with the immediate situation. In turn, the development of personality influences an individual’s beliefs, values and prospects in life. These form the basis upon which different people particularly children can differentiate in terms of their social settings and the prevailing historical era (Personality Development, 2010, par.1)
The development of theories and beliefs in the life of a person helps to shape the characteristic traits of that person such as individualism and behaviorism, the manner in which this person associates with other people in their respective societies and the behaviors that enable this individual to control strong emotions. Moreover, the developed behaviors enable an individual to achieve his or her goals and expectations in life without jeopardizing the rights of other individuals (Personality Development, 2010, par.3).
A number of theories have been put forward with the aim of underpinning the origins of Personality. These theories and hypotheses developed during the Neo-Freudian era when Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess discovered that there are hereditary factors in a human being that are bound to influence the behavior of a child and his/her later life as an adult (Breger, 2009, p.1-3). These factors are also referred to as temperamental biases which enable the classification of children into different types. Under this theory, children are grouped as being difficult to deal with, easy to raise, and those kids who find it difficult to socialize with strangers among others. These categories of kids reflect their later life as adults, for instance, a shy child is perceived to be a replica of a passive and inactive personality in adulthood characterized by negative emotions towards challenges (Personality Development, 2010, par.4). In addition, the developmental stages in personality can be influenced by an individual’s interpersonal experiences or the social norms better referred to as one’s environment. In Sigmund Freud’s theory, it is documented that the differences in sexuality can be influenced by familial experiences during the development of an individual’s ego or super-ego. Moreover, Freud indicates that the variations in socialization are imperative in the development of different personalities (Breger, 2009, pp.7-8). Additionally, Erikson’s psychosocial theory indicates that there is a direct link between an individual’s personality development and the social experiences that are mainly shaped by the parents’ care-taking tactics. This basically occurs during the development of an infant whereby there is the development of either positive or negative attachments between the infant and the caregiver. If negative attachments arise, the child grows knowing that the world is inconsistent and unreliable. The attachment theory by John Bowlby posits that a child’s experiences with adults in society are attributed to the emotional behaviors that an infant develops towards the caretaker at an early age (Personality Development, 2010, par.10).
The Piaget’s theory posits that Personality develops as a result of Egocentrism that leads individuals into self-centered thoughts and beliefs from which they are bound to expand their perspectives to larger fields. The theory argues that during the early stages in life, an infant is limited by self-centered thoughts to its own egocentric ideas which override its ability to see the limitations in those perspectives (Breger, 2009, p.10). Personality development comes into play when this individual starts to assimilate ideas from the external world into his/her egocentric ideas. Although it is not easy for the infant to comply with these new experiences, it is forced to accommodate them upon coming face to face with the real-world experiences. This signals the end of the egocentric period since at this point in time, the child is able to strike a balance between assimilation of new ideas and accommodating them. The child is also able to see the difference between his/her own actions as a result of egocentrism and reality. This helps in broadening an individual’s ideas thereby contributing positively to the development of personality.
Egocentrism is bound to reappear after a balance has been stricken between assimilation and accommodation. This is the stage during which a rapidly growing child starts to expand his/her own interests in terms of language, playing and fantasies (Breger, 2009, pp.9-11). An individual tries as much as possible to keep these new experiences to one-self. In order to move to the next stage in life which is adolescence, the child would need to frequently come into contact with real-world experiences. Additionally, the immediate needs of an individual have to be met before he/she can proceed to the next stage in human development. During this stage, egocentrism re-occurs in terms of an adolescent trying to assimilate the new ideas into personal perspectives. Thus, personality development is referred to as a cyclic process involving egocentrism, assimilation, accommodation and striking balances in each stage of an individual’s life. Therefore, strong personal attributes are required for an individual to develop from one stage to another.
Studies in personality development have revolutionized the field of developmental psychology in terms of describing and explaining the various patterns of personalities that can be observed in various societies. Through the theories of attachment, life-span development, psychosexual and psychosocial development, the phenomenon of life-span development can now be clearly understood and accounted for.
The essay has given an analysis of personality development in the context of its connection to the development of language, ethnic identity self-identity of an individual in the society. Additionally, the essay has given an account of the most distinctive characteristics of personality and its connection to different stages in life-span development such as infancy, childhood and adolescence. It is imperative to note that this issue is delicate and requires close attention from parents, caregivers, guardians, teachers and society in general in order to bring up children with desirable characteristics and personalities.
- Breger, L. (2009). From instinct to identity. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.
- Personality development. (2010). Concepts of personality development in children. Advameg, Inc. Web.
- Sugarman, L. (2001). Life-span development: frameworks, accounts and strategies (2nd ed.). New York: Taylor & Francis Inc.