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This essay will discuss the key influences on the development of personality within Social and Developmental Psychology.

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If the aim of psychology is to understand and explain why individuals think, feel and act and react as they do then the study of personality is a key aspect in our understanding. This essay will discuss the key influences on the development of personality within Social and Developmental Psychology. It will discuss definitions of personality and outline the approaches behind the different types of theories that have evolved. For the purposes of this essay the distinct theoretical approaches in personality explanation will be described in terms of the three major perspectives of Psychodynamic, Biological and Genetic, and Social Learning. These approaches will be critically debated concluding with a discussion of current Trait theories focusing on the 'Big Five' and its applications. Research into personality was very popular in the early part of the 20th century with Freud's Phsychodynamic approach. This went out of favor as Behaviourism came to the fore highlighting weaknesses in measuring personality. The behaviorists argued that only measurable features should be studied if they are to be considered to be valid scientific judgements. Personality as Gross (1996) describes it, is a hypothetical construct and as such it is abstract and can not be observed. In recent years the study of personality has returned with renewed interest especially in the area of childhood and with applications such as personality testing in recruitment programs. ...read more.


A more current view based on both the psychoanalytical and biological approaches is that of Bowlby (1969) who studied attachment in children. His Affective perspective concentrates on emotional development and has had an impact how children are cared for whilst away from their central carer for example whilst in childcare or hospital. Genetic and Biological explanations propose that each individual is born with genetically determined characteristic patterns of personality. Studies of twins show that identical twins brought up apart share much more in common than fraternal twins. The Minnesota twin study, (Bouchard, 1984 as cited by Bee 2000 p266) not only demonstrated this point, but also uncovered striking similarities in aspects such as taste in clothes, hobbies and interests, posture, body language etc. in identical twins who had never met each other. The biological approach to personality is strongly supported by a large amount of empirical research and as such is difficult to dispute. As Bee (2000) explains 'there is simply no refuting the fact that built-in genetic and physiological patterns underlie what we think of as both temperament and personality.' (Bee 2000 p269) Some studies show that as much as 60% of our personality is genetically determined. A further strength in the biological explanation is that it is interactionist, thereby acknowledging the role of the environment in addition to the biological factors. ...read more.


Psychologists finally appear to agree that the Big Five is a definitive method for capturing the variations in adult personality. According to Bee (2000) 'recent research suggests that the same five dimensions may give us an accurate picture of variations in children's and adolescents personality as well' (Bee 2000 p285). Liebert & Spiegler (1998) claim that it has also become possible to translate theories across and judge them against the big 5 framework. This has been done successfully in the case of some of Freud's ideas giving even more credence to both Freud and the potential of the Big 5. This essay has attempted to draw on the key influences in the development of personality proposed by Psychodynamic, Biological and Learning theories as well as discussing the importance of the Big 5. Each view has been supported with research evidence and has clear strengths and limitations. However as Bee (2000) explains 'You cant just simply add up the different sources of influence and say that personality is merely the sum of inborn temperament, reinforcement patterns, interaction with parents and some kind of self-scheme' (Bee 2000 p283) Some sort of convergence and interaction of these competing viewpoints can however provide a more convincing model. Research to date may not encompass all the necessary ingredients to fully explain the complexity of personality development however we are undeniably getting ever closer. ...read more.

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