Parents Influenced on Their Children

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influenced of parents to their children

Parental Influences on Personality:
A Comparison of Trait and Phenomenological Theories

Stu Dent
SS# 123-45-6789
Psych 210: Theories of Personality
Dr. Cervone -- Fall, 2001
Parental Influences on Personality:
A Comparison of Trait and Phenomenological Theories
A seemingly obvious fact about human nature is that our personality is influenced by our parents. Intuitively, it seems as if the way our parents raise us exerts an enduring influence on the nature of our personality. By teaching certain types of behavior and by punishing actions of which they disapprove, parents may significantly influence the behavioral and emotional styles of their children. This intuition, however, contrasts with a second one. Common knowledge tells us that siblings often differ greatly from one another. One brother may be outgoing, the other shy. One sister may be conservative, the other liberal. Since siblings have the same parents, and parents tend to treat their children similarly, such examples seem to suggest that parents’ style of child rearing might make little difference to the personality of their children. The question of parental influences on personality, then, is an interesting puzzle for scientific theory and research in personality psychology. Theories of personality have taken different viewpoints on the question of parental influences on personality. This paper addresses two theories that present contrasting views. These are the trait and phenomenological theories of personality. In the trait theories, the basic variables of the theory are people’s traits, that is, their “broad predispositions . . . to respond in particular ways” (Pervin & John, 2001, p. 226). Most trait theories try to identify a common set of traits that can be used to describe the personality of any individual. These “nomothetic” trait theories rely on the statistical procedure of factor analysis to identify dimensions that can be used summarize individual differences in personality traits. Researchers using this technique commonly identify a set of five trait dimensions. These Big Five personality traits include extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to experience (Pervin & John, 2001). Once one identifies a set of basic traits in this manner, a primary question is to identify where the traits come from. Why do some people have more or less of a given trait than others? Almost all trait theorists have sought biological explanations for variations in traits. People are seen to inherit a given level of a trait in the same way that they might inherit hair color or height. This viewpoint is consistent with findings on genetics and personality, which indicate that identical twins’ personalities are far more similar than would be expected by chance (Pervin & John, 2001). The trait theories, then, have an interesting implication for the question of parental influences on personality. If personality is defined in terms of personality traits, and if traits are thought to be inherited, then parental styles of child rearing would appear to have little influence on children’s personality. The only influence parents would have on their children’s personality is a biological one. They pass their genes on to their children. According to the trait theories, parents interpersonal interactions with their children would exert little effect on the child’s personality development. A very different view is put forth by proponents of phenomenological theories of personality. The primary focus of the phenomenological theories is the individual’s subjective experience of their world, that is, their phenomenological experience (Pervin & John, 2001). In particular, people’s subjective experience of themselves, or their self-concept, is seen as the core of individuals’ personalities. Among the most prominent of the...
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