What Does the Research Say About How Parents Affect the Development of Children’s Personalities?

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Running head: DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN’S PERSONALITIES

What does the research say about how parents affect the development of children’s personalities?

Understanding how individual personalities are shaped has yet to be fully uncovered, by modern research standards. What does the research say about how parents affect the development of children’s personalities? In answering this question, this paper addresses how much of a child’s personality is actually hard-wired by genetics and how much is influenced by parents, through bonding, attention and even neglect. The long-standing question of nature vs. nurture has plagued scientists for centuries and current research is attempting to answer just how powerfully ones parents can affect ones future. In order, this paper concentrates on first the nurture aspect of personality development in children, followed by the argument for nature, to provide contrast. 4 relevant journal articles were sourced to provide adequate background on research and trends in psychological studies.

As stated, let’s look first at how nurture determines a child’s personality through the evidence that parents are the cause of maladaptive behaviour. Hall and Geher (2003) state that “it has long been recognized that the infant-caregiver attachment is of immense importance” (as cited in Hall & Geher, 2003, p. 145). We know that the first year of a child’s life is essential to their development in later years. We see how crucial building secure attachments with the parents are to overall health, confidence and the growth of qualities such as empathy and motivation, as posed by Kagan (1999).

Research has a lot to suggest about the effects of harsh discipline and lack of warmth from the parents. A lack of secure attachment, either through abuse, neglect or abandonment has been linked to everything from psychological abnormalities to developmental problems to violent behaviour, as introduced by Rogosch and Cicchetti (2004). These consequences can range from simply relatively disruptive such as the behaviour discussed by Brook, Brook & Whiteman (2000) as “the predictors of insecure and dependent behaviour...include maternal child-rearing practices that hinder optimal emotional development in the child” (as cited in Brook, Brook & Whiteman, 2000, pg. 72) to the more severe, like the case of reactive attachment disorder (RAD) children as explored by Hall & Geher (2003), “it is apparent from the results of this research that children diagnosed with RAD display significantly more violent and detrimental behavioral and personality difficulties than non-RAD children” (as cited in Hall & Geher, 2003, p. 145) since “researchers and theorists in the field of RAD point to faulty attachment patterns between children and caregivers in early childhood as the ultimate roots of this disorder” (as cited in Hall & Geher, 2003, p. 145) thereby implicating parents as the source of the problem. Cicchetti & Lynch (1995) summarized that “maltreated children are at high risk for the development of many forms of psychopathology across the life course” (as cited by Rogosch & Cicchetti, 2004, pg. 123).

Even though we can see through studies how lack of warmth, discipline or disruptive child rearing practices can adversely affect psychological and personal development, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we can see how much direct interaction and a loving environment can shape children positively. Studies have repeatedly shown that children admire and imitate their immediate caregivers: “By age 4 or 5 years, children believe, unconsciously, that some of the attributes of their parents are part of their own repertoire, even although this belief might have no objective basis” (as cited by Kagan, 1999, pg. 165).This can explain why children of college graduates are more inclined themselves to acquire a degree and why children of underclass families are vulnerable to shame...
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