Studies show that parents greatly influence the development of their children in every notable area (Papalia, Olds and Feldman, 2002). Naturally, how children are raised by their parents exerts a notable influence on personality development. At birth, an individual has a specific temperament or a distinguishing nature and manner of approaching and responding to different conditions. According to research, this is a fairly stable characteristic of an individual based mainly on heredity (Papalia et al. , 2002).
On the other hand, a child’s temperament could be changed or influenced to some extent based on how the parent interacts with the child. Several personality theories have taken various viewpoints in the inquiry of parental influence on personality development. This paper tackles two theories that present differing views. These are the trait and psychoanalytic theories of personality. Trait theory The trait theory suggests that individual personalities are composed of broad dispositions or natural tendencies to respond in particular ways (Pervin and John, 2001).
Most trait theories try to identify a common set of traits that can be used to describe the personality of any individual. These rely on the statistical procedure of factor analysis to identify dimensions that can be used summarize individual differences in personality traits. Another trait theory called “The Big Five” was developed. This model represents 5 central traits that act together to shape the human personality, although researchers propose different labels for each trait, these are the terms most commonly used: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness (McCrae and Costa, 1997).
Openness refers to the dimension ranging from curiosity and interest in variety to preference for sameness (Sigelman and Rider, 2008), people will fall somewhere on a continuum, with most falling somewhere in the middle. Conscientiousness refers to the continuum ranging from disciplined and organized to lacking in seriousness (Sigelman and Rider, 2008). Extraversion represents the boundaries of sociability and outgoingness versus introversion. Extroverted people display warmth gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement and seek positive emotions. (Sigelman and Rider, 2008)
Agreeableness represents the extremes of compliance and cooperativeness versus suspiciousness. Those high in agreeableness are high in trust, altruism, compliance and modesty. (Sigelman and Rider, 2008) Finally, neuroticism refers to the dimension of emotional stability. (Sigelman and Rider, 2008) Someone high on neuroticism may show signs of emotional instability. They may have recurrent mood swings, anxiety attacks and may become upset over small stressors and normal interactions. A person on the low end of neuroticism may be seen as reticent, composed, and detached.
Trait theories provide an interesting inference for the inquiry on how parents influence their children’s personality. If it is accurate to say that character is defined by personality traits, and if these are genetically acquired, then parenting styles would seem to have minimal effect on a child’s personality. People inherit a certain degree of a trait similar to inheriting eye color or hair type. This perspective coincides with research on heredity and personality, which reveals that personalities of identical twins’ are considerably more alike than normally predicted (Pervin and John, 2001).