There are many theories surrounding the effect of one’s behavior on his/her personality. The more humanistic approach as stated by Clinical psychiatrist Carl Rogers in his theory of personality explains that human behavior is “exquisitely rational” (Rogers, 1961, p.194). Rogers went on to theorize that the core of nature in man is essentially positive and he is a trustworthy organism. On the other hand, there is the belief that personality traits can be heavily influenced by culture as cited in an article published in January, 2002 (Triandis, 2002). So what is it that causes one to remain this way or even to become dishonest and untrustworthy? The answers to these questions lie somewhere between those personality traits that derive from the early development of character and those shaped by culture and environment.
Personality traits are developed early on, but can change as a person matures. While culture and environment serve to heavily influence these traits from the very beginning of one’s life, life style and experiences continue to do so even when adulthood is reached. The differences lie in the ability to make choices. Whereas children often have no control of their environment, adults are able to alter what is around them at any given time. They may choose to remove themselves from unpleasant situations while migrating over to those that are more gratifying. These shifts may result from specific experiences or as a form of personal growth. Whatever the reasons, a number of factors may be involved.
Though personality traits derived from cultural experiences are often seen early on in life, they can continue to develop and evolve even in adulthood. There has been controversy surrounding the theory on how culture affects one’s personality. As cited in a 2002 publication by the Annual Review of Psychology, it was argued that individual differences in one’s conduct are narrowly dependent in context and because of this, do not generalize a cross context (Triandis, 2002). Here, global traits would not exist. It was also further argued that early childcare practices would not necessarily predict consequences in the development of adult character.
There are, however, more positive evaluations that have arisen from this theory on how culture affects personality. The same article cited a book that defended the utility of culture and personality studies, mentioning studies that were designed to improve the interaction across various cultures (Triandis, 2002). Though there are some marked differences in the theories that exist involving cultural aspects of the development of personality traits, there are other important factors that cannot be ignored.
Life style is believed to be a major influence on personality, though it can be argued that personality strongly affects life style choices. Life style is also strongly affected by life experiences, and can be allowed to dictate important decisions that are made all throughout adulthood. Attitudes are often derived from these experiences and how they are perceived. These attitudes can be carried throughout life and sometimes become the basis of both trial and triumph.
Life style related personality traits affect every decision one makes from career choices to interpersonal relationships. In an article published by the Department of Psychology, Montclair State College, three separate life style patterns were defined and conclusions were drawn as to how each could affect one’s personality and how the outcomes could be influenced. The life style patterns studied were: traditional, neotraditional and nontraditional. Though this study focused on women, the outcome can cross over into both genders. Here factors such as attitudes, role concepts, personal motivation and the quality of employment experiences (O’Connell, year unspecified). The way in which people interact with one another can also be traced back to personality traits related to life style and over all life experiences.
How a person deals with various life experiences is strongly related to his/her coping mechanisms. How a person from one particular culture who has one set of life experiences copes with a specific event will differ significantly from someone from a completely different culture and who possesses a different set of experiences. Age is also a factor that is often used when studying coping mechanisms. It has been shown through a series of studies that people who are considered elderly often deal with various situations in a more positive manner than those who are from younger generations because they have learned how to do so through various similar experiences. Still, experiences do impact several aspects of one’s life which can be directly related to personality changes or alterations. Likewise, personality traits can directly affect how the life experience is dealt with so there is often a direct correlation between the two. How a person deals with a particular life experience can affect how others are handled later on in life. In many cases coping mechanisms of the elderly are effective and appropriate while defense mechanisms are often primitive and mature. This is because they have learned from their life experiences which enabled them to grow in character as a result (Lain, 2007). On the other end of the spectrum, persons from younger generations are often less able to cope with negative experiences as appropriately and often demonstrate immature defense mechanisms.
Personality traits are formed during childhood but are often affected by a multitude of factors. While culture can definitely be one, life experiences are probably what shape character the most. Decisions that are made hinge on values and beliefs that often determine how the issues resulting from these life experiences are resolved. There are many characteristics that make up these traits throughout life and many influences that become present along the way. The various personality theories in existence have been cultivated from a number of studies using different control groups across many different cultures. The unique life experiences that occur for each individual are what help influence the traits that can be carried from one generation to the next, but they are also what help shape the life of each person. Perhaps that is why there is no other experience quite like life itself.
O’Connell, Agnes N. (Year not specified). Correlates of Life Style: Personality, Role Concept, Attitudes, Influences, and Choices. Department of Psychology, Montclair State College, Upper Montclair, New Jersey 07043. Retrieved from http://hum.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/33/8/589
Pescitelli, Dagmar. (Year not specified). An Analysis of Carl Rogers' Theory of Personality. Retrieved from http://pandc.ca/?cat=carl_rogers&page=rogerian_theory
Triandis, Harry C. (2002). Cultural Influences On Personality. Annual Review of Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.accessmylibrary.com/article-1G1-83789643/cultural-influences-...
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