The development of personality during childhood
The concept of personality development it can be described as the vital process through which every individual passes, establishing certain bases and guidelines of determined character and behavior, from which the traits, values and functioning forms organized and stable in the time of said person are formed.
These mechanisms become a reference for the person in their interactions with the context (environmental or physical and interpersonal or social) in which it usually operates.
Thus, development is understood as the result of bidirectional confluence between more biological or internal factors (genetic inheritance) and other contextual or external factors (environment). The first includes the temperament , which is defined by an intrinsic and innate emotional and motivational disposition that mobilizes the subject for primary interests.
On the other hand, environmental factors can be classified into common influences (norms, values, externally originated social and cultural beliefs) and personal influences (experiences and particular life circumstances of each subject, such as, for example, a disease).
It can be said, therefore, that as the subject matures biologically and incorporates new experiences and external experiences, the process of developing one's own personality takes place. How is this development of personality during childhood developing?
Affective development in early childhood
The most important phenomenon that characterizes the affective development of the boy or girl in the first years of life is the attachment formation or emotional / affective bond established between the child and one or several reference figures (usually subjects belonging to the family system, although not in all cases). The attachment is made up of three elements: attachment behaviors, mental representations and feelings generated from the previous two .
The main function of the elaboration of the emotional bond is facilitate an adaptive development in the emotional area which allows the subject to establish future functional and appropriate affective interpersonal relationships, such as ensure a balanced general personality development . Without this support, the children are not able to establish the necessary emotional ties to develop all their competences.
At the same time, attachment generates a context in which children can learn and explore their surroundings feeling safe, which is essential to discover their own abilities. This kind of discoveries will shape their attitudes and a part of their personality, depending on whether they feel more or less competent in the areas in which they usually live.
The process of attachment formation
In the process of attachment formation, you can distinguish several phases depending on the distinction that the baby is learning about the people in his social environment . Thus, in the first two months their inability to discriminate between attachment figures and other people motivates them to feel good predisposition for social interaction in general, regardless of the person in question.
After 6 months, this differentiation is becoming more pronounced, so that the boy or girl shows his preference for the closest figures of affective proximity. At 8 months the "anguish of the eighth month" phase takes place in which the baby shows his rejection to strangers or to people who are not part of his closest attachment circle.
With the consolidation of the symbolic function, at 2 years of age, is able to internalize the permanence of the object , even though this is not physically visible, which allows the consolidation of the affective bond. Subsequently, the child begins a stage characterized by a constant search for approval and affection of the adult , experiencing some emotional dependence and showing again good predisposition for general social interaction.
Finally, between 4 and 6 years, the interest of the child focuses on their relationship with peers, which strengthens the beginning of the stage of socialization in other environments than family, such as school.
The conquest of autonomy
The acquisition of the autonomy capacity takes place in the first years of the boy's or girl's childhood, once it has begun to consolidate the self-concept process (as a differentiation from the other subjects) and begins to overcome the affective dependence of the adult to orientate oneself to the experimentation of the world independently.
Upon discovering that they can interact following the first notions of norms, values and internalized beliefs (not always coinciding with that of adults understood as a learning model) from early life experiences, their motivation is oriented to govern their behavior according to their own decisions . Thus, a phase of constant ambivalence is generated between the need to depend on the adult and the search for autonomy from him, which may result in the manifestation of tantrums or other behavioral alterations as a sign of the intention to preserve their independence.
This is a delicate process, since added to the fact that the child can be very difficult to handle, it requires the adult to set strict and clear educational guidelines on the path of suitable development to take. This is one of the fundamental ideas to be highlighted in relation to the development of the child's autonomy.
It is important to remember that there must be that balance between the increasingly broad freedom of action that the child adopts and the permanent role of guidance and orientation that the attachment and educational figures with which the first one has to play must play.
Another fundamental point lies in the relevance of the environmental context in which the individual develops, which shapes and significantly influences the process of acquiring the indicated autonomy. Therefore, each individual has its own characteristics and can not establish a universal pattern that explains this process in a general way . Like most aspects related to the development of the person, it is characterized by its individuality and by the qualitative differentiation with respect to other subjects.
Self-consciousness, self-esteem and child self-worth
The beginning of the acquisition of self-consciousness or self-concept is intrinsically related to the achievement of the cognitive development phase of object permanence. The child interiorizes that remains as the same being in different moments or situations thanks to the proliferation and linguistic development that occurs from the second year of life. From that moment the subject begins to see himself as being different from other individuals and recognize ideas, values, beliefs, feelings, interests, and motivations. That is to say, it begins to relate the medium in which it is situated with its self.
This is a process that starts at this chronological moment; therefore, this differentiation and establishment of individual identity is not complete at all times and although they are assimilating the aspects that are inherent to their person (personality) it is possible that some cognitive and / or emotional processes are produced in a unconscious.
Thus, it is a process by which what others express and what one interprets from their actions forms an image of oneself. In turn, this image is associated with a moral assessment of this, which makes it more or less positive depending on the expectations and preferences of the boy or girl .
The role of self-esteem in boys and girls
With the appearance of self-concept, its evaluative component, self-esteem, arises simultaneously. Self-esteem is a phenomenon that is very closely linked to the achievement of a balanced and adaptive psychological development. Therefore, if the evaluation that the individual makes about their own value as a human being in interaction with the most cognitive aspects and qualities related to self-concept is positive, this fact will act as a protective factor in the future in the prevention of intense emotional disturbances , difficulties at the psychological level and, to a greater extent, problems in the social interaction with other people.
It is very important that there is not a very high discrepancy between the real self (what the individual represents) and the ideal self (what the individual would like to represent) to consolidate an adaptive and adequate psychic and emotional or balanced development).
Another fundamental aspect is the role played by external evaluations on the level of self-esteem presented by each subject. A) Yes, the image that others have of themselves and the assessment they make of their skills or behavior they greatly influence the perception of the child about himself.
As of the third or fourth year, the search for approval by the adult would be related to this question, since this motivation is done with the ultimate goal of establishing an acceptable level of self-esteem . As mentioned above, at this stage conflicts may arise, at the level of opposition behavior of the child to educational figures and other adults, arising from the opposition between adult protection and the child's search for autonomy. Therefore, a fundamental aspect to take into account becomes the educational style that parents exercise on the child.
An educational style characterized by a balanced combination of control / discipline / authority and affection / understanding seems to foster a high level of self-esteem and, in addition, a lower likelihood of tantrums and negative behavior. In this way, It is essential that educators understand the importance of the progressive increase of autonomy on the part of the child and that as their maturation as a human being takes place, the exhaustive control of all decisions concerning the child must be gradually diminished.
Are personality, character and temperament equivalent?
Although undifferentiated these three terms have been used in an undifferentiated way, the truth is that they are not conceptual equivalents. The definition of personality as a disposition or set of stable and permanent traits that guide both behavior, reasoning and emotional expression in a generic way, would encompass both the concept of temperament and character.
That is both the temperament and the character are elements that form the personality interacting together . They can not be isolated individually, but help to understand our behavior patterns globally and in all areas of life.
Temperament refers to the innate emotional and motivational predisposition whose manifestations are due to a more primitive biological or hereditary origin. It is a phenomenon considerably stable over time and subject to a lesser proportion to ethnic or cultural interference . On the contrary, character, of a more cognitive and intentional nature, derives from environmental and cultural influence and is the product of external life experiences.
- Irwin G. Sarason, Abnormal Psychology, Problem of Unsuitable Behavior, Seventh Edition.
- Neil R Carbon, Physiological Psychology, editorial Mexico third edition.
- Galileo Ortega, J.L. and Fernandez de Haro, E (2003); Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Education (vol2). Malaga. Ed: Aljibe.
- Delval, Juan (1996). The human development Siglo Veintiuno de España Editores, S.A.