Each week this semester we learned about various personality theorists and their personalized views of why we come to be the people we are. We were allowed to chose any topic pertaining to personality for our final paper and I was naturally drawn to the childhood aspect. I looked at the various theories of early personality development (from birth to adolescence) revolved around four different paradigms of psychology; the Psychoanalytic, Sociocultural, Trait, and Learning Paradigm. I am extremely impressed with the outcome of this paper...especially considering I did it all in 3 days! (I wonder what the psychologists would say about my uncanny procrastination habits?!)
I wont bore you with all of the research and theories of each person, but I can honestly say that this paper touched me on a very personal level. Being a mother is THE number one priority in my life and realizing just how crucial my role is to the development of my sons was not only an eye opener, but an inspiration as well.
The two topics that tugged at me the most revolved around Alfred Adler's Birth Order Theory, and Dollard & Miller's critical situations in childhood.
Alfred Adler considered the birth order of siblings an indicator of their future attitudes and behavior patterns. Because each child does indeed receive different treatment from the parents, he really felt that the order of their arrival ultimately set the stage for their future. First born children naturally receive all of the love and affection in the beginning, but reality takes a toll when another baby is thrown into the mix. He claimed that if a child is old enough to have developed a lifestyle for themselves by the time the second is born, their attitudes towards the new baby will be positive and a strong relationship will emerge. However, on the opposite spectrum, a great deal of resentment could arise if the gap is too small. I honestly feel that Lucas has found his own. He is an intelligent, smart, sweet child with a comprehension level of a kindergartner. I have no doubt in my mind that he will be great with his brother and offer the love and support towards him that I hope to see.
He also believed that the second born children were the most fortunate because they go through life continuously pushing themselves. The constantly struggle to keep up with the demands of the older sibling and it typically results in them becoming ambitious individuals. I believe that Lucas has set some very high expectations for this baby and I am so thankful that he will have him to look up to. I strive to push Lucas as much as I can, but I accept that I can only do so much. Our next son will follow in some of the greatest footsteps and I truly believe he will learn a great deal from his older brother.
John Dollard & Neal Miller's personality theory relied on a learning approach and the circumstances of reward and punishment. They referred to childhood as “a period of transitory psychosis because infants are completely at the mercy of their parents for the satisfaction of their needs.” Of the four critical situations in childhood, the "cleanliness training" was the one that stood out the most for me. They claimed that a parent's responses to potty training play and extremely important part in personality development. Interesting! Children have a hard time distinguishing between disapproval of an action, over disapproval of themselves, and a negative attitude could really hinder the way your child perceives himself in the future. Potty training has not been an easy journey to date, but I understand the importance of waiting until he is ready. Although he was doing fantastic at one point, he has since reverted backwards and lost all interest in the matter. But this is ok! I know people claim that its ideal to have the oldest trained before the new baby, but I am not comfortable pushing my son into something that he is not ready for. Boys are said to be harder to train than girls...and I'm going to have myself a pair of them! I'm completely prepared and have the confidence and patience that it'll happen when it's meant to.
Here was my closing summary:
So what does this all mean? Ultimately, early childhood has more of an impact on adult personality than one could ever believe. Although numerous theorists have proposed ideas from various perspectives, most agree that the developmental stages and associated behaviors set the pathway for both positive and negative personality structures. A repetitive theme through many of these theories relies on the helplessness of a young child and the need for support and guidance. Children rely on others for their support and safety and the manner that those needs are met ultimately drive a child to creating their own expectations and realities about the world around them. “Personality patterns are habitual tendencies which develop because an infant will use the patterns that are most effective in controlling his social environment” (Cole, & Morgan,p. 387). Children test boundaries and experiment with parental interactions as a means of learning and growth. The feedback they receive aids in structuring their behavior, temperament, and ultimately their personality. The differing actions that children receive from parents, along with a child’s individual responses to them, allow for each child to develop uniquely. Therefore, the role of a parent does not stop at basic food and shelter. The emotional connection with our children and our positive actions speak volumes in defining who they are to become. Although there is still much to be learned in the field of Early Personality Development, we can truly see its important integration into the entire spectrum of personality. As with every problem in math and science, it is important to start with the most basic and underlying factors if we are to ever understand something in its complexity.Pretty good, huh?!
So take this blog to heart and remember just how important being a parent truly is. Yes, children are the future of tomorrow, but we are the ones responsible for pointing them in the right direction. Even though children grow and really start to assert their independence at a young age, remember your ongoing role in their lives. I have a duty to my sons to be the best mother I can be, and that is not a job description that I intend to take lightly.
And yes, Nursing is still my major. For those of you wondering why I've been overwhelmed with three intense Psych classes this semester, that is my minor. I only have one psychology course to go that I'm taking this summer, and I saved the best for last...Child Development!
If anyone wants to hear more about the different theories, you're welcome to read my paper. I'd be happy to share what I learned!