What Research Says About How Parents Affect the Development of Children’s Personalities: A Literature Review

Subject: Family
Type: Expository Essay
Pages: 4
Word count: 1151
Topics: Parenting, Childhood, Foster Care

Parents play a significant role in the development of the personalities of their children. The child-rearing practices that a child’s mother uses when raising a child might help in shaping their character, and it is necessary for the parents not to make them develop a bad personality. J. Brook, D. Brook, and Whiteman (2003) conducted a study on a group of 2-year old children and their mothers, and they found out that the warmth and control techniques that the mothers used increased insecurity and dependent behavior (p. 73). The researchers’ findings suggest that the manner in which the parent treats her child has an impact on the toddler’s level of insecurity and dependence. On the other hand, Kagan (1999) suggested that the direct interactions that a parent has with a child including rewards for desirable behavior and punishment for undesirable behavior shape their personality (p. 164). However, when a parent maltreats a child, there is the possibility that they would develop an obnoxious personality. 

A mother’s characteristics and temperament determine how they treat their children, and this, in turn, affects the development of the child’s personality. Rogosch and Cicchetti (2004) conducted a study on 211 children at the age of 6 years with the aim of finding out their personality organization, and how this differed among the non-maltreated and the maltreated (p. 127). The results of the study that Rogosch and Cicchetti (2004) conducted revealed that in the Big Five dimensions of the evaluation of personalities, there is stability in the personality dimensions as children progressed from age 6 to 9 (p. 136). These results reveal that once a parent influences the development of a particular personality in the child, it remains the same way even a child grows. 

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The personality that a person has during adulthood must have a point where it started during their development, and it is necessary to determine how this phenomenon emerges. Brook et al. (2003) reported that when children develop dependent and insecure behavior at an early stage of their lives, they might encounter difficulties later on as they become adults (p. 73). When a child develops such tendencies when interacting with the parents, it is important to take the appropriate interventions so that they do not develop insecure behavior. 

The nature of the interaction between mothers and their children affects the behavior that the children exhibit through their personality. Brook et al. (2003) found out that maternal warmth has a higher correlation to the child’s dependence compared to the mother’s use of control techniques (p. 80). These results indicate that when a mother cordially treats her child, the child would always rely on the parent for emotional comfort. According to Kagan (1999), parents can influence the personalities that their children develop by interacting with them, narrating family stories, as well as identification (p. 164). Similarly, the nature of the interaction between a parent and a child primarily manifests through the child-rearing practices that the mother uses, as Brook et al. (2003) indicated.

Children that fail to establish an emotional bond with their parents might end up having personality problems, and this could lead to the development of personality disorders. Hall and Geher (2003) investigated how personality and behavioral characteristics of children are affected by the reactive attachment disorder, and they found that child abuse or neglect contributes in causing the condition (p. 146). A child cannot develop an attachment towards the mother if the two fail to have a positive interaction, and this implies that the development of the toddler’s personality would be affected. Kagan (1999) suggested that the first-order effects of a parent’s interaction with a child have secondary effects that appear later in the child’s life (p. 164). 

When a parent positively reinforces a particular behavior in a child while discouraging another one through an action such as punishment, the child has to take note of that and act acceptably. However, the child might not adopt a positive personality if there is no attachment to other individuals, especially the parents. According to Hall and Geher (2003), when children have reactive attachment disorder (RAD), some of the behaviors that they might exhibit include stealing, lying for no reason, and destroying property (p. 146). Such a child would have acquired these maladaptive behaviors due to the inability to form attachments with either of the parents. 

For children to adapt some of the identified undesirable behaviors, they have to be used to engaging in a particular unacceptable activity, and if no one warns them about their conduct, they continue doing it. As Kagan (1999) stated, children have an emotional identification with their parents, where they believe that they have similar traits of their parents, and they do this even before they are five years old (p. 165). As a child believes that he or she has similar features to the parents, they would like to mimic the displayed personality, and this illustrates the significance of a mother’s character to the development of the child’s personality. 

When a child does not have any disorder that affects their emotional states, they would likely have a good temperament, and this would make them interact well with the parents. However, when there is no interaction between the child and the parents, the child might fail to develop a charming personality. From the personality profile groups that Rogosch and Cicchetti (2004) created, the researchers suggest that under-controlled children have challenges in school performance and conduct (p. 126). 

It is apparent that the parents that do not punish their children and watch over their activities encourage them to develop a personality that makes them not to focus on schoolwork and have bad conduct. Similarly, Brook et al. (2003) suggested that if the mother has severe personality traits such as anxiety, aggressive behavior, and rebelliousness, the child would be dependent and insecure (p. 80). It is evident that when a child’s mother exhibits interpersonal distress and unconventional behavior, she affects the child since she could be around her for a long time. On the other hand, the type of care that a parent or any other caregiver provides to a child determines the personality that they develop too. Kagan (1999) stated that when a child undergoes hardship and later starts a better life such as through adoption, their personality develops well (p. 165). 

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  1. Brook, J., Brook, D., & Whiteman, M. (2003). Maternal correlates of toddler insecure and dependent behavior. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 164(1), 72-87. 
  2. Hall, S., & Geher, G. (2003). Behavioral and personality characteristics of children with reactive personality disorder. The Journal of Psychology, 137(2), 145-162.
  3. Kagan, J. (1999). The role of parents in children’s psychological development. Pediatrics, 104(1). 
  4. Rogosch, F., & Cicchetti, D. (2004). Child maltreatment and emergent personality 
  5. organization: Perspectives from the five-factor model. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 32(2), 123-145.
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