Heredity and Environment Help Shape Personality
Children seem to have distinct temperaments almost from birth. Some are cheerful and easy to care for, whereas others are fussy and demanding. Researchers have identified many temperamental styles that emerge early in life and are relatively enduring, including general activity level, adaptability, persistence, adventurousness, shyness, inhibitedness, irritability, and distractibility. Most psychologists agree that such temperamental differences are biologically based and have genetic origins (Bates & Pettit, 2007; Caspi & Silva, 1995; Kagan & Snidman, 2007; M. Pfeifer, Goldsmith, Davidson, & Rickman, 2002; A. Thomas & Chess, 1977).
Genetic differences in temperament are only predispositions to behave in certain ways, however, and environmental conditions may point different children with the same predisposition in somewhat different directions (Keogh, 2003; R. A. Thompson, 1998). One influential environmental factor is the parenting style that mothers, fathers, and other primary caregivers use in raising children. In mainstream Western culture the ideal situation seems to be authoritative parenting, which combines affection and respect for children with reasonable restrictions on behavior. Authoritative parents provide a loving and supportive home, hold high expectations and standards for performance, explain why behaviors are or are not acceptable, enforce household rules consistently, include children in decision making, and provide age-appropriate opportunities for autonomy. Children from authoritative homes tend to be happy, energetic, self-confident, and likeable. They make friends easily and show self-control and concern for the rights and needs of others. Children of authoritative parents appear well adjusted, in part, because their behavior fits well with the values espoused by mainstream Western culture. They listen respectfully to others, can follow rules by the time they reach school age, are relatively independent and self-regulating, and strive for academic achievement (Barber, Stolz, & Olsen, 2005; Baumrind, 1989, 1991; Gonzalez & Wolters, 2005; Gray & Steinberg, 1999; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; J. M. T. Walker & Hoover-Dempsey, 2006).
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