Heredity and Environment Help Shape Personality (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

A child’s cultural environment also influences personality development more directly by encouraging (i.e., socializing) certain kinds of behaviors (Mendoza-Denton & Mischel, 2007; Mischel & Shoda, 1995). For example, many children in China are raised to be shy, whereas many in Zambia and the United States are raised to smile and be outgoing (X. Chen, Rubin, & Sun, 1992; Hale-Benson, 1986; D. Y. F. Ho, 1986, 1994; Huntsinger & Jose, 2006).

Nature and nurture interact in numerous ways to shape children’s personalities (Bates & Pettit, 2007; N. A. Fox, Henderson, Rubin, Calkins, & Schmidt, 2001; Keogh, 2003). For instance, children who are temperamentally energetic and adventuresome will seek out a wider variety of experiences than those who are quiet and restrained. Children who are naturally vivacious and outgoing will have more opportunities than shy children to learn social skills and establish rewarding interpersonal relationships. When children have temperaments that clash with cultural norms or parental expectations, they are apt to evoke negative reactions in others and lead parents to use a more controlling, authoritarian parenting style (N. Eisenberg & Fabes, 1994; Maccoby, 2007; Scarr, 1993; Stice & Barrera, 1995). One psychologist has made this point by describing her experiences with her own two children:

I . . . reared a pair of very different children. My older daughter hardly ever wanted to do anything that her father and I didn’t want her to do. My younger daughter often did. Raising the first was easy; raising the second was, um, interesting. . . .

How do you treat two children both the same when they aren’t the same—when they do different things and say different things, have different abilities and different [temperaments]? . . . I would have been pegged as a permissive parent with my first child, a bossy one with my second. . . .

My husband and I seldom had hard-and-fast rules with our first child; generally we didn’t need them. With our second child we had all sorts of rules and none of them worked. Reason with her? Give me a break. Often we ended up taking the shut-your-mouth-and-do-what-you’re-told route. That didn’t work either. In the end we pretty much gave up. Somehow we all made it through her teens (J. R. Harris, 1998, pp. 26, 48).

As you can see, temperamentally lively or adventuresome children may sometimes call for more adult control than restrained, easygoing ones (Clarke-Stewart, 1988; J. R. Harris, 1998; Stice & Barrera, 1995).

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