What is this thing we call personality? Consider the following definitions, what do they have in common? “Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristics behavior and though” (Allport, 1961, p. 28). “The characteristics or blend of characteristics that make a person unique” (Weinberg & Gould, 1999). Both definitions emphasize the uniqueness of the individual and consequently adopt an idiographic view.

The idiographic view assumes that each person has a unique psychological structure and that some traits are possessed by only one person; and that there are times when it is impossible to compare one person with others. It tends to use case studies for information gathering. The nomothetic view, on the other hand, emphasizes comparability among individuals. This viewpoint sees traits as having the same psychological meaning in everyone. This approach tends to use self-report personality questions, factor analysis, etc. People differ in their positions along a continuum in the same set of traits. We must also consider the influence and interaction of nature (biology, genetics etc.) and nurture (the environment, upbringing) with respect to personality development. Trait theories of personality imply personality is biologically based, whereas state theories such as Bandura’s (1977) Social Learning Theory emphasize the role of nurture and environmental influence. Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamic theory of personality assumes there is an interaction between nature (innate instincts) and nurture (parental influences).

Freud’s Theory Personality involves several factors: – Instinctual drives – food, sex, aggression – Unconscious processes – Early childhood influences (re: psychosexual stages) – especially the parents Personality development depends on the interplay of instinct and environment during the first five years of life. Parental behavior is crucial to normal and abnormal development. Personality and mental health problems in adulthood can usually be traced back to the first five years. Psychosexual Development People – including children – are basically hedonistic – they are driven to seek pleasure by gratifying the Id’s desires (Freud, 1920). Sources of pleasure are determined by the location of the libido (life-force). As a child moves through different developmental stages, the location of the libido, and hence sources of pleasure, change (Freud, 1905).

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