Personality is illuminated through reflection upon the question “who am I?” Thus, does who I am, defined by my personality, develop or is it predetermined before birth, is it a result of nurture or nature, is personality a consequence of biology or environment? These deeper questions of personality origin which ultimately answer the question “who am I?”, influence the core of Counselling/Social Work/Psychological practice. In other words, if a Mental Health Worker believes personality is innate, a result of genetics alone, then personality is stable and unchanging. If personality is innate, then a Mental Health Worker cannot help a client change or respond to situations differently to the way defined by their innate character. This means, people would not have the capacity to control their behaviour. On the other hand, if the Mental Health Worker believes personality formation to be a consequence of context, a result of nurture, then personality is mutable and always changing. Consequently, people would have the capacity to change their behaviour, their personality, their character, under the right circumstances and in the right context. Mental Health Worker’s must believe that people can change if they are to have a positive influence with individual’s and on society, in changing culture and attitudes; but this begins with changing individual’s behaviour and cognition.
Is personality determined by genes, how much does nurture influence personality formation?
Whilst genes may provide the foundation of personality, nurture certainly stimulates the personality coming to fruition. This means, both nature (genes) and nurture (environment) interact together to form personality. Personality has some stability over time and certain hereditable traits are seen in twin studies (where the twin babies have been separated in infancy but display similar personality traits later in life) (Maltby, Day, & Macaskill, 2013). However, personality is also influenced by environment. For example, a child born to parents who abuse drugs and alcohol and whom lead a life of crime may be adopted at an early age to parents who conduct themselves in socially acceptable ways. The adopted parents then provide the child with the best education and support the child in a loving Ryan Hill: Interpersonal Practice
R y a n H i l l : C o n t a c t d e t a i l s 0 4 3 2 3 8 5 2 3 3 B r e a t h e C o u n s e l l i n g P e r t h W A M o a n a C h a m b e r s 6 1 8 H a y S t P e r t h P a g e 2 | 3
environment. As a result, genes which may predispose the child to an antisocial temperament may never be active and therefore the child’s personality is moulded to conform to societal values and norms (Berk, 2012). Hence, nurture plays a vital role in personality formation and subsequent behavioural outcomes.
Is each person unique or do we all have the same elements of personality?
Although basic emotions (such as joy, distress, anger, fear, surprise and disgust) are recognised in infancy and may therefore be considered innate, the Mental Health Worker ought to recognise higher cognitive emotions (such as love, compassion, guilt, shame, embarrassment, pride, envy and jealousy) develop later in life and are consequently mutable. These motivating emotions help form personality as recognised by psychosocial/ social-cognitive developmental theories. Hence, Mental Health Worker’s ought to recognise each individual’s capacity to change, to control their behaviour and have insights concerning their behaviour, and consider opportunities to help aid client’s optimal development (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Hence, each person may be unique in the measurement of a particular personality attribute (e.g. One person may be high, if measured on a continuum, on compassion whilst another may register as low, but both people have the capacity for compassion), yet all people have the capacity to hold the same elements of personality. These elements are what make people human.
How much does context affect personality types and traits?
As previously discussed, it is the author’s belief that personality types and traits are influenced by the context an individual develops. Some contexts lend themselves conducive for extroversion. For example, a child raised in a family involved in acting or team sports is likely to associate with many people often. Hence, the developing child is likely to learn how to navigate social environments and display a higher degree of extroversion compared to being raised in an introverted environment. That is, a child raised by scholars or academic parents who spend the majority of their time studying rather than interacting in social environments is more likely to find navigating social environments difficult and thus may display introversion. Although this is a poor example, and some academics are Ryan Hill: Interpersonal Practice.
R y a n H i l l : C o n t a c t d e t a i l s 0 4 3 2 3 8 5 2 3 3 B r e a t h e C o u n s e l l i n g P e r t h W A M o a n a C h a m b e r s 6 1 8 H a y S t P e r t h