Personality’ Theories and Development


The purpose of this paper is to explore the field of personality theories and factors that may influence the development of an individual’s personality. The elements of personality reflect individual variations in terms of feelings, behaviors, and thought processes. Personality helps one understand individual differences and functional aspects of various personality parts. It may develop and change over time. In other words, a person can still change his or her personage. In addition, personality affects relationships that an individual builds with others, career outcomes. It also helps a person improve his or her life. Hence, the ability to understand personality could make people address their personality challenges, solve problems, and enhance personal growth and success.

Define personality

In psychology studies, personality refers to an individual’s distinctive and permanent pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (Revelle, 2007). Thus, when one considers these aspects of personality, then it is possible to conclude that personality reflects practically all aspects of his/her experiences. As a result, an individual’s personality has a greater chance of influencing his/her well-being in everyday life (Dreier, 2011). Specifically, one’s personality affects how he or she relates with others. Since humans are social in nature, their personalities play an important role in getting the general outcomes, success, and contentment with life.

It is imperative to understand the association that exists between an individual’s personality and thoughts, behaviors and feelings. People get information from their external environments, and this received information goes through several processes of assessment and interpretation. These processes may be subjective. A person then interprets external information received and attaches a thought to it with a relevant meaning and significance.

During this process, a person is likely to experience different forms of feelings with different intensity concerning the thoughts of what takes place in the environment. The significance of what takes place in the environment affects the ideas assigned to it. In other words, people tend to associate strong feelings with only relevant or significantly critical events. A combination of thoughts and feelings impact on people’s behaviors or reactions to events happening in the external environment, i.e. what a person thinks and feels would influence his or her behavior.

The environment and culture affect a person’s behavior and such behaviors can change the environment. Hence, there is an active interaction between people’s personalities and their environments. This process of interaction creates habitual patterns that result into the development of individuals’ personalities. Thus, the environment affects how people develop their personalities, while personalities affect individuals’ responses to their environments.

The theoretical approaches in the study of personality

Several theories exist in order to attempt at providing explanations for individuals’ personalities, development of personalities, and their impacts on life. The trait theory focuses on the development of individuals’ traits because these features define people. Individuals’ traits reflect permanent patterns and consistency in behaviors. The trait theory also views personality as internally developed.

Psychodynamic theories emanated from the earlier works of Sigmund Freud, specifically the psychoanalysis theory that highlighted the importance of unconscious mind on personality. Unconscious mind influences one’s emotions and behaviors. The Neo-Freudian theorists and theories are focused on the psychosexual stage theory, stages of psychosocial development, and individual psychology to explain personalities. Proponents of the Neo-Freudian or psychodynamic theory include Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler among others.

The behavioral theories and other social learning theories posit that individuals develop their personalities due to interaction with the environment. The behavioral theories discuss behaviors that one can observe and evaluate in order to disapprove earlier theories covering personality development as an internal process. Among the scholars of the behavioral theories one could name Skinner and Watson.

The humanist theorists like Maslow and Carl Rogers have highlighted the significance of independent actions and experiences in the development of personalities, i.e. individuals are responsible for their actions. In addition, the humanistic theories focus on the immediate rather than past or future aspects to predict behaviors.

The cognitive theory also attempts to explain personality. In this respect, it highlights how a person’s thoughts influence emotions and behaviors, which reflect an individual’s personality. According to the cognitive theorists, a lack of thought processes would result in a lack of emotions and behaviors. As a result, people would not have personality. This implies that people tend to think first before displaying their emotions.

Factors that may influence an individual’s personality development

No doubt, people have different traits and characteristics. Generally, there are factors that impact on the development of personality in individuals. It is possible to identify the differences in personality among people based on their behaviors, actions, or reactions to a given stimulus from their environments. Understanding differences in personalities help in developing logical accounts, behaviors, motives, and actions that affect them.

It should be noted that experiences influence personality development in individuals either positively or negatively. Those who had bad experiences with others could develop distrust or isolate themselves from others. Conversely, people who had good experiences may be motivated to act positively in a given situation. They may also have inner desires to portray confidence and project a strong image. Such desires affect personality development as well. Moreover, desires and ambitions affect individuals’ personalities through setting priorities with the aim of achieving them. This requires an individual to change his or her personality. As a result, some studies have concluded that such aspirations and ambitions are probably the most powerful factors that develop individuals’ personalities toward career.

It is worth noting that self-image reflects how an individual perceives himself or herself. These perceptions may be different from what other people perceive in a person. Consequently, a person’s self-image develops specific personality traits that reflect their self-image. People who have high regard for themselves display a feeling of self-confidence and feel superior compared to others.

Furthermore, environment is a critical factor in the development of personalities as it influences the way people react to various stimuli affecting them in different situations. For instance, a child who experiences disturbances may have a complicated or unpredictable personality. Such experiences tend to affect later personalities and choices in adulthood. One should also not forget about culture that impacts on personality development (Brinkmann, 2010).


This essay has explored the field of personality theories and factors that may influence the development of an individual’s personality. It shows that several theories exist in attempts to provide concrete explanations for people’s personalities. They emanate from other theories like the psychoanalysis theory, the psychodynamic theories, the behavioral theories, the trait theories, the humanist theories, and the cognitive theory. These studies show that personality development is either an internal or external process that depends on the environment.

A number of factors influence personality development in people, which include environmental factors, self-image, inner desires, and experiences. It is also imperative to note that personality development is dynamic and interactive. Hence, people have abilities to change their personalities.


Brinkmann, S. (2010). Character, Personality, and Identity: On Historical Aspects of Human Subjectivity. Nordic Psychology, 62(1), 65-85. Web.

Dreier, O. (2011). Personality and the conduct of everyday life. Nordic Psychology, 62(2), 4-23. Web.

Revelle, W. (2007). Experimental Approaches to the Study of Personality. Web.