It is always common to hear phrases such as; a person is what he/she eats, show me your friends and I will tell you what kind of a person you are, spare the rod and spoil the child. All these phrases are a clear attestation that the social set up plays a crucial role in the determination of the kind of personality inculcated and produced. Social settings are used to describe the entire daily environment that one is subjected to whereas personality describes the unique intrinsic characteristics that each human being has. Where a person is born, grows, or even gets educated influences the kind of personality nurtured. These influences may be classified into either direct or indirect. The paper discusses some of the ways and situations through which my social life has been influenced. They include; the family, school encounters, marriage life, peer pressure, and the media. It also offers a conclusion of how social settings may affect one’s personality.
Direct and Indirect Influences
Family of Origin
The family is regarded as the basic unit of society. A child derives virtually everything from the parents since they are the one’s the child interacts with during the early stages of life. I am the fourth out of five children and currently forty-five years of age. I have two brothers and two sisters with whom I have spent a relatively long period growing up. I lived with both parents throughout my childhood and young adulthood and they were never divorced. They were my primary caregivers. Unfortunately, my mother used very abusive parenting skills. During my childhood, I was occasionally neglected and my mother would be very cruel in case of any behavior perceived to be undesirable. My younger sibling who happens to be the last born, however, was treated tenderly even when clearly in the wrong. These experiences made my childhood really tough.
A child is always eager to do what is seen to be done by the parents. Most early childhood experts regard this stage as one of doing by seeing. The inculcation of several virtues and vices is defined by what kind of parentage a child is exposed to. As the child grows a point reaches when he/she does something to please the authorities especially the parents. The doing or failing to do a task is primarily pegged on the nature of the reaction given by the authorities. A child who is accustomed to receiving presents and compliments on attaining a good grade may grow up to be a person who will demand favors in order to accomplish a task hence constantly relying on extrinsic sources for motivation. On the contrary, some children who for reasons of poverty do not get gifts but proceed to do well may grow up to be persons who volunteer unconditionally. Most of their activities will be done due to intrinsic motivation. The fear factor always contributes to what kind of personality is nurtured in childhood. Just as personalities differ so are parents and hence the socialization process at childhood. The experiences I underwent in childhood have greatly influenced me later in adulthood.
For my elementary level of schooling, I attended a private school that was within the community. The school had very strict rules that each child and parents were to follow. School uniforms were compulsory and had to be kept clean all the time. This was one of the most difficult rules to keep given our very critical stage of physical, social, and emotional development. Together with some other pupils, we found ourselves breaking most of the limiting school rules and were punished on regular basis. While classes were going on, we would be sent out to the fields to carry out manual work as a form of punishment. This approach significantly affected my performance in school to a point where my parents had to be called to explain the situation.
This problem was exacerbated by the harsh treatment I received back at home from my mother. Although I managed to graduate from primary school, the trend of violating the set rules continued through high school. My parents did not attend the PTA and student progress meetings on regular basis. They would only be compelled to visit after being sent home on serious incidences of indiscipline. The remarks that I would be given kept pondering me a lot. The teachers in the presence of my parents would tell me that I have the potential of being an above-average student only that I am the one underperforming. For me, I felt there was a lot of pressure from the school as well as the family and society. I also believed that nobody understood my real situation. At the age of fourteen, I had my first child and was married for the first time when I was sixteen. These situations adversely changed my school life completely since I could not go on with my studies.
The world has drastically changed and so is technology. The changes in time have also brought about changes in what society expects of us. Education has really transformed the world and has helped to solve some of the major problems. Most sociologists argue that the personality of a person is inherent to the nature of education obtained from childhood through adulthood. The fact that education is a continuous process cannot be refuted. A child will however obtain the basics of life from school. These basics play a crucial role in molding one’s personality over time.
Parents have also contemplated whether mixed schools work better than purely boys’ or girls’ schools. A mixed school usually exposes a child to a prototype of the society. The child is exposed to a real-life situation and the social skills begin to grow and develop here. The child becomes aware of the biological, emotional, and psychological differences that exist among his/her peers. Mutual respect and realization of different skills and talents are made possible through social interactions. The same children who graduate from mixed schools find the world a better place to live in because of the acquired social skills. Sociologists argue that a shared group society impacts greatly on one’s individuality. Otherwise, it has been proved that appropriate school experiences lead to the liberalization of people’s minds.
Education imparts other social skills to a person and ensures that a person does not only apply the knowledge so obtained for purposes of job placement but also for the buildup of his/her own personality. The school set-up leads to social skills training (SST) where teachers are involved in therapies that help children who are usually not at ease when relating to others or when their performance is not satisfactory. The fact that a person’s social orientation can be influenced by the environment makes some abnormalities such as social phobia, depression, and alcohol dependence be addressed for the better. The school setting, therefore, should be designed to address the creation of proper social networks alongside imparting knowledge.
Peer Group Influence
Peers may influence each other either positively or negatively. The adaptive mechanisms within a specific peer group can be explained using the group socialization theory. Children will always try to find their way into age groups that will always satisfy their social needs. A child below ten years of age is unlikely to socialize with a teenager aged 16 because of varying social needs. The peer group into which a child or even an adult gets into dictates the type of that person’s general social behavior. Peers that are actively involved in community service also extend such services to their homes and families. It however takes time and the outcome may be seen sooner or later depending on the adaptive nature of a person. Otherwise social vices such as drug abuse, gossip, and bullying may be learned through peer influence.
During my early adult life, I had started interacting regularly with my peers who enjoyed going out every other weekend. As mentioned earlier, I was a victim of child molestation and domestic violence. Due to the pressure to conform to group norms, I found myself partaking in everything with my colleagues. At 26 years of age, I had already started drinking and this went on for the better part of my adulthood. Currently, I am a recovering alcoholic of 19 years and this happened after meeting a support group in the community. My hobbies include gardening, writing poems, philanthropy, and working with adults with developmental disabilities. Moreover, I sponsor other people in the 12 step programs, and volunteer for the homeless shelters.
The nature of peer influence obtained greatly affects one’s social life. The choice of whether to stay alone or be involved in a peer group is important in creating a base for personality development and growth. Human beings are social beings and will in one way or the other require the support of another. Support groups have been instrumental in changing the lives of people who are either hopeless or are faced with difficult social problems. This rehabilitative interaction greatly influences their social life into embracing positive amends regardless of their physical or psychological states. The power to socialize is really important in ensuring that individuals become aware of their weaknesses and shortcomings. Seclusion among children will not only affect the physical growth of adolescents but will also hinder their psychological and interpersonal development through adulthood.
Personally, I was exposed to the media at a very early age. My family owned a TV set which we could be allowed to watch only during specific times. However, I had identified with a number of famous programs and would do everything to watch them. I had become addicted to programs ranging from gospel teachings to soap operas. This created a kind of stubborn behavior in me which was severely punished only on those occasions that I took less precaution not to be caught.
The media has played a great role in the dissemination of information and diverse happenings. Electronic media such as television (TV) has greatly changed the world. TVs have been found to negatively influence children in their educational experience and even socially. Years back parents were strict not to allow their children to get so addicted to the TVs and that really helped. Children grew up to be responsible adults. They knew how to create a balance between their work and leisure. This kind of social training is not instantaneous but takes some time to nurture. The trend however has changed. Most homes now have TV sets, internet access on their computers and mobile phones, and so on and a child becomes exposed to all kinds of environments.
My marriage life has not been an easy one. I have been married three times now, the first two having ended in divorce. I am currently married to my third husband, a marriage that has lasted about 14 years. I have four natural children, one adopted daughter who is thirteen years of age, and one foster daughter. Furthermore, I have two step-children together with ten grandchildren that are my world. Although my third marriage still holds, it is currently very dysfunctional. My husband is a Southern man from Southeastern Kentucky (KY) with whom we hardly communicate after everyone went separate ways. My third marriage and the larger family were quite stable until 2003 when my father succumbed to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). My mother is still alive but is suffering from terminal cancer. These experiences have combined over time to create a disturbing social setting in the family.
The experiences in childhood can manifest themselves in adulthood with profound consequences if they were negative in nature. The abusive treatment I received from my mother had influenced my social interaction ability. The marriage controversies that are common in most soap operas had come to haunt my own in diverse ways. I treated all my husbands with distrust and unleashed my anger on my children whenever I found them in the wrong. This is evidently a social character that I have developed since childhood. Family events have indirectly influenced my social life even in adulthood.
The fact that personality is dependent on social settings is well-grounded. The distinguishing factor, however, is the nature of personality nurtured. Parents have a direct role in the inculcation of desirable social behaviors and the alleviation of social vices at a very early stage of a child’s social development. Peer groups that encourage personal and corporate responsibility should be advocated for. The world would be a better place to live in if individuals are taken through a proper socialization process from childhood through adulthood. It has emerged that socialization occurs at a very early stage in life. The way in which a child is brought up and the experiences through which the child undergoes will play a significant role in determining his or her social orientation later in life. The kind of society (whether stereotype or dynamic) can be looked upon as a predictor of what kind of social beings to expect in the current and future generations.