Social Environment Weight on Personality Development


Over the years, psychologists and scholars have been seeking to understand the very nature of human beings, along with concerted efforts to unearth how an individual develops a certain personality. In other words, scholars have been trying to address the development of different personalities. The overall study of personality has developed two significant challenges that are relatively linked, but different scholars view them from diverse perspectives. The first challenge involves the definition of trends of development as experienced by most individuals. For instance, some theorists believe that all people go through various phases, and particular experiences are more evident at certain stages of development rather than at others. The second challenge comprises the identification of developmental factors which make people unique. The key concepts surrounding this topic suggest that each generation matures within specific social environment factors. Family socialization contributes to the basic personality that evolves through childhood to adulthood.

The current literature on individual variations holds that causes are based on nature and nurture forces. On one end, an individual’s personality is determined by biological factors that are inherited through generations. On the other end, it reflects the social experiences encountered during the whole life. However, the analysis will focus on the social environment factors to show that an individual’s personality is more reliant on nurture than nature. Over the recent years, most research has focused on interactions between environmental and biological factors. Even though nature and nurture are not significantly different influences, much evidence posits that genetic factors are shaped by the social interactions an individual engages in. Following the established significance of environmental aspects, the question might now be how to determine what social

elements contribute to personality development. The next section thus will offer an analysis of several factors obtained by contemporary studies in personality psychology.

Questions addressed in this paper include

  • What entails personality and where it emanates from
  • How personality develops and changes
  • How personality affects individuals
  • Which factors influence an individual’s personality
  • What are the contributions of the social environment to personality development

The social environment under discussion will include culture, family, peers, media, evolving economic situations, education, and religion, but it is not limited to the aforementioned. While addressing these questions this paper will be able to research the structure of personality during early childhood development. This study will also be in a position to process evidence from existing literature to identify why and when in human life personality transformation is highly likely to manifest itself. Lastly, these questions will help to define whether social environments have a huge effect on personality development. Besides, dealing with addressing these key areas of the research, it will be easy to pinpoint gaps and determine priority aspects for future research.

There are four major schools of thought trying to identify and explore how personality develops and why people showcase varying personalities under different circumstances. These schools of thought include humanistic, psychodynamic, social cognitive and trait perspective. Since there is no single theory that gives a perfect explanation of all the elements individual’s personality comprises, this paper selects the humanistic approach because it is consistent with the current topic. Therefore, it is important to understand that every personality school of thought has its unique role in addressing the topic on personality and limitations in its endeavor to define human’s personality (Hibbard & Walton, 2014).

Literature Review

Given that heredity and the social environment both influence individual’s behavior, in this review the question has been reformulated as ‘to what extent’. According to Lewis (2015), if people did not grow up in a social setting, they would not develop in the way that humanity deems as the right one. This scholar defines psychology of personality as the unique thoughts, emotions, and traits remaining active within a person over a certain periods of time and different conditions. He insists that the concept of self, as developed by the humanistic theorists and people’s goals in life, thrives in the social environment. Some social settings influence biological factors that make people appear similar to each other while others are attributable to a personal uniqueness. This aspect suggests that the environment within which an individual exists shapes biological factors. Therefore, it can be concluded that biological factors are dependent on the interactions with the social environment.

Hoffman (2016) offers an analysis on how the aspect of multiculturalism has helped shape human personality in the contemporary society. Hoffman (2016) shows that multiculturalism is a major factor that influences an individual’s personality. Some of the most critical aspects among the social environment determinants of personality are encounters people face due to the attachment to a certain culture. Culture is a determinant of what identifies an individual as either successful, in a particular way, or not. Every culture has its long-standing trends of learned traits, principles, and beliefs. These cultural factors reflect persisting philosophical and sociological perspectives that give answers to crucial questions in everybody’s life regarding the nature of the self, responsibilities and values.

Following the high rate of multiculturalism, people have become unaware of shared cultural practices that determine social interactions (Hoffman, 2016). For instance, people living in the United States are influenced by living in a setting that firmly support individual rights and in which people interact in a capitalist market that emphasizes on social status. On the contrary, individuals in Eastern regions encounter completely different cultural issues. These social variations advance either individualism or communism and influence the way people mold their personality. However, culture never ceases evolving. For example, cultural beliefs regarding individual’s roles have evolved over time.

The idea that people rival each other in a capitalist economy to advance their wellbeing is a main feature of the modern Western community, but it was not the case prior to that. These social-based evolutions impact the human personality in several ways. First, due to the competitive nature of the contemporary society, people are compelled to be aggressive, self-centered, and decisive to better their status in life. These values are earned by people and might have no link to biological factors. An individual might be born bearing a selfless personality, but upon interacting within social settings that are individualistically based, one is compelled to comply to these rules in order to survive.

Shmurygina, Bazhenova, Bazhenov, and Nikolaeva (2015) evaluate peer relationships to see how it influence behavior change among learners. The dynamic interplay between peers has been viewed as a key determinant in personality maturation. This assertion holds that genes alone cannot establish personalities. On the contrary, different personalities develop during social interactions between people. The people an individual interacts with during the life form his or her social environment. Thus it is inevitable to consider the social context that people are embedded in to comprehend personality development. Individual’s experiences with peers reinforce the fact that social factors are more prominent as opposed to biological factors. Perhaps, this might answer the question as to why family members have unique personalities. This assertion implies that genes do not make individuals’ personalities more alike, as opposed to the social experiences outside the family setting.

Childhood socialization begins in the family setting which is a major aspect contributing to the personality development. Beyond the shared aspects that might be determined by genes, socialization leads to uniqueness of personality. Parents may be amiable and caring or frugal and rejecting. Every feature of parental characters influences the personality of the children’s. For example, parents trigger conditions that predict certain traits in children. Besides, parents act as role models to the children.

How this literature links to humanism theory

All personality schools of thought emphasize on the significance of the social environment in molding and impacting personality. They differ in the ways of how encounters influence personality development. The impact of social factors commands center stage in personality development while the biological factors are viewed as incidental. However, humanism seems to gain an upper hand when exploring the contribution of social environment factors to personality development. Abraham Maslow introduced Humanism in the 1950s to address what brings about unique personalities even among people of the same family. Humanism believes that the society affects an individual’s self-concept.

Most children transit to adolescence being shy, cautious, and conservative in their approach to life. When teens are transitioning to adulthood, they tend to change abruptly becoming aggressive and liberal. This drastic changes make it a challenge for any personality theory to explain adequately the nuances of the changing character referred to as personality. However, this section will focus on the humanistic school of thought to show how it relates to social environment factors impacting personality. Maslow believed that human personality is about generating conscious decisions that are motivated by one’s urge for self-actualization and excellence. The social environment of an individual influences these rational decisions. For instance, different cultures have their standards for what is termed rational and acceptable behavior (Haber-Curran, Allen, & Shankman, 2015). An individuals thus shapes his or her self in a particular manner through the desire to conform to the set standards.

Humanistic psychologists focus on individual’s subjective view including emotions, opinions, thoughts, and concerns. The focus is the idea of self-actualization. Self-actualization is a process of searching the real inner self and meeting one’s potential. The most critical outcome of one’s effort is personality. Self-actualization is a long-standing struggle that a person faces during the process of searching a personality that comply with inner desires and demands (Hoffman, 2016). The culture, religion, family, and peers are part of the entities that form these intrinsic desires. The contemporary social environment is structured in a way that reflects Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Humanism argues that the societal measures dictate that an individual must satisfy the lower needs to shift up the hierarchy and strive for fulfilling the higher needs.

These views reflect the basic tenets of the humanism theory that suggests that every individual lives in an increasingly evolving world of encounters of which the person is the very core. This aspect suggests that an individual responds to the world of encounters based on his or her feelings and presumptions. The second tenet claims that an individual responds as a whole based on social influences but not solely on mere stimulus responses. During early childhood development, children learn via social interactions by observing and imitating adults’ behavior. Therefore, the structure of the self is supported by the encounters in the society via relationships with peers and others. Third, humanism proponents claim that personality is a goal-oriented endeavor meant to fulfill one’s needs and desires. Thus an individual adopts ways of responding fitting the concept of the self. The family setting forms the grounds upon which the concept of the self grows. In other words, one’s inner values are subject to the influence of social settings such as family and school.

Gaps in literature

Different studies have scrutinized the factors which impact personality development for decades, but knowledge gaps do remain. There have been controversies about how nurture and nature contribute to personality development. Even though both schools of thought have shown sufficient evidence on how each of the two supports personality development, there is need to develop literature that shows the interplay of the two factors. This paper will show that despite the interdependence between nurture and nature, nurture contributes significantly, especially during childhood development. In the psychology discipline, this research can be the beginning point for future academicians seeking to bridge this academic gap. Humanism continues to create a strong impression in the contemporary psychology. While the discipline of psychology has become largely scientific, humanism is still lagging behind. Humanism needs to adjust to scientific approaches in exploring personality.

Research approach

This study employs qualitative research method. Qualitative research views the community as socially constructed entity via the personal perceptions. Qualitative researchers are skeptical of giving possible solutions or explanations before thoroughly scrutinizing the means of the further study. In recap, qualitative research approaches a task without relying on predetermined explanations. This model tries to explore different techniques to recognize factors affecting the final findings. By using the qualitative method, this study will facilitate the understanding how participants view the entire study. The qualitative study gives the researcher a chance to gain firsthand experience since they are innately present in the condition under research(DeRobertis, 2016). This paper selects primary school children as the target population. This choice is influenced by the fact that much of personality traits are achieved during early stages of personality development. Besides, children are at a stage that is render them more vulnerable to impact from the social environment. In a bid to understand the importance of social environment, this research seeks to immerse in the environment of the participants and employ observational skills to understand their actions.

Ethical steps and principles

This research utilizes the Belmont guidelines meant to protect human subjects. The term ethical principles defines those basic judgments that rationalize ethical standards of an individual’s action (Cicchetti & Crick, 2009). Belmont guidelines offer three key principles that are consistent with the ethics of research. The principles include beneficence, justice, and respect for human subjects. Beneficence holds that human participants must be handled in an acceptable way by respecting their views and protecting them from risks. This research will make efforts to safeguard participants’ well-being. This research takes the obligation of care and kindness for the participants. Essentially, two basic rules are selected to guide this study. First, the selected population should experience no harm by any means. Second, this research must optimize all relevant benefits and eliminate possible risks.

Justice involves the potential beneficiaries and those who bear any burden in a research process. Justice is the perception of fairness and equal consideration. Injustice happens when some risks are imposed unconventionally. In a bid to achieve fairness, this research seeks to explain in what dimensions participants should be treated fairly as well as what defines unfair treatment. Respect for persons involves two major ethical presumptions. First, the people should be viewed as independent beings. Second, people having compromised autonomy must be provided with extra cushioning. Individuals with diminished autonomy here include children, the elderly and individuals with mental disorders (Bradea & Blandul, 2015). Since this research involves the young population, extensive protection will be prioritized, and adequate information will be provided before participants are recruited.

Application of the three principles in this study leads to a search for informed consent. Other factors such as risk and benefit assessment are also considered for this research. In cases where participants are unable to comprehend the information conveyed in the informed consent, parents or caregivers will be involved to facilitate voluntary participation. The proposed research will be passed through assessment to identify whether it is well planned and the risks that might arise are justifiable. Since this is a behaviorally oriented research, there are fewer risks for most of the findings will be gathered through mere observation of participant’s behavior.

Research methodology

This section provides a brief analysis of the procedure used to recruit participants, sampling method, data gathering, measurement instruments, and interview procedures. This study employs overt observation measures where the researcher informs the targeted group that s/he is conducting research. Thus, recruitment will entail direct contact with the target population. The research team seeks to contact the target participants either face-to-face, giving a group presentation, or via the telephone. Participants with diminished autonomy must be paid the utmost heed when engaged in the study. Some of the issues to be addressed during recruitment include answering questions such as what the purpose of the study is, with who is conducting the research. This study applies systematic sampling approach. In this model, participants are selected from the sampling population.

Data collection will primarily involve direct observations. The observation will occur in natural settings such as classrooms and playgrounds. The researcher will be involved in making lengthy and detailed notes of the proceedings. Sometimes the researcher will be compelled to act as an observer to avoid change of behavior when respondents realize they are being observed. Data collected through observations can be stored in written descriptions, video tapes, or documentation. Measurement instruments will include focus group interviews to obtain information from a wide range of participants. Focus groups provide a greater insight regarding the group dynamics. They are highly suitable since the phenomenon under study needs a collective observation to compare behavior.

How this study contributes to scientific knowledge

The study about the significance of social environment in personality development contributes immensely to the general field of education and medicine. This study might prompt the growth of more theory which are able to set the connection between problem, intervention and the product. This case study will answer questions as to why social factors are very significant to personality development. For instance, this study can help psychology teachers in understanding what social factors lead to positive personality development. Similarly, the medical field can benefit in understanding what environments exacerbate the personality disorders and plan certain research-based intervention measures. This study also provides useful insights that contribute to the existing knowledge in the field of counseling. Counselors would recognize that people have unique personalities and the needs that are influenced by the environments do exist indeed. By comparing the influence of the two factors on individual’s personality, practitioners can factor out the most reliable ways to form an environment that promotes desirable personality development. Further study should be done to establish how genetic factors interact with social environment factors to define personality development among individuals.


Even though skeptics continue to question that individuals are unique based on social environment influences, evidence shows that meaningful personality differences do exist. First, nurture has been found to have deeper implication in personality development as opposed to nature. Blazevic (2016) supports this claim by giving an example about how personality is transferred through generations. This research established that foster parents have “more effects on the personalities of fostered offspring than genetic composition inherited from biological parents” (Blazevic, 2016, p. 9). This assertion suggests that personality is transferred from one generation to another through behavior rather than genes.

Second, despite the greater effect linked to social environment factors, it is highly agreed that nature and nurture depend on each other. A certain personality cannot be completely linked to the social environment alone; genes play a certain role no matter how insignificant it might be. Thus instead of dwelling on the nature and nurture debates, psychological research should focus on the ways in which the two interact. For instance, in psychopathology, genetic composition and social environment are considered to interact before a certain mental disorder develops. Therefore it suffices to suggest that the difference between two individuals’ personalities is largely due to social environment factors among other elements. This assertion is important due to the current advances in genetics. A lot of research has sought to track types of personality to specific strands of DNA. Researchers are on the verge of establishing the genes associated with certain behaviors such as addiction, criminality, or sexuality.

The information gathered in this article is useful in various domains of life. Since social environment factors seem to represent a lasting source of individual uniqueness, people should ensure that they live in favorable environments. Most critical is the family and school setting where much of individuals’ personality shape. Parents and teachers should be well informed to provide environments that foster growth.

Future directions in psychology

This section is an analysis of two articles to examine their viewpoints about the future of psychology based on the current trends and technological advances. The first is Bray’s 2010 article, “The Future of Psychology Practice and Science”. This article claims that although psychologists firmly advocate for change, they are skeptical when it comes to adopting new means to meet contemporary needs. This article suggests that the future of psychological discipline needs practitioners to employ evidence-based practices and embed technology into daily activities. This article asserts that too much infighting has led to stagnation in the sphere of psychology. Psychological discipline is becoming more integrated, and new areas of science are emerging. However, this field of study needs to come up with improved models that lead to a better understanding of why people react the way they do under different circumstances.

The second article is “Multilevel Modeling: Overview and Applications to Research in Counseling Psychology” by Kahn (2011). This article claims that multilevel modeling is steadily developing to be the standard and common way of analyzing data. This article offers an overview of multilevel modeling and reviews current literature in counseling psychology. This article also gives ideas for multilevel modeling strategies to further study in counseling psychology. Thus this paper agrees with the sentiments brought forth by these two articles. Following the technology advancement, various areas of psychological science exhibit a room for possible development. For example, psychological science has shown the potential to interlink with other fields such as genetics and sociology. In the next few years, the field of psychology has huge opportunities to grow and is has manifested the capability to take advantage of it. The future of psychological science demands practitioners to engage in intensive training, work as a team, and try modern methods.


Voluminous research regarding personality development has been gathered, but knowledge gaps still persist. This study targeted to fill these gaps by developing new insights on the effects of social environment on the development of personality. This research has several implications for both researchers and developmental practitioners. For researchers, this study identifies gaps that need to be addressed regarding personality development. Practitioners can use this knowledge to implement relevant measures that address personality development issues among individuals.


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