Last updated: July 15, 2019
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The very first efforts to describe personality were type theories usually based on physical differences among people. We have already noted some historical efforts to divide people into four types according to their dominant bodily fluid or according to the location of the bumps on their head, i. e. the Gall’s phrenology. In the mid-twentieth, century, a popular theory held that personality types vary according to body build – fat, muscular or thin. Among psychologist today, type theories based on psychology are about as popular as a dog and cat show.

There is no evidence that personality depends on bodily characteristics since each of us is a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of traits, tendencies, preferences, and moods. Before these characteristics can be studied and understood they must first be measured in some reliable way. No one test can possibly summarize a person’s entire personality, but various test and assessment methods do provide information about certain aspect of personality – about needs, values, interests, and characteristic ways of responding to particular situation.

Thus will be the core topic of this research paper, in an attempt to justify the relevance and purpose of testing personality and how this impacts the life of a person. The most important challenge for measuring personality concerns problems of consistency and predictability. In the late 1960s, Walter Mischel reviewed dozens of personality studies and found only the weakest of correlations between a person’s trait on a personality test and that person’s behavior in a particular situation (Caspi & Brent. 2001. p. 53).

The gap between the assumption of consistency and the fact of inconsistency came to be known as the consistency paradox. This bombshell made quite an explosion in the field of personality research. After all, the most basic assumption about personality is that there is something sturdy about it across situation. But if the situation influences what people do, more than their traits do, the whole notion of personality is called into question (Ibid. p. 59). If you score high on a measure of ambition but fail to behave in a way that demonstrates your ambition, can you be considered ambitious?

If a child cheats on a game but not to another, is the child honest or dishonest? Personality researchers regroup, and responded to the consistency paradox in several ways. First, they noted that behavior consistency might itself be a personality test. Although some people are chameleon like in their behavior, others are quite consistent. Second, a situation may require a certain kind of behavior, but people often choose – for reasons of personality – what situations to get into in the first place.

A party imposes a general requirement to be sociable people are more likely to go to parties than hermits are. Third, simply counting acts can lead to mistaken conclusions. For instance, you might not cheat in one setting out of fear of getting caught, yet not cheat in another setting because you believe cheating in that case is wrong. Your behavior is consistent, but the motives are not. Conversely, you may refrain from cheating on a class exam, yet rely on your roommate to help you with a take-home exam.

Your actions may seem inconsistent to an observer, yet you may believe you are doing the honest thing in both cases. When researchers assess the psychological meaning of the act to the individual, they find greater consistency. For these reasons, the most promising tactic in measuring personality is to study the interaction of personality and situation. All the personality theorists recognize that people are influenced by the situation they are in; the person who did not bend at all with the situational winds would be emotionally disturbed (Bers. 001). At the same time, people bring their unique personalities and perception to all situations, which is why you can find sulkers at the happiest occasions and optimists in the midst of disasters. Because of situational influences on behavior, measurements of personality will not always predict accurately what people will do in a given setting. But without these test, clinical diagnosis would be difficult where much of the personality research would be impossible (Bers. 2001. p. 372).

Assessment tools can be useful in probing the origins of human diversity, as well as identifying the qualities that form the foundation of an individual’s character. One of the first psychologists in this century to emphasize growth and change over the entire lifespan was Adler, Alfred who broke from the traditional Freudian view that personality development stops childhood. Adler emphasized two influences on adult change; the social factors that influences us throughout life and the ability to control our own destinies (Hitlin. 2003. p. 122).

A fuller theory was later proposed by Erickson who argued that everyone passes through eight developmental stages on the way to wisdom and maturity. Erickson called his theory the psychosocial instead of that of Freud’s psychosexual, because Erickson believed that people are propelled by the psychological and social factors, not just by sexual motivations. Each stage, said Erickson, represents a combination of biological drives and social demands. At each one, there is a crisis that must be resolved for healthy development to occur (Ibid. . 130). Some societies, makes the transition from one stage to another in a relatively easy manner. If you know you are going to be a farmer like your mother and father and you have no alternative, then moving from adolescence to young adulthood is not a very painful or passionate step. If you have many choices, as adolescents in urban societies often do, the transition can become prolonged. Some people put off making choices indefinitely and never resolve their identity crisis.

Because American society values both independence and attachment, some individuals are unable to resolve Erickson’s sixth crisis, that of intimacy versus isolation. Stage theories become popular after Erickson’s work, possibly as a way to make sense of the bewildering social changes there were occurring after World War II. In the 1970s there was a sudden spate of life-stage books, and you can still find them in the psychology section of your bookstore. All shared the idea that there are universal periods or passage in people’s lives that unfold in a natural sequence, like the four seasons of the year.

It was fund for the readers to figure out what stage they were in and where they were heading (Walker. 2003). But were these theories popular because they are accurate, or because, as one psychologist argued, most of us wanted predictability, and we desperately want definitions of normality. Stage theories of adult development were important because they remind everyone that life is not over at age 10, 15 or at 21. Adults tend to have different concerns at different ages, a result of changing roles as well as its concurrent emotional needs.

Erickson showed that development is never finished once and for all. It is an ongoing process throughout life, and the crisis of one stage may be reawakened during another (Walker. 2003). He made a lasting contribution in identifying the essential concerns of adulthood: identity, competence, love and nurturance, the ability to enjoy life and accept death. Critics have pointed out, however, that adult life changes are not like the stages of child development for one important reason. Child development is governed by maturational and biological changes that were dictated by the genes.

Children go through a stage of babbling before they enter the stage of talking, or crawl before walking. As children mature, genes become less of a driving influence on their development and environmental demands have greater impact. Since environmental demands are different for different individuals, this means that adult stages cannot be as universal or inevitable as childhood stages, and this explains why children are more alike than middle-aged adults or old people. Like most of the other theorists, Erickson, also tends to generalize people in a stereotypical manner from very limited samples.

For instance, he entirely omitted women from his original work and as a result, women seemed to be doing things out of order. Most of the other popular stage theories were based on studies of privileged middle-class individuals, and as a result, most stages imply a universal sequence in adult development that is not accurate. Erickson was right to observe that in Western Societies, adolescence is a time of confusion about identity and aspirations, and the college years see the greatest gains in self-understanding and the resolution of identity conflicts (Haber. 2006).

However, an identity crisis is not limited to adolescence. A man who has worked in one job all his adult life, and then gets laid off and must find an entirely new career, may have an identity crisis too. Similarly, competence is not mastered once is childhood. People learn new skills and loose old one throughout their lives, and their sense of competence rises and falls accordingly. If development does not occur predictably in adulthood, why and how does it occur at all? Instead of focusing on the stages, another major approach to this question concentrates of the transition or milestones that mark the adult life.

Research suggest that what matters in adult development is not only how old you are but what you are doing. Having a child has stronger effects on you than when you have a child. Entering the work force affects your self esteem and ambition regardless of when you start working. Transition theorist therefore examines how people shift from one role or situation to another and the events that happen that require such changes: anticipated transition; unanticipated transition; nonevent transition and lastly the chronic hassle transition.

To define; anticipated transitions are the events which you plan for and rehearse, whereas unanticipated transition refers to those things that happen unexpectedly. Nonevent transition on the other hand, are the changes which you expect to happen that do not – you planned to retire but need to keep working for the income. Chronic hassle transitions are the situations that may eventually require you to change or take action, but that rumble along uncomfortable for a long stretch: You are not getting along with your partner. Your mother gets a chronic illness and needs constant care. You have to deal with discrimination at you job.

Your son keeps getting into trouble. Notice that what an anticipated change is for one person, such as going to college, might be unanticipated for another. An upsetting, nonevent transition for one person, such as not getting married, can be planned decision for another and not a transition at all. This approach acknowledges that nonevents and chronic situations cause us to adapt just as surely as actual events do. It also recognizes that not all transition create a crisis. Adolescence refers to that period of development between puberty and adulthood. On some cultures, the time span between puberty and adulthood is only a few months.

Once sexually mature, a boy or girl is expected to marry and assumes an adult task. In modern Western or American society, adolescence last for several years. Teenagers may be biologically mature, but they are not considered emotionally mature enough to be full-fledges adults. It is believed that they are not yet ready to assume the rights, responsibilities, and roles of adulthood. The long span of adolescence is new to this century. In the past, societies needed the labor of young people and could not afford to have them idle away a decade in school or in nonproductive self discovery.

So adolescence begins with a biological marker, but ends with a social marker. In some societies and religions, the child goes through a social ritual, called the rite of passage that commemorates the arrival of adulthood. The biological storms of puberty are reputed to carry over the psychological storms: insecurity about oneself in relation to friends, a fierce and unhappy struggle for self identity, and distrust and dislikes of parents. This view represents the turmoil theory of adolescent development.

It argues that adolescent anguish and rebellion are necessary and inevitable, the means by which teenagers separate themselves psychologically from their parents and form their own identities (Ochse & Plug. 2007). It is certainly true that adolescence can be difficult for more teenagers. It is a transition time in which adolescents are learning their rules of adult sexuality, morality, work, and family. Teenagers are beginning to develop their own standards and values, and often do so by trying on styles, actions, and attitudes of their peers in contrast to those of their parents.

They are growing more independent of their parents. They are questioning adult life, even as they are rehearsing for it. For some teenagers, these changes can feel overwhelming and lead to loneliness, depression, and a sense of isolation. Indeed, rates of depression and suicide are growing among the young, and are serious mental-health problems. Generally, the above article’s finding point to one conclusion, and it is that, personality development according to the fulfillment of each stage pointed out by Erickson, creates an impact into the success, maladaptive, or malignant behaviors of a certain individual.

This is an important determinant of how a child turns out to be when he grows up. Although there are various definitions psychologists use for the term personality, a consensus definition involves recognition that we are concerned with studying a pattern of a number of human tendencies, including traits, dispositions, unconscious dynamics, learned coping strategies, habitual and spontaneous affective responses, goal-directedness, information-processing style, and genetic and biological factors that give some degree of consistency to human behavior.

Very important in this approach to understanding personality are the notions of both a pattern of characteristics and the relatively consistent nature of their occurrence. Personality theory is not greatly concerned with a unique occurrence of a particular behavior, but rather the consistent pattern of behaviors, cognitions, and emotions and their overlapping and unique manifestations in individuals. At this point in the development of a science of personality, there is no general agreement on all the factors, which contribute to and make up human personality.

There is not even general agreement over which aspects to study or exactly how to study them. Nevertheless, the field of personality theory and research is exceedingly rich and varied. However, we must approach this richness by understanding the approaches of various theories and their particular focus. The assessment tools elaborated in Erickson’s personality theory thus illustrates the need to belong to a particular group sometimes could result into erroneous beliefs and therefore incongruent traits such as that of gang violence.

Knowing the effects of the fulfillment of each stage is very important for parents to provide an effective foundation for their children so as to make them grow into effective individuals in the world. Knowing the ill effects helps us better understand ourselves and explain why personality traits differ thus providing a more harmonious relationship with society. Understanding ourselves help us understand others better, thus avoiding any altercation and minimizing conflicts.