Throughout psychological history, the topic of personality has created an ongoing debate regarding theorists’ ideas of what influences the development of personality as well as varying
characteristics within one’s personality. To examine the characteristics that encompass the idea of personality, it is important to first define what personality means. My personal definition of personality is the characteristics and defining traits of oneself that are both internally and externally portrayed. When creating a personality theory that utilized this definition of personality, it was important to include factors of both attachments to caregivers, as well as cultural learning that is prevalent throughout one’s life. This personality theory that reflects these ideas that I have created relating to personality development is titled the cultural-attachment personality theory.
As described before, a few defining factors within one’s life is what assisted me with defining and creating this personality theory. Within the cultural-attachment personality theory, it is important to examine the main philosophical assumptions within the theory. These main philosophical assumptions can be defined around the concept that much of our personality development stems from the cultural learning we do as children. This theory also examines how if one does not securely attach to one’s culture or the primary caregiver’s culture, the personality can be shifted due to internal discrimination and stigma surrounding the lack of adherence to cultural guidelines.
Karen Horney played a large inspiration in the development of this personality theory as she compares basic anxieties and neurosis to lifelong attachment issues (Shiraev, 2017). Horney argues that a child will best develop their personality and set confidence given a secure attachment to their primary caregivers. Horney also argues that those who do not have a secure
or healthy attachment to their primary caregivers will not gain the ability to develop into their true selves (DeRobertis, 2006). Another theorist who assisted in laying the foundation for the cultural-attachment theory is Julian Rotter. Julian Rotter created the social learning theory which describes personality as a development of learning experiences over time based on the environment of the individual (Shiraev, 2017).
These theorists influenced the development of the cultural-attachment theory by assisting with creating a framework for integrating varying aspects of prior personality theory to create a defining personality theory that both relate to childhood attachment to cultural standards, as well as learned experiences that influence personality development. Within childhood development, we are often exposed to varying cultural standards and norms that have been passed down from generation to generation. Children of varying cultures are often persuaded to follow common traditions and adapt their personalities to socially learned behaviors. It can often be shown that children who attach to and have healthy relationships with their caregivers will often follow guidelines set by those caregivers and follow behavioral expectations that are given within that culture (DeRobertis, 2006). By combining theories produced by Horney and Rotter, it can be shown that if a child has a secure attachment to primary caregivers, as well as the culture of both themselves and the primary caregiver, they are more likely to adopt personality traits that are learned through socialization.
Sigmund Freud developed the “notion of the unconscious” by stating that our unconscious feelings and biases often influence behaviors and the development of our personality. Freud argued that our personality is influenced by unconscious biases that are often kept inside to avoid negative consequences from those within societal groups we are a part of
(Shiraev, 2017). Freud’s ideal of the “notion of the unconscious” presents further evidence into the development of personality based upon cultural norms and attachment to these norms. As Freud explains that most of our personality is held by a “moral guardian” that protects us from portraying abnormal personality traits that differ from the norms of those around us (Shiraev, 2017). It is important to recognize that personality development often stems from cultural standards and learned behaviors, as the cultural-attachment personality theory suggests.
While given evidence that Freud’s “notion of the unconscious” relates to the cultural- attachment theory, it can be argued that inward discrimination is not a determining factor of the unconscious mind stated by Freud. While outward stigma and learned behaviors is a defining factor, incorporating the influence that internal discrimination due to learned behaviors and failed attachment has on personality development is an important characteristic of the cultural- attachment theory. The importance of combining both unconscious beliefs about societal standards and internal discrimination toward one’s culture stems from the idea that many
individuals will learn set behaviors that they are expected to follow within their caregiver’s culture. If one has unconscious beliefs that the culture of their caregiver is unfit for their personal life, there will often be a shift in beliefs surrounding their caregiver, their personality, and livelihood, as well as often an internal hatred for not only their culture but also their personal beliefs.
This is often shown within personality development shaped by religious beliefs that are instilled in children by their caregivers. As a child, I was forced to believe in Christianity and attend church weekly. After educating myself on topics that were frowned upon within the
church, I developed an internal hatred for my parent’s beliefs and the religious aspect of my personality. My personality then shifted due to social learning of ideas that are outside of the
church, as well as a shift in internal views surrounding my caregiver and my attachment to the religious aspect of our relationship.
Francis Galton extended a debate that has influenced the continued development of personality theories, as well as other theories surrounding the choices humans make within their lifetime. Francis Galton explored the debate of nature versus nurture which argues whether biological and genetic factors or learned experiences within an environment influence personality development (Shiraev, 2017). By examining this debate, Julian Rotter’s theory of social learning extends the major philosophical standpoints of the cultural-attachment theory.
Julian Rotter examines personality development through a nurtured standpoint by stating that an individual’s personality is shaped based on learned behaviors within their primary group. Rotter argues that individuals will continue to shape their personality based upon their learned behaviors based upon their belief of success or failure within their personal life (Shiraev, 2017).
Within the cultural-attachment theory, the nurture aspect of the “nature versus nurture” debate influences the development of personality at a higher rate. Based upon the cultural-
attachment theory an individual’s personality develops based upon learned experiences within
their environment, as well as the attachment they have to their caregiver’s experiences. Although nurture plays a large role in the development of personality, genetic factors can influence varying aspects of personality such as the development of personality disorders or mental health disorders that influence personality traits (Shiraev, 2017). To argue against the influence of nature within the cultural-attachment theory, it is important to recognize that although genetic factors can influence personality traits and characteristics, often mental health disorders relating to personality are commonly attributed to environmental factors and life experiences.
Further personality theorists expanded on the debate of nature versus nurture by examining the influences of varying characteristics of one’s life on the development of personality traits. Gordon Allport states that personality traits, specifically cardinal traits are characteristics of oneself that explain the behaviors and choices that one makes and are outwardly seen by those around the person as defining factors of their personality (Shiraev, 2017). Allport also argues that one’s personality is different from their character, as the personality is the “objective self” which can adapt due to situations within one’s life (Shiraev, 2017). As Allport defines personality as a combination of cardinal and otherwise minimal traits, it is important to relate how one’s “character” compares to the cultural-attachment theory.
Allport defines a person’s character as the way one carries themselves based on societal standards (Shiraev, 2017). An important aspect of the role of traits in personality development is the influence that gender can have on the development of varying traits. For example, Dr. Money suggests that individuals who are raised as a certain gender and provided with guidance on appropriate gender norms will begin to adapt their personality to fit societal standards (Lahood, 2012).
While Allport and Dr. Money suggest that trait development can be influenced by external life events or biological factors such as gender, George Miller creates a theory of personality development based upon the cognitive processes of the brain. George Miller argues that an individual’s personality is comparable to that of a computer. Emotions and personality traits are seen by Miller as being set by a set of “instructions” or “programs” within our brain’s
processing (Shiraev, 2017). Because of this theory, Miller states that personality can be adjusted such as a computer code can.
While the arguments surrounding trait development begin to be explored by past theorists, it is important to recognize how attachment to cultural norms and learned behaviors can influence trait development. Within varying cultural settings, varying personal characteristics of individuals can influence the development of one’s personality. For example, as a white young female, my personality traits are often influenced by the gender norms of American society, as well as the cultural norms that I have been taught throughout my lifetime. Within the cultural-
attachment theory, one can argue that individuals’ personalities cannot be influenced such as a computer code as personality traits are often influenced by learned factors of one’s environment and culture. One may be given a list of “instructional” behaviors to follow which can influence personality development, however, these behaviors are often learned rather than coded into our brain.
The development of personality traits can often be linked to one’s internal and external forms of identity which often relate to one’s view of “self”. Harry Sullivan discussed the
implications of the caregiver’s feedback on a child’s self-esteem, the idea of self, and the development of the child’s personality. Sullivan argued that if children are given positive feedback and praise throughout their childhood, they are more likely to experience a healthy self- esteem and are at an increased chance of developing a positive relationship with authority figures within their lifetime (Shiraev, 2017). As Sullivan begins to investigate the relationship of self to personality, Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development assists with understanding further how self-esteem can relate to healthy personality development. Erik Erikson argues that if a person can experience themselves with confidence and with a sense of certainty, they are more likely to experience a healthy personality (Shiraev, 2017). If children are presented with the
eight- core virtues of a healthy ego, Erikson argues that they will develop an increased self- esteem and will allow their personality to flourish based on personal traits (Shiraev, 2017).
The cultural-attachment theory further examines the idea of self and the construction of developmental issues as presented by Sullivan and Erikson by evaluating how the feedback of a caregiver can influence the development of personality traits that can influence the attachment
toward one’s caregiver. Throughout my life, the importance of receiving positive feedback regarding the decisions I have made and the values that I hold have influenced the personality traits that I allow to be visible to those around me. Without a secure attachment to a caregiver based upon negative feedback that is given due to cultural differences between the child and the caregiver, the individual’s personality may be shifted to mask the beliefs of the culture to receive the positive feedback that is needed to maintain a healthy ego. This insecure attachment to the culture and the caregiver can lead to a falsified personality or the development of unrealistic personality traits within an individual.
Clark Hull presents the drive theory which defines that personality development is based upon the biological and physiological needs that an individual has within their lifetime. Hull argues that one will experience a drive or motivation to adapt their personality to meet to needs that one has and to reduce tension within one’s life (Shiraev, 2017). Hull states that
reinforcement and punishment of behaviors are what shape an individual’s personality and the future consideration of these behaviors (Shiraev, 2017). Research has shown that when needs are not met within an individual’s life or the events of the individual experience that produce reinforcement or punishment of various behaviors, one may develop a personality disorder within their lifetime. Borderline personality disorder is often shown to be related to a lack of
ability to form meaningful interpersonal relationships or identity of self due to external events that have reinforced negative aspects of one’s past life (i.e., trauma) (Shiraev, 2017).
As the need for interpersonal relationships and healthy attachments to cultural standards is argued to influence on the development of personality, it is important to recognize the influence motivating factors can have on the development of a healthy personality or the development of a personality disorder within one’s life. The cultural-attachment theory focuses on how learned motivation based on behaviors that are taught within one’s culture can influence the level of attachment one has toward their primary caregiver and the influence this has on the development of personality. If an individual experiences negative feedback or punishment due to personality traits that they develop or due to their lack of adherence to cultural standards, one is more likely to develop an unhealthy attachment to primary caregivers which has been shown to
influence an individual’s probability of developing a personality disorder within their lifetime. Within the cultural-attachment theory, the idea that adhering to taught cultural standards will allow for the basic needs to be met of an individual which then will create a secure attachment and will decrease the likelihood of clinical implications related to personality.
When evaluating the research methods that can help better understand the cultural- attachment theory of personality, observation, and self-reports (Q-data) are the primary research methods that would be effective at evaluating this theory. Observation research methods can be defined as observing individuals within their primary environment and making notations based on observed behaviors (Shiraev, 2017). Self-reports can be defined as questionnaires that allow for individuals to answer questions that measure a particular personality trait (Shiraev, 2017).
Self-reports or Q-data allows for individuals to interpret values within their own personality and
make internal observations based upon lived experiences and set attitudes based upon those experiences which can be useful in determining underlying beliefs one has related to their cultural experiences, attachments with their primary caregivers, and the personality traits one believes they have developed or learned. Observation techniques can also be useful for evaluating this theory because researchers can observe relationships between caregivers and those who are being cared for, as well as creating an opportunity for caregivers to identify personality traits based upon other observed data.
While these research tactics have their positive attributes, the cultural-attachment personality theory has research weaknesses, as well as overall weaknesses of the theory itself. Within the realm of research, most observations made both by researchers and by oneself can hold biases that are both implicit and explicit which can influence research results. Within the theory itself, the weaknesses that are held revolve around the lack of understanding of what
attributes of oneself truly influence the development of one’s personality and how learned behaviors create a barrier to the removal of oneself from a culture. To accurately study this theory of personality, one would have to involve participants who are willing to remove themselves from their culture to better control for confounding factors.
Although the cultural-attachment theory has weaknesses, it can be considered a good theory based upon its strengths. This theory considers many past theories by renowned personality psychologists. This theory also incorporates aspects of one’s personality development based upon learned cultural factors that can lead to secure attachments with one’s caregiver. The cultural-attachment theory expands on the ideas of Karen Horney that as one relates to their primary caregiver and receives positive interaction with said caregiver, they are
more likely to establish a secure attachment which then decreases the risk of adverse personality
functions (Shiraev, 2017). This theory also expands on the idea that cultural norms and standards are often taught by social learning and the adherence to these standards can also lead to a secure attachment with those who participate in said culture. The research of personality involves many factions of one’s life, however, including the factors of culture and attachment are important to the continued research on personality development and the understanding of personality theory.
DeRobertis, E.M. (2006). Deriving a humanistic theory of child development from the works of Carl R. Rogers and Karen Horney. Humanistic Psychologist, 34(2), 177-199.
Lahood, G. (Director). (2012). Intersexion [Film]. Ponsonby Productions Limited. Shiraev, E. (2017). Personality theories: A global view. SAGE Publications.