Personality can be defined as a set of organized and dynamic characteristics that reflects and determines how an individual reacts to his/her environment[ CITATION Tie93 \l 2057 ]. Normally, these set of organized and dynamic characteristics influences ones behaviors, motivation and cognition[ CITATION THu08 \l 1033 ]. Personality brings out the differences between individuals and a unique set of inner characteristic that each posses. Through the study of personality one can appreciate the fact that no two individuals are exactly identical e.g. one can be adventurous while the other is not. It is worth noting that personality can be enduring and consistent for example one can be impulsive since birth. Personality can also change and this can be attributed to either maturing process or experiences that one encounters in life such as trauma, death of a loved one, accident e.t.c.[ CITATION GWA36 \l 1033 ] Personality can be studied through either idiographic or nomothetic psychology. While idiographic psychology seeks to examine the unique characteristics of an individual, nomothetic psychology examines the general principles or laws that can apply to majority of people e.g. self actualization principle[ CITATION KCa07 \l 1033 ].
2.0 Theories of personality
In the study of personality, several theories have been employed. The major theories are Freudian theory also known as psychoanalytic theory; behavioral theory; cognitive theory; human psychology theory and Trait theory. According to Behavioral psychology (behaviorism), one acquires behavior through conditioning. Conditioning is achieved through interacting with the environment. Behavioral psychology can be studied through observation and without considering the state of the mind. Conditioning can be classified into two classes namely classical and operant conditioning[ CITATION THu08 \l 1033 ]. In classical conditioning, the natural stimulus that was paired to a response is substituted with neutral stimuli which in turn trigger the response even in the absence of the natural stimuli. With operant conditioning, it involves learning through reward and punishment. Here association between an act and consequence is made[ CITATION THu08 \l 1033 ].
The other theory is biological or trait theory. Unlike the other theories which are more qualitative, trait theory is quantitative. That is, a specific personality is measured in terms of traits. Trait can be defined as a certain pattern of emotions, thoughts and behavior that is habitual. Various combination of these trait forms a personality[ CITATION GWA36 \l 1033 ]. In reference to this theory, traits are relatively constant with respect to time but differ among individuals. As such this theory focuses on the identification and measurement of these personal characteristic. There are many trait model used to measure trait and most of them have about three to five factors. Example of trait theory is Gordon Allport’s Trait Theory. Gordon classified traits into three levels which are cardinal, central and secondary traits[ CITATION GWA36 \l 1033 ]. Cardinal traits are the ones which are so prominent in someone’s life such that the person can be identified by them. On the other hand, central traits are not as dominant as cardinal traits but they can be used to describe an individual e.g. polite, humble. Another trait theory is based on the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire developed by Raymond Cattell[ CITATION THu08 \l 1033 ]. Lastly, the other theory trait is known as Eysenck’s three Dimensions of Personality which is based on three universal traits namely Introversion/Extraversion, Neuroticism/Emotional Stability and Psychoticism[ CITATION Wil07 \l 2057 ]. Because both Cattell’s and Eysenck’s theories had shortcomings, a new theory called the big five was formed to circumnavigate the shortcomings. This was a model of personality that consists of five fundamental traits which interacts to form the human personality. These traits are Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism[ CITATION KCa07 \l 1033 ].
Cognitive theory is another theory used in the study of personality. According to this theory principle behavior is based on cognition about the world and particularly those concerning other people. Cognitive theories put emphasis on process such as judging and thinking[ CITATION THu08 \l 1033 ]. According to Albert Bandura, emotions and memory work hand in hand with environmental influence. In his study Bandura concluded that environment (what we see, hear or read) influences our emotions. He termed this as observational modeling or learning. Bandura suggested that there is a relationship between early developments of cognitive dimension of personality to ego. There are several theories of importance that fall under this theory. This includes self efficacy, locus of control and attributional style theory and personal construct psychology (PCP) which was developed by George Kelly. Using this theory, Kelly came up with the Repertory Grid Interview; a technique which was instrumental in helping patients to find their construct with minimal interference from the therapist. This repertory grid is now used by organization even in decision making[ CITATION THu08 \l 1033 ].
Sigmund Freud was the one who came up with the psychoanalytic theory. This theory was borrowed from physics principle of thermodynamic where heat energy can be converted to mechanical energy[ CITATION KCa07 \l 1033 ]. Freud suggested that psychic energy can be converted to behavior. In this theory psychological conflicts, unconsciousness and dynamic are of great importance. According to this theory, personality is made of three interacting component; super-ego, ego and Id. The Id is based on pleasure principle and it consists of impulsive or psychological needs which one must satisfy immediately. On the other hand Ego refers to how an individual controls his/her conscious. Ego ensures that the demands and wishes of Id are met depending on the outside world and in obedience to the principle of reality. Lastly the conscience which is the superego is responsible for enforcing morals and social values on the ego[ CITATION KCa07 \l 1033 ]. This component of the personality is usually the last to develop and it is dependent on the parental and social ideas that one is exposed to during childhood. Most of the time ego is able to resolve conflict that may arise between the three components of personality. However, when this is not achievable tension is created within an individual. As a result, one uses defensive mechanisms which are unconsciously determined in order to escape or avoid high tension levels. The defensive mechanism includes projection, repression, reaction formation and identification[ CITATION RFB98 \l 2057 ].
Lastly there is human psychology theory. According to this theory, people have free will by which they determine how they behave. In addition, more focus is placed on subjective experiences which define the character of an individual rather than forced experience. Abraham Maslow who is a proponent of this theory studied, self actualization persons, and suggested that people reflect dimension which is proportional to their personalities. This means that for those who want to achieve anything they have to move to self actualization which involves doing the best they can. Self actualizers have similar characteristic which are awareness; they are problem and reality centered; they have acceptance and un-hostile sense of humor. In this theory the client provides information about the past and the way it affects the present and as such the client is the one who guides the therapist on which therapy to use[ CITATION THu08 \l 1033 ].
3.0 Factors that influence an individual’s personality development.
Personality development takes place mostly during childhood. This is because during this period people undergo rapid intellectual, physical and emotional development. During adulthood personality changes can occur slowly but this varies from one person to another. Socialists argue that personality is hereditary and thus transmitted from parent to children while others suggest that this social environment determines the personality[ CITATION RRM06 \l 2057 ]. This debate is known as nature vs. nurture. Sociobiologists support the nurture view by arguing that the social life of humans is genetically determined. However, most social scientist are of the view that social environmental factors and hereditary blend to form social behavior and personality[ CITATION KCa07 \l 1033 ]. According to them birth order, hereditary, cultural environment and parents are the major factors that affect personality and behavior. In reference to birth order, the order in which children are born in a family affects their personality e.g. firstborns vs. lastborn or if one has brothers or sisters. Heredity endows one with a particular biological need but the way one meets that need depends on the culture. In addition, parental characteristic e.g. education, religion influence the personality of the children. Finally culture plays an important role in the determination of personality[ CITATION THu08 \l 1033 ].
In conclusion Personality can be defined as a set of organized and dynamic characteristics that reflects and determines how an individual reacts to his/her environment. Personality brings out the differences between individuals and a unique set of inner characteristic each individual possesses. In the study of personality, several theories have been employed. The major theories are Freudian theory also known as psychoanalytic theory; behavioral theory; cognitive theory; human psychology theory and Trait theory. The factors that can influence an individual’s personality development include birth order, hereditary, cultural environment and parents
Allport, G. W., & Odebert, H. (1936). Trait-names:Psycholexical study. Psychological Monograms , 211.
Baumeister, R. F., Dale, K., & Sommer, K. (1998). Freudian defense mechanisms and empirical findings in modern social psychology : Reaction formation, projection,displacement, undoing, isolation, sublimination, and denial. Journal of Personality , 1081-1124.
Cascanet, K. (2007). Five Stars for Theories of Personality. Massachusetts: Wadsworth Publishing;.
McCrae, R., & Terracciano, A. (2006). National character and personality. Current Directions in Psychological Science , 156-161.
Paul, T., & Barron-Tieger., B. (1993). Personality Typing: A First Step to a Satisfying Career. Journal of Career Planning & Employment. , 50-56
Revelle, W., & Oehlberg, K. (2007). Integrating experimental and observational personality research – the contributions of Hans Eysenck. Journal of Personality , 1-13.
Schultz, D., & Schultz, S. E. (2004). Theories of Personality. Massachusetts: Mount Horeb.