Personality Change

Theories also differ in the degree to which a person's personality is seen as changing over time. Most personality theories address the development of personality in childhood and the possibility for change in adulthood. Psychoanalytic theorists believe that the most basic personality characteristics are established by the age of five or six, although there are some minor further developments in adolescence. While the person may change in adulthood in the course of psychotherapy and become better able to cope with the conflicts and traumas experienced during the early years, major personality transformations are not expected. Again, humanists are more optimistic than psychoanalytic theorists about personality change, although humanists, too, see the childhood years as important. For example, Rogers suggests that during childhood the parents may communicate their approval of some of the child's feelings and their disapproval of others, leaving the child with a distorted self-concept. Yet, from the humanistic point of view, the person's true inner self will constantly strive for expression. Thus, positive personality change is always seen as possible. Social learning theorists also see personality as changeable. Behaviors learned in childhood may later be changed by direct training, by altering the environment, or by revising one's expectations.

A final issue is the relationship between personality and behavior. For so cial learning theorists, behaviors and related expectations are personality. A person's behaviors are taken as a sample of a full behavioral repertoire which forms who the person is. Both psychoanalytic and humanistic theorists view behavior as a symptom or sign of underlying, internal personality dynamics rather than a sample of the personality itself. According to this viewpoint, a person's behaviors reflect personality only when interpreted in the light of the underlying traits they reveal. Diverse behaviors may thus be related to a single internal characteristic.

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