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Nature Versus Nurture

The debate over whether human behavior is determined by way of genetics or environment is historical and ongoing. While biologists contend that personality is influenced by genetic factors, behaviorists contend that social factors play the deciding role. For example, those who believe that the socialization process is more important might make the comment, “You are what you live”, while those who believe that biological factors are key might say, “The apple never falls far from the tree”. Opponents on both sides of the issue have valid points that can be proven by way of experimentation.

Nature Versus Nurture

Psychoanalytic theorists who developed theories concerning the development of personality include Horney and Adler. Each of these theorists contributed to the understanding of the development of personality over the course of an individual’s lifetime. Karen Horney stressed the importance of sociocultural factors in the development of personality.

As put forth by Horney, an individual’s need for security is the primary factor in early personality development. Only when these needs for security are met can the individual grow to his or her fullest potential . Additionally, each individual will handle anxiety by using one of three strategies: moving away from people, moving toward people, or moving against people. Individuals who move away from people usually become more dependent. Those who move toward people seek love and support. Those who move against people become competitive and domineering. Those who develop a sense of security early in life usually use all three methods of coping in a way that promotes balance . Insecure individuals will stress one strategy over the other in a way that makes them too dependent, too aggressive, or too independent . The development of personality therefore is a byproduct of how one is socialized early in life.

Alfred Adler posed another theory of personality development. Adler’s theory differed in that he believed every individual possesses a “uniqueness” that sets him apart from others . Adler believed that individuals are not ruled by their unconscious to the depths that Freud claimed, but rather that every individual has the ability to monitor and direct his or her life. Second, Adler believed that social factors are far more important in the development of personality.

Adler’s theory was based on the belief that every individual strives for superiority as a means of conquering or adapting to environmental factors. This need for superiority is developed early in life in response to the young person’s feelings of inferiority when encountered by people who are older and more powerful. The personality develops by way of compensation as the individual uses strategies to overcome “imagined or real inferiorities or weaknesses by developing one’s abilities”.

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