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Social Learning Theory

Social learning theorists recognize the significant impact which society, other people, have on the development of an individual’s personality. The giving or lack of affection in a child’s life, coupled with specific praise or criticism for particular actions and behaviors, whether from a real or artificial source, can significantly impact the development of personality.

Social Learning Theory

Identification and imitation are significant factors in the development of personality. As a child observes others, he might incorporate the goals and values of others into his own behaviors in an effort to feel connected to that individual, imitating others' behavior in the attempt. This can be either a positive or negative impact based on the person whom the child chooses to emulate and the reasonable expectations the child can have of positive outcomes. For the child of a secure and stable home life to identify his parent or older sibling as a role model is presumably much more beneficial than to select a deviant rock star or a peer with antisocial tendencies. Those children who do not have consistent parental models are more likely to turn elsewhere for models of behavior and imitate people they choose from their society or in the media.

Personality continues to develop and evolve throughout one’s life. Approval for a particular social behavior will strengthen that behavior and increase the chances of the behavior being repeated; at the same time disapproval can discourage antisocial behaviors.  A child who is smiled at and given verbal praise for sharing her toys will be more likely to develop a consistent pattern of positive interaction than a child who was either not praised or who might actually have been criticized for such behavior. Accordingly, parental actions and style of parenting can have a significant impact on personality development.

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