What is Personality? How do you Get One, and Why do Some People Get a Disordered One?

Personality is simply what makes you……you and what makes you unique from everyone else on this planet. Personality is a pattern of behaviors and traits that arise from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Mostly, personality has been considered to be a fixed part of human nature that stabilizes during early adolescence. 

Some research supports that our personalities can fluctuate as adults.  Our personalities are more likely to mold in response to catastrophic or life changing events: trauma, becoming a parent, severe illness, war, moving to another country, etc. Still most research indicates that by the time you are 14, your personality is more or less stable. 

The first five years of life are considered the most formative in terms of personality development. Attaching properly to primary caregivers, having a safe, calm, and stable environment, and receiving unconditional love  set the stage for having a stable, likeable, and responsible personality as an adult. Neglect, abuse, over-indulging, and instability in early childhood have been linked to the dark side of personality development: Personality Disorders. 

 You probably have heard of the well-known Personality Disorders:  Borderline, Histrionic, Narcissistic, and Antisocial Personality Disorders.  Researchers believe that these conditions develop due to having an unhealthy attachment to caregivers and a history of childhood abuse and neglect combined with some genetic predisposition. Common Personality Disorder symptoms include: lack of empathy, deceit, manipulation, impulsiveness, selfishness, and emotional dysregulation. Some individuals with these conditions can be very charming, helpful, and likeable in order to deceive or harm others.  Some can engage in very risky or attention seeking behaviors.

These toxic personalities do a great deal of harm to society.  It is interesting to think about how and who develops these conditions and why. Most researchers believe that these bad behaviors are defense mechanisms and maladaptive coping skills rooted in childhood.

So what is the point of this article? If you have children or the privilege of interacting with children, pay attention to what you do and what you say around them, because it could really matter. When children spend time with caregivers and adults who model stability, empathy, self-control, integrity, love, and good behaviors, they learn and copy that.  Pay attention to the environment you establish in your home, in your classroom, and in your community. Even if it seems like they are not listening, what is modeled for a child, even a little baby, will affect them.

Your personality and the environment you create will shape the personalities of the little people around you in some way.  All of these daily interactions and lessons help to create children’s personalities, and once their personality is set, it is very very hard to alter.

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