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Intraorganismic Factors Influencingthe Development Of Personality Traits

Inner Life

Chronic upper respiratory infections, recurrent gastrointestinal difficulties, and other reflections of poor physical condition appear to be associated with overdependent and sustained negativistic activity, with eating and excretory problems, and with excessive nailbiting, but not with jealousy or temper tantrums per se. The studies of Sears fail to reveal any impressive correlation between the specific feeding practices, that is, breast or bottle feeding, and evidences of chronic ill health or correlations of such practices with any personality traits in the children so studied. However, several studies of childhood behavior and development have indicated a relatively high correlation between average or better physiologic functioning, on the one hand, and overactivity, excessive fears, and thumbsucking on the other. If one attempts to penetrate critically below the surface of such studies, one is forced to conclude that a careful analysis of the parental behaviors which are generated and maintained by the chronic illness reactions of the child must inevitably be the factors of primary importance in shaping activities of heightened dependency and clinging or, on the other hand, of negativistic rebellion in the child. It is also perfectly legitimate to recall the likelihood that excessive fears may in truth strongly affect physiologic functions in the child, as is not uncommonly seen in clinical practice. Correlative studies to this point fail to provide

Intellectual Endowment And Trait Development

Clear-cut correlations between intellectual endowment and trait development have not been demonstrated. There does seem to be a loose association between low intellectual potential and sustained clinging-dependency reactions, speech difficulties, and prolonged enuresis. Comprehensive investigations of the psychologic performances of mentally retarded children would suggest that such children show defects in retaining, integrating, and effectively utilizing past experiences, particularly after considerable delays in time. They likewise show difficulties in the elaboration of new and more complex behavioral patterns. Differential defects in the development and generalization of classically conditioned responses in such retarded individuals have been reported by several groups. Certain studies indicate a positive correlation between higher than average intellectual potential and stealing, lying, nailbiting, as well as manipulative attention-seeking behavior. Certainly it appears that the brighter child would have a greater number of and more vivid fearful fantasies. The presumption seems to be that the more intelligent the child, the more acutely and exquisitely he will perceive as well as foresee multiple possibilities of danger.

Sexual Influences On The Development Of Traits

In the development of personality, the male child shows no distinctive differences from the female child specifically related to sex until the age of about two years. During the two to four year period, however, sexual effects begin to manifest themselves. Jersild has pointed to the greater interest of boys in remote objects and in action at a distance in contrast with the greater interest of girls in objects close at hand. Girls show a greater tendency to develop fears in the context of a richer fantasy life and somewhat later, perhaps, are more inclined to imaginative daydreaming than are boys.

Neither the infant nor the child can be adequately understood and evaluated without considering him in the context of his own family's structure, practices, and values. Efforts have been made to study in a holistic way the contributors to the family unit, and current research is directed more toward family interactional analyses than to individual ones. Such studies are immensely more complex than isolated individual studies. Preliminary observations support the notion that in home environments where maladjusted marital situations obtain, children are more inclined to negativism, temper tantrums, food finickiness, overdependency, and daytime enuresis. Thumbsucking and nocturnal enuresis are reported more frequently in homes where a happy and mutually supportive marital relationship exists. Here again, the correlation between such environmental factors and behaviors in children is necessarily remote, and the important problem will be to identify in specific detail the types of parental reinforcement and punishment practices which obtain in such different climates. Because such attempts have been virtually nonexistent to the present, one can well understand why exceptions to the rule are virtually as common as the correlative rule. Certain pilot studies suggest that nursery school experiences can and do improve vocabulary and manipulative skills and may hasten the process of cooperative socialization. The few critical studies available point, however, to the basic family unit as the essential environment which inflects and shapes the behavior of the healthy, maturing, and socializing child.

Additional topics

Human Behavior