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Parental Influence on Personality

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell, studioD

A child's temperament and personality are largely biologically based and inherited. From the moment of birth, personality differences are evident. Some newborns are easygoing and a breeze to care for, while others are fussy and difficult to please. Despite the strong genetic connection to personality characteristics, environmental conditions, such as a mother's parenting style, can lead children with similar temperaments to act quite differently.


Children who grow up in "authoritative" homes -- environments that are loving, supporting, have high standards and expectations, consistently enforce household rules and allow kids to have a say in household decisions -- experience ideal conditions. Children raised in such settings are more likely to be well-adjusted, content, likeable, self-assured and energetic. Additionally, an elementary school student whose parents promoted language development when she was a toddler may have an easier time in school and be viewed as more competent or smarter than her peers, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics. At the same time, a child raised by abusive parents or had a mom or dad who mercilessly meddled in every aspect of his life is more inclined to be hostile toward his peers.


Parents can influence their offspring in several ways, and each interaction influences the child in one way or another. For instance, a mom commends her 4 year old for putting away her toys, a dad warns his son that his video games will be taken away if he continues to leave his bicycle on the sidewalk or a parent names an unfamiliar object such as a stained glass window in a picture book. These day-to-day events represent the rewarding of a sought-after behavior, the punishment of an unwanted act and the passing on of knowledge that has a cumulative effect. Ignoring a child who misbehaves is linked to asocial behavior, while showing a genuine interest in a child's interests and activities is associated with greater responsiveness in a child, explains the AAP.

Outside Influences

Personality characteristics established in childhood tend to linger and may persist with a few modifications that occur during the maturation process. The intricacies of human development are far too complex to flatly state that parental influence is solely responsible for the outcome of a child's personality. Personalty is also shaped by a child's choices and actions and the experiences he encounters as he matures into an adult.


Parental values and the behaviors parents model have a major impact on their children's emotional state, development of self and how they act socially and in significant relationships. Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, in his psychosocial developmental theory, maintains that it's essential for an adolescent to have the freedom to explore his options and make autonomous commitments to achieve his unique identity. Forcing a child to enter into a relationship or follow a particular career path will prevent a child from obtaining identity achievement, adds Erickson.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images