Personality development has been widely studied as the mind is a deep and complex space which is still largely misunderstood. Freud, Piaget, and Mead each hold leading theories surrounding the development of the self and human personality.
Freud’s theory of personality begins with the idea of the mind, which he refers to as the psyche. Unlike the physical brain, the psyche is an intangible element and therefore it is extremely difficult to study and understand. The psyche is made up of three elements: the id, ego, and superego. The id serves as the unconscious and is essentially our primitive state. The id drives our innate, biological needs and desires and serves our natural instincts, which are needed for survival. It functions to fulfill the desires of the unconscious mind, which is often considered unacceptable by society such as sexual drives as well as aggression.
The ego is another system which is similar to the id, in that it is affected by our unconscious desires. However, the ego is still impacted by external factors, such as society. As such, the ego tries to compensate for the societal demands that the id ignores in its pursuit of pleasure. The last element of the psyche is the superego which is a product of external factors exclusively. The superego greatly affects our behaviors because we learn these behaviors from those around us and are accepted or rejected by society as a result. The superego must work against the id’s innate drives in order to control its pleasure-seeking, unrealistic nature. When taken into full consideration, it is clear how complex the human mind truly is as it struggles between our innate and often unrealistic desires (id), society’s influence and demand for perfection (superego), and the ego which strives to find a balance between the two.
Piaget’s theory of development centers around childhood development and the role that childhood play has on cognitive development. Through playing, Piaget argues that children learn and develop key intellectual traits such as the ability to reason, create, remember, and perceive the world around them. As such, as children play, they develop their minds to allow them to think logically, interpret, and react to the world around them. Piaget thus makes the assumption that each child’s view of reality may shift as they continue to develop and grow. It is also possible that each child’s perception of reality may differ as they encounter different experiences and different outcomes based on their play. Cognitive Development is the foundation upon which all other things are developed, most significantly of which is language. The more a child is exposed to different words and is able to identify various objects, the more their linguistic abilities develop and mature as well.
Mead’s theory of human development centers around the self and that an individual’s development and personality centers around their own self-image and self-awareness. This view of the self is entirely dependent on society and the social experiences of each individual. Mead argues that each person develops through mirroring the behaviors he or she experiences during their childhood, called taking the role of the other. Mead does not take into account biological maturation in his theory of personality development; rather, the self is fully developed through social interaction and the development of the self through mimicking those around us.
While Freud, Piaget, and Mead each have predominant theories surrounding the development of human personality, they do have key differences and similarities. Each theory is similar in that at least one aspect of the theory identifies social experience as a factor which impacts development. Freud’s superego is predominantly centered around social experience, while children playing and interacting with other children in Mead’s theory is representative of social experience and Mead’s theory of development exclusively focuses on social experience. On the other hand, Freud’s theory also largely depends upon the unconscious portions of the mind which are unaffected by society, the id. Piaget’s theory, too, is reliant on the unconscious as memory and intellectual development are not impacted by societal factors. Mead’s theory is the only theory which relies exclusively on social impact and influence on personality development.
Taking these theories into consideration, the notion of gender and personality development also becomes of interest. The socialization of boys and girls has traditionally differed due to ingrained cultural norms and gender stereotypes imposed upon children. For example, children are taught in school from an early age that there is a divide between boys and girls. Boys and girls use different gender-specific restrooms, and often “line up” with boys on one side and girls on the other when going anywhere. In private schools, boys often have a dress code where the boys wear pants while girls wear skirts, making the distinction between each. Family and peer groups also play an important role, especially since families pay purchase female and male children different sets of toys and also treat the children differently. Boys are often “rough housed” while girls are more generally coddled and cuddled. Groups of young girls will also play with toys suited to prepare girls for domestic duties, such as dolls and play kitchen sets while boys often play rougher sports and with trucks. The mass media also attributes to this shift as the media often depicts girls wearing pink and playing with toys intended to prepare girls for domestic duties or model the behavior of their mothers.
Despite the different ways in which boys and girls are socialized, not all boys and girls react to this socialization in the same manner. While many girls will grow up and accept their socialization, many will also fight back against it and reject the socialization. In this case, many girls will prefer to play with toys targeted for boys and vice versa. This rejection of this socialization can greatly attribute to diversity in society.
Overall, the concept of personality can only at this time be explained through theoretical concepts, such as those held by Freud, Piaget, and Mead or through modern observations of socialization and personality development.