The impact of childhood factors on personality development of the child. (Part I)

The impact of childhood factors on personality development of the child.
There are four type of parenting styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive and Negligent.  Each parenting style varies in at least four areas: discipline style, communication, nurturance, and expectations. Each of these characteristics and the implementing method impacts on the development of the child. We will now look in more detail at each style and their effects. Read the full article to find out what style belongs to you and what its effects.


Childhood experiences are the essential factors in a child’s personality development. The psychoanalytic theories (eg. Freud, Erickson) and the phenomenological theories {e.g. Rogers) stand out in their emphasis on the importance of childhood experiences. The behaviourist, J.B.Watson argued that the child’s mind was like a blank slate at birth, waiting to be written on by its experiences. That’s why he said “Give me a dozen healthy infants… and I’ll guarantee to take any one at fandom and train him to become any type of specialist”. Thus family and external factors influence a child’s personality development.

Factors influencing in the early development of the child. 

Of the many factors that come into play during a child’s early development, three major types are identified as follows.

  1. The Family (Parental styles, Family composition, Family size and Family conflict) 
  2. Socio-cultural environment (the school, peer group, the community, and mass communication)
  3. Heredity.
  1. The Family

Let’s look at how the family influences the child’s personality development, if you watch a newborn baby and its mother, you will agree that the defencelessness of the infant and the need for a caregiver raises the need for a child’s first social relationship. Thus, the voice and face of the mother or those of the mother substitute are the first things the baby learns to recognize. The bond that develops between the caregiver and the baby is called the attachment. Usually, the attachment to the father is slow in developing as lesser time is spent with the child. 

It is believed that the degree of attachment itself is not a perfect indicator of satisfactory personal development. A child who is made nervous by parents may attach strongly to them because they represent the only source of security. Even children who are cruelly treated or neglected show strong attachments to parents in the early years. Yet the children may sustain emotional damage from such treatment. These may be emerged later  

A healthy parent-child relationship fosters better adjustment at home and outside. The attachment that we discussed above would have given you an awareness as to how important child – rearing practices are to the child’s development. Its recognition has led to the development of models to describe parental styles. The model given below has been described by Maccoby and Martin (1983). These four parenting styles are sometimes called the Baumrind parenting styles or Maccoby and Martin parenting styles. 

Parenting styles are categorized based on two dimensions of parenting behaviour and styles.

The impact of childhood factors on personality development of the child.
  1. Demandingness refers to the extend parents control their children’s behavior or demand their maturity.
  2. Responsiveness refers to the degree parents are accepting and sensitive to their children’s emotional and developmental needs.
  1. Parental styles and child outcomes

Each parenting style varies in at least four areas: discipline style, communication, nurturance, and expectations. Each of these characteristics and the implementing method impacts on the development of the child. We will now look in more detail at each style and their effects.

The impact of childhood factors on personality development of the child.
  1. Authoritative
The impact of childhood factors on personality development of the child.

Authoritative parents have high expectations for achievement and maturity, but they are also warm and responsive. They set rules and enforce boundaries by having open discussion, providing guidance, and using reasoning. They provide their kids with reasoning and explanation for their action. Explanations allow children to have a sense of awareness and teach kids about values, morals, and goals.

Their disciplinary methods are confrontive​, i.e. reasoned, negotiable, outcome-oriented, and concerning with regulating behaviors. They are affectionate and supportive and provide their children with autonomy and encourage independence.

They also allow bidirectional communication. This parenting style is also known as the democratic parenting style. Children of authoritative parents are cherished. Based on Baumrind’s research, children are tending to​ appear happy and content, are more independent, are more active​​, achieve higher academic success​, develop good self-esteem​, interact with peers using competent social skills​, have better mental health — less depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, delinquency, alcohol and drug use​, exhibit less violent tendencies​, are securely attached.

2. Authoritarian/ Disciplinarian

The impact of childhood factors on personality development of the child.

High levels of parental control and low levels of responsiveness are the two characteristics of authoritarian parents. Although authoritarian and authoritative styles have similar names, they have several important differences in parenting belief, demand and approach.

While both parental styles demand high standards, authoritarian parents demand blind obedience using reasons such as “because I said so “. They only allow one way communication through rules and orders. Any attempts to reason with them are seen as backtalk. They use stern discipline and often employ harsh punishment, such as corporal punishment, to control children’s behavior. Their disciplinary methods are coercive, i.e. arbitrary, peremptory, domineering, and concerned with marking status distinctions. Unresponsive to their children’s needs and are generally not nurturing. They usually justify their mean treatment of their kids as tough love.

Their children tend to: Have an unhappy disposition, be less independent, appear insecure, possess low self-esteem, exhibit more behavioral problems, perform worse academically, have poorer social skills, be more prone to mental issues, be more likely to have drug use problems, have worse coping mechanism.


The impact of childhood factors on personality development of the child.

Permissive parents set very few rules and boundaries and they are reluctant to enforce rules. They are warm and indulgent but do not like to say no or disappoint their children. Very warmth but with low expectations

Their children tend to have the worst outcomes: such as cannot follow rules, have worse self-control, possess egocentric tendencies, encounter more problems in relationships and social interactions, immature and lacks responsibility and control of impulses.

4.Negligent/ Uninvolved

The impact of childhood factors on personality development of the child.

Neglectful parents do not set firm boundaries or high standards. They are indifferent to their children’s needs and uninvolved in their lives. 

These uninvolved parents may have mental issues themselves such as depression, or physical abuse or child neglect when they were kids. These parents may be who are addicted to something, people who must spend a lot of time at their work, and people who have a serious illness that does not allow them to worry about anything else.

Children raised by neglectful parents are more impulsive, cannot self-regulate emotion, encounter more delinquency and addictions problems, have more mental issues — e.g. suicidal behavior in adolescents.

If you observe, the people those who are anger for unreasonable matters, those who are not able to control their emotions, those who behave rudely in front of others without knowing the time and place, those who are immature with their age, those who have unstable mindset and behave differently each time, most probably they have lost their parents during the childhood and neglected. So, their current personality development is determined by the experience they faced in childhood. Therefore, it can be observed that the personality development of the children is determined by the parent’s style.

Which parenting style is most effective?

We must however realise that such extreme types given in the model may not be the rule. It is possible to develop many types that are in-between. From decades of studies, researchers found that authoritative parenting is consistently linked to the best outcomes in kids. Authoritative parenting style is considered the best parenting style by psychologists and psychiatrists. 

Therefore, parents who want to develop good parenting skills must first identify where they are in. Then, try to work with the authoritative parenting model closely and consistently. This will ensure a good relationship with their children and their well-being in practice.

Remember, your approach needs to be rational and not biased when it comes to setting rules and expectation. Parents need to be sensitive to the child’s aptitude and needs as well. Too much of anything is not good. What we need in life is to have a balance. Freedom if absolute leads astray and no freedom is enslavement. 

Another component that can impact the outcome is the distinction between parenting style and parenting practice. Parenting style is the emotional climate and control in which parents raise their children. Parenting practices are specific actions that parents employ in their parenting.

Even for parents with the same parenting style, they may choose to utilize different parenting practices which may affect the degree of outcomes.

According to Mohan and Kaur (1987), children of working mothers appreciated more the quality of parental time spent with them in comparison to ratings given by children of non-working mothers. They have identified these ten areas in which parents can contribute for child development.

  1. Demonstration of love 
  2. Showing of appreciation 
  3. Nutritional needs 
  4. Clothing 
  5. Recreation 
  6. Health needs 
  7. Academic activities 
  8. Social group interaction 
  9. Financial needs 
  10. Preparation for puberty

Therefore evaluate yourself what kind of parent are you and try to develop authoritative parenting style. And the following family factors also influence on personality development of a child.

  1. Family composition

The child learns his or her social roles within the family. The members with which it interacts within the family are therefore very important. In the context of the nuclear family, due to the increasing incidence of family break ups, the number of single parent families have increased. Even in two parent families, the mother may no longer keep house at home. She may go out to work. The children in many such cases are deprived of adequate parental care.

The nature of the extended family too is fast changing. As a result, presence of grandparents, aunts’ and uncles in the family environment has become a somewhat rare event. These changes may have opposing influences depending on circumstances. In some cases, the presence of extended family members would substitute for parental absence. In others, their presence might add stress to the child due to too much control from too many members. 

Parental types may become more important in this situation where the nature of the family is changing.

  1. Family size

Children from large families performed less well in reading, oral skills, creativity etc. when compared with children from small families. This has been explained on the basis that parents may have lesstime to spend with individual children. 

  1. Family conflict 

A child may undergo stress due to lack of harmony between parents at home. Quarrels, display of physical violence, alcoholism in father or mother may have far reaching effects on the child’s development. Worries at home may compel the child to be withdrawn or even become hostile to the world at large. Such children may become into perpetrators of persecution or even serial killer in society for no apparent reason.

Therefore up to now it was observed how the family factors influences on the personality development of the child. In particularly we observed how parent’s style influences on children’s later personality.  We will look at how social, cultural factors and heredity influence in part II. If you think this article is useful for others, please share it with friends and relatives. 

Written By:

N. Sabesan, 

Specialist – Education in Emergencies, Master of Business administration, Master of Arts in Sociology, Professional Master’s Degree – Leadership Development, Bachelor of special degree in Economic, High Diploma in Youth in Development works.


  1. Abdul Gafoor, K & Abidha Kurukkan, Construction and Validation of Scale of Parenting Style, Guru Journal of Behavioral and Social Sciences Volume 2 Issue 4 (Oct – Dec 2014)
  2. Personality development and communication – Open university guidebook
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