Theories of personality in psychology as the basis for the further development of science

In the 20th century, personality theories in psychology developed simultaneously in several directions. And today, the basic concepts and approaches, despite rather contradictory conclusions, allow us to get the most complete picture of a person’s personality.

They provide an opportunity to examine his psyche from different angles. The relativity of these theories can be represented as different projections of one complex and multifaceted subject.

Biological concept of personality formation

Supporters: C. Darwin, I. Muller, S. Hall and others.

According to the biological concept, a person is a kind of “treasury of genetic information” received by him from both parents and embedded in his maternal and paternal ancestors. In this case, the prenatal period also plays an important role: that is, the lifestyle and emotions of the mother during pregnancy. Of course, it is foolish to deny the importance of all of the above, but it should be clearly understood that we do not inherit character traits or motivation to achieve goals from our forefathers. We only receive a certain basis for development, which we must use. So, for example, from birth, a person can receive the makings of a mathematician or physicist and a pronounced choleric type of temperament. But whether a given person can be a good teacher or scientist and control, for example, innate hot temper, corresponding to the type of his temperament, depends on his upbringing and formed worldview. In addition, it is impossible to accurately determine in advance whether a child will inherit certain inclinations from his parents. And besides this, numerous studies of the so-called “Mowgli children” (human children who from an early age grew up in conditions of extreme social isolation - without contact with people, as a rule, having been saved from death by packs of wild animals) have shown that if isolation from society occurred in the first 3-6 years of life, then these children will practically not be able to master human language, meaningful communication with other people, or even just basic upright walking, despite subsequent years spent in human society. This is clear proof of the fact that the full development of a child’s personality is impossible without his being in society, where he has the opportunity to adopt from society certain skills and experience that humanity has developed over thousands of years, let’s move on to social theory:

Alfred Adler's theory

Adler is a famous Austrian psychologist. He stands on the same level with such founders of psychoanalysis as Jung and Freud. Adler became the author of a direction in knowledge about man, which was called “individual psychology.” In the theory of personality that Adler proposes, the influence of sexual unconscious drives is completely denied.

The scientist was sure that fate is determined not by these faceless forces, but by a sense of community with humanity. Adler’s main goal is the possibility of preserving one’s own individuality, its awareness, and development.

According to Adler, people strive to compensate for feelings of inferiority received in childhood. The chosen lifestyle is a set of pseudo-goals, the achievement of which should lead a person to inner harmony. To compensate for the feeling of inferiority received in childhood, in adulthood goals are set that are proportional to the psychological trauma.

If such childhood trauma was too strong, then unrealistic goals are set. They lead to disharmony and neurosis. It was Alfred Adler who introduced the concept of “inferiority complex.” And, according to the scientist, all children are susceptible to this complex. After all, as a child, a person discovers for the first time that he is not the only one in the whole world. He observes other human beings who satisfy their needs more fully.

Since Adler was openly at odds with Freud, some of the concepts of his theory are in antagonism with Freud’s. These two theories of personality development in psychology cannot be called completely opposite. Adler considered sexual desires to be a manifestation of the thirst for power. The scientist attributed an important role to what kind of child a person was born into the family.

Social concept of personality formation

Supporters: D. Locke, J.B. Watson, L.S. Vygotsky A.S. Makarenko and others.

Social theory considers a person as a “white sheet of paper”, on which, thanks to the correct education of society (society), one can write a masterpiece, regardless of what nature has endowed him with. There is a certain classical term for joining a person to the system of society - “socialization”. Socialization is entry into society, and it is carried out in stages.

The socialization of the individual begins in the first years of a person’s life, with his mastering of social norms and orders, with the beginning of distinguishing his role in society. For example: “I am a boy, son, brother...”. Or: “I am a girl, a daughter, an older or younger sister, a first-grader...”. And also the roles of the people around him: relatives and close relatives, educators/teachers, acquaintances and strangers. Further, each person gradually determines his own worldview, vocation, way of life, etc. It is important to understand that the socialization of the individual accompanies us throughout life, but its most important stages must be completed on time. If some aspects in raising a child are missed by parents or educators/teachers, then a young, immature personality may develop problems with socialization. For example, teenagers who were not given career guidance classes at school age may subsequently experience a number of specific difficulties in determining their professional direction in this life. And this burden will grow every year, like a “snowball” over many years of unsuccessful searches for oneself and one’s place in this life.

Critical moments in the formation of personality according to Erikson

The transition from one stage to another is accompanied by a personal crisis. After all, new paths of development open up before a person. The outcome of the crisis is influenced by the choice of the person himself.

One of the most important stages in Erikson's theory is adolescence, which includes adolescence. In addition to the differences in Freud's views on this age (the emergence of psychosexual conflict), the scientist points out other problems inherent to this age. Teenagers develop their own views on the world.

They idealize what a family or religion should be like. These ideals are very far from imperfect, but really existing families, religions, and social institutions. The teenager is sure that realizing an ideal is no more difficult than dreaming about it.

Erikson believes that the main conflict of early adulthood is the possibility of building close relationships. But the scientist understands by them not only and not so much physical intimacy, although in marriage these factors are connected. By intimacy, the scientist understands the following: a person must learn frankness without fear of losing himself.

At the stage of middle maturity, the individual fluctuates between self-absorption and interest in other people and the destinies of generations. For most adults, children have already become teenagers by this time (at least, this is what Erikson believed at the time). People can devote themselves to their chosen work with complete dedication.

At the last stage, personality development factors from the previous stages play an important role. If a person feels satisfied with the life he has lived, looking back at the years he has lived, he will feel wholeness and peace. If the path traveled seems like a series of mistakes and lost opportunities, he will tragically realize that the lost life cannot be returned.

Now let’s try to draw conclusions and move from theory to practice:

Let's try to consider a kind of “socio-mathematical equation” with several variables:


A child with innate musical abilities, as well as several possible social and life options on the path of his formation and development as an individual:

A: The child was initially born into a socially prosperous family, in which both parents are directly related to the musical field and have reached certain heights in it.

B: The child was initially born into a prosperous family, in which both parents are quite successful, but their field of activity does not intersect with music at all.

Q: The child was originally born into a dysfunctional family (possibly incomplete), in which the parent(s) are musicians, but did not achieve success and were disappointed in this field of activity.

G: The child was originally born into a dysfunctional family that has nothing to do with the musical environment.


If the same child “with innate musical inclinations” subsequently achieves recognition and success in the musical field, in which of the above cases will personality development be better and personal growth greater?

Possible variations in the development of events in each case:

— In the first option (“A”) there are all the necessary conditions for the development of the child’s natural abilities/inclinations: genetics are favorable, the society is appropriate from early childhood, the parents have experience, connections, and love for the profession. Most likely, having noticed musical abilities in their child, they will take all possible measures for their further development and improvement. It would be quite logical to assume that this option is the most favorable for the formation of a gifted personality. But... The success of parents can also serve as a “discouraging factor”, because constant comparison and pressure can deprive them of self-confidence and motivation for development.

- Option “B” can also be quite favorable for the development of the child’s innate abilities, but only if the family in question generally notices his natural inclination and provides the necessary education, and does not impose another field of activity that seems more suitable to the parents.

— Option “B”, in principle, is capable of giving a child with pronounced musical abilities a certain “springboard” for receiving the necessary musical education. But only on the condition that he (and his personality) have enough strength to overcome the negative attitudes of parents who are disappointed in their field of activity. And his parents will have enough wisdom to let their child go his own way, in which they themselves did not succeed at all.

-Option “D” may seem the most “failure”, but we should not forget that society is not limited to one family and not only the closest people can help in the development of natural inclinations.


Thus, situations “A” and “B” initially provide more factors for the successful formation of a personality, with minimal independent participation. And options “B” and “D”, respectively, even at a superficial glance, promise much more obstacles to achieving a certain success in the musical field. But not everything in life is so superficially flat and logical, and each option may have many “pitfalls”.

I hope that the answer to the question: “In which of the above cases, personal development will be of better quality and personal growth will be greater?” clear – this is option “G”.

And then - in descending order: “B”, “B” and “A”. For, the more favorable internal (hereditary-genetic) and external (socio-social) factors are for the disclosure of natural inclinations, the less effort is required for self-development and personal growth.


Creating favorable conditions for the formation and development of a child’s personality, of course, requires certain attention and investments (moral, physical, time, financial, etc.) from his parents/social environment. This is important in order to notice his natural inclinations, influence the development of positive traits of his character and lay down certain initial motivations for the successful implementation of his abilities.

Which brings up the next possible question:

If I personally got options similar to situations: “B” or “D” and the factors for the formation of my personality turned out in the most unfavorable way. I have already grown up, my inclinations did not receive proper development in due time. Does this automatically mean that everything is lost and I will never become a Personality with a capital P?

Not at all, because the formation of personality also occurs continuously throughout our lives. At the same time, each person goes through his own individual “ladder” of personality formation and development, on which three main steps can be distinguished:

- absorption of the maximum possible amount of information about the world around (usually occurs in a family where the child learns the first basics of the rules and norms of communication and behavior);

- repetition of the behavior model, as well as the actions of one’s immediate environment (first also the family, then acquaintance with a larger environment - social: kindergarten, school, various clubs and sections, colleges and universities, communication with peers and teachers/mentors);

- accumulation of one’s personal experience (mastering new roles: specialist, professional, spouse, parent; this process continuously occurs throughout one’s life and it is never too late to analyze, change, increase it).

Of course, “it is easier to grow a good harvest on good soil,” but it is always worth remembering that “even trees grow on stones.” Therefore, regardless of hereditary and initial general social factors, each person still remains the “creator of his life” and is capable of either ruining even the most favorable biological and social “springboard” for the formation and development of his personality, or significantly increasing even that little which he received as a basis for further development. I wish you to learn to competently use and develop your individual capabilities, taking into account your personal and psychological characteristics, using both positive and negative life experiences, in order to become that Personality with a capital P!

Birth order in the family: life styles according to Adler

Adler was the first to notice that in the same family children can have completely different characters. The firstborn is a child who can only be envied. After all, parents usually give all their love to their first child. But this happens for the time being - until another child appears in the family.

When the second is born, the firstborn becomes “a monarch who was unjustly dethroned.” He begins to fight for the lost love of his parents. But all his efforts are doomed to failure. And over time, he realizes the futility of his attempts. His parents are always too busy and indifferent for him. In addition, they are now endowed with much more power than they once were: after all, they can appeal to the inappropriate immaturity of the older child. Their response to the firstborn's demand for love is punishment.

As a result, those who were born first in the family develop a special lifestyle. They accustom themselves to isolation, not needing affection or anyone's approval. In addition, Adler notes, the eldest is always inclined to lead.

What is the situation with the second child? For him, his older brother or sister is always his role model. The current situation pushes him or her to compete with him or her, trying to beat his records. If there are other children in the family, then the second child also fights with them for parental love. And this only increases his ambitions. The lifestyle of an adult who has grown from a second child is a continuous desire to prove his superiority. Unconsciously, he strives to show: I am better than my older brother or sister.

The last child occupies a special position. He is the one who will never experience the feeling of being “dethroned.” But if the family is poor, then he will constantly have to use the things and toys of his elders. The younger child will also develop feelings of inferiority. But he has one advantage: his motivation to surpass his elders is the highest.

Adler considers the position of the only child in the family unique. Since he has no one to compete with, such children’s rivalry with their father becomes especially strong. The lifestyle of an only child who has become an adult is egocentrism mixed with dependence.

Activity approach: A. N. Leontiev

In the West, many theories of personality development had already taken shape by the beginning of the twentieth century. The situation with domestic psychology was different. For a long time - until the beginning of the 60s - this issue was not even discussed on the territory of the Soviet Union.

One of the original Russian theories of personality formation is rightfully considered to be the calculations made by the outstanding psychologist A.N. Leontyev. The complex of its concepts is not considered by modern scientists as claiming to be an independent theory of personality development in psychology. But Leontyev managed to build a coherent conceptual framework, which later became the basis for the work of his followers.

He believed that personality is a connection between certain types of activities:

  • His first thesis is that a person develops in the process of biography. The scientist believes that personality is not a biological, not social, or determined by other factors mental formation that distinguishes a person from an animal. Personality is the specific actions that fill the lines of a biography.
  • Leontiev’s next position concerns personality development. He argued that it occurs regardless of physiological and mental growth.
  • Thirdly, the domestic researcher strictly separated the concept of the individual and personality. An individual is a biological being. Personality is a unity of non-biological nature that is constantly developing. Factors of personality development according to Leontiev are human activity, as well as his ability to connect internal and external conditions.

In the last years of his life, A. N. Leontiev was especially interested in the ideas of the relationship between existential psychology and the place of personality in numerous interhuman connections. One of the most laconic theses of Western existentialism is the formulation of J. P. Sartre: “Existence precedes essence.” An analogue of the existential theory of personality development in Russian psychology is Leontiev’s approach. It says that all mental and personal structures exist in order to be realized in relations with the world - the personality manifests itself through activity.


There are many more views on the processes of human development. Other theories of personality development are behaviorism, the existential direction, humanistic theories, and the already mentioned psychoanalysis. Each of these concepts occupies a special place in psychological knowledge.

When thinking about our own development, we do not demand precision and mathematical rigor from psychological theories. After all, life is like the bed of a river, and personality cannot be described using a single formula, just as it is impossible to give an exact definition to each wave in this river.

Basic principles of Gestalt psychology

According to this theory, in the consciousness of each person there are special integral structures - gestalts, which cannot be decomposed into elements and which are characterized by their own laws of flow and development.

Note 2

The mental process that determines the level of development of the psyche, from the point of view of Gestaltists, is perception. It is on the development of this process that human behavior and understanding of the surrounding situation depend.

The process of mental development is divided into two independent and parallel processes - maturation and learning. During perception, there is first a “grasping” of the integral image of an object, and then its differentiation. Learning leads to the formation of a new structure and, consequently, to a different perception and awareness of the situation. The moment phenomena enter another situation, they acquire a new function. This awareness of new combinations and new functions of objects is the formation of a new gestalt, the awareness of which is the essence of thinking.

Who was Rousseau?

Jean Jacques Rousseau is an outstanding thinker, philosopher, and writer who lived during the Enlightenment. He is considered a French figure, although this man was born in Geneva. He was born in 1712. Rousseau died near Paris, in one of the capital's suburbs in 1778.

In addition to philosophy, pedagogy and social issues, he was interested in musicology and botany. Contemporaries considered Rousseau a good composer, although the thinker treated his own musical experiences with a grain of irony.

Among his heritage for pedagogy, the following works are of greatest value:

  • "Eloise."
  • "Emil or about education."
  • "Confession".

Rousseau's ideas about the free education of the individual found a response in many outstanding minds, for example, Leo Tolstoy considered himself a follower of the French thinker.

Dewey: who was he?

John Dewey is one of the most famous American philosophers and educators. He was born in the middle of the 19th century, in 1859. He died in the middle of the last century, in 1952. Dewey received his education at the University of Vermont.

He was mainly engaged in philosophy, but approached this discipline not so much as a theorist, but as a practitioner. The scientist paid special attention to social issues and problems of personality development and education.

The main merit of this American scientist is that he developed a methodology for applying pragmatist principles in the fields of logic and cognition. The pragmatic theory of education is also his brainchild. Dewey is one of the greatest philosophers and sociologists of the past century, not only for the United States, but for the rest of the world.

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