After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
Understand how kinds of temperament are associated with principles of reciprocal relationships and
goodness of �it.
Outline Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.
Articulate and evaluate the theoretical ideas of Marcia and Levinson.
Compare and contrast trait and type theories and how they each assess personality.
Outline the evidence for the emergence of self-awareness and summarize demographic differences in
De�ine ethnic identity and understand how it in�luences identity development.
11Personality, the Self, and MoralDevelopment
Distinguish among behaviors that are indicative of different stages of moral development.
Try for a moment to describe a person without referring to physical characteristics. Words such as “shy,” “patient,” or
“easygoing” may come to mind. These are personal and social traits, which are part of personality. Psychologists think of
personality as descriptions that are both consistent and individually distinctive for each person. Even if a person’s
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors consistently express turmoil and change, we may describe that person with words like
“�lighty,” “impulsive,” or “undependable.” Therefore, personality consists of stable or enduring patterns of thoughts,
feelings, and, ultimately, behaviors.
Furthermore, noticing that a person did a kind thing is different from noticing that a person is kind. The latter implies a
sense of permanence. When a shy person acts in a more assertive manner, most people recognize the behavior as out
of character—different from his or her typical personality. But if the “shy” person persists in being more assertive, we
might ask whether the person is still inherently shy or whether that person’s personality has truly changed. The most
famous American talk show host of the 1970s and 1980s, Johnny Carson, always described himself as shy. How can that
This chapter will explore how psychologists view these differences and various theories that attempt to describe how
our personalities develop. Traditional Freudian theory, introduced in Chapter 2, which focused on the id, ego, and
superego, has given way to science-based trait theories, which suggest that personality remains fairly stable during
adulthood. We will also look at the emergence of self, identity, moral development, and how we evaluate and become
aware of ourselves. This focus on personality and identity development will serve as an introduction to how we de�ine
ourselves according to gender, relationships, and other social roles, which will be explored in the following chapters.
Temperament describes characteristics that
are relatively consistent during the early
years of life. Neonates can demonstrate
differences in temperament.
11.1 Early Personality Development: Temperament and the Emergent Self
In Chapter 10 we discussed the emergence of emotions, which are generally regarded as temporary states or moods. In
addition to transitory states, we exhibit a characteristic style of arousal, or pattern of experiencing the world.
Psychologists use the term temperament to describe those characteristics that are relatively enduring and consistent
during the early years of life. It previews personality and includes how easily we become emotionally aroused, how long
the arousal persists, and how easily it fades. An “easy” baby can be fussy or unhappy at times but still generally handles
distress well and is relatively predictable; an “active” baby does not always engage in prolonged activity but can still be
described as mostly energetic and vigorous. Regardless of any transient emotions, “easy” and “active” describe more
Differences in temperament can be observed in neonates—even
during fetal development—and remain relatively stable across
various situations (Casalin, Luyten, Vliegen, & Meurs, 2012). There is
strong evidence that genetics and biology in�luence temperament,
including in factors related to emotions, motor activity, self-
regulation, and attention. Together, these characteristics interact with
the environment and begin to de�ine personality, the topic of the
remainder of this chapter (Ivorra et al., 2010; Posner, Rothbart, &
Sheese, 2007; Rothbart, 2007). Temperament is the mostly biological
foundation upon which experiences with the environment build
personality. There is also evidence that culture and a parent’s
personality affect temperament (Laxman et al., 2013). For instance,
although cultural differences decline with age, infants born in the
United States score relatively high in measures of surgency, a
psychological measure that encompasses extraversion, con�idence,
and independence. These characteristics tend to be valued in more
individualistic countries. U.S. infants are relatively better at managing
feelings of frustration and other negative emotions, too (Slobodskaya,
Garstein, Nakagawa, & Putnam, 2013).
Categories of Infant Temperament
In 1977, researchers Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess offered the �irst widely accepted conceptual model of
temperament. They followed a group of 141 U.S. infants into adulthood. Each person was rated on several dimensions,
including activity level, adaptability, attention span, and mood. Multiple interviews and observations with parents and
children revealed that infant emotional reactivity could be classi�ied according to one of three types of temperament
(Thomas & Chess, 1977).
Infants with an easy temperament are generally happy. They �ind ways to self-soothe and establish regular
body rhythms of sleeping, eating, and elimination. They adapt relatively easily to change. About 40% of children
�it this category.
Infants with a dif�icult temperament often display intensely negative reactions. They have dif�iculty
establishing regular routines and do not adapt well to new experiences. About 10% of children �it this category.
About 15% of infants are slow to warm up. They are relatively less active with somewhat regular biological
rhythms for activities like sleep and elimination. They have mild to moderate reactions to new experiences, but
are notably more accepting than dif�icult children.
About 35% of children show a combination of characteristics and do not clearly �it any of the categories
(Thomas & Chess, 1977; Thomas, Chess, & Birch, 1968).
The differences observed during infancy are found to be moderately stable throughout childhood. Longitudinal
research has found that children who are classi�ied as easy during infancy have fewer adjustment problems in school
than those who are identi�ied as dif�icult. Dif�icult children are comparatively more likely to be aggressive and to
withdraw from social interactions. Slow-to-warm-up infants exhibit relatively smooth developmental adjustment during
infancy, but during elementary school they are found to have more problems than easy children. In general, children
who have emotional and behavioral problems in later childhood have temperament pro�iles that include a lower degree
If a parent has an active infant, but comes
home exhausted from work, what advice
would you offer? What about an exhausted
parent and a quiet infant?
of emotional stability and relatively poor self-regulatory skills (Althoff et al., 2012; Caspi & Silva, 1995; Chess & Thomas,
1984; De Pauw & Mervielde, 2011).
Other models of temperament focus less on biological rhythms, but they still
emphasize attention, activity, and emotionality. Research by Rothbart and her
colleagues has been particularly instrumental in focusing on variations in
reactivity and self-regulation, including intensity of motor and emotional
responses, self-soothing behaviors, and self-control. Accordingly, researchers
often explore how easily they can elicit temper tantrums and whether
children can be easily calmed (Gartstein & Rothbart, 2003; Rothbart, Ahadi, &
Evans, 2000; Rothbart & Bates, 2006).
Goodness of Fit
The match between temperament and environmental demands is referred to as goodness of �it. For instance, the
diagnosis of some attention disorders is often dependent on individual parenting style and culture. Some parents and
educators may tolerate certain kinds of off-task behavior more than others. The amount of patience adults display
affects how children respond. Fussy infants become more dif�icult toddlers when they are faced with parents who
generally impose harsher restrictions. These parents become more easily stressed, more negative, and more hostile;
they might engage in inconsistent discipline practices and aggravate the child’s behavior problems. In contrast, parents
who show support and patience can have a signi�icant positive effect on children’s behavior (Paulussen-Hoogeboom,
Stams, Hermans, & Peetsma, 2007; Raikes, Robinson, Bradley, Raikes, & Ayoub, 2007). In other words, the temperament
of some children may be a better or poorer �it than others for particular situations. Children’s adjustment may
therefore be linked to biological temperament acting on �it.
To counteract what might be poor goodness of �it, dif�icult children bene�it from warm, sensitive parents who have
consistent rules for behavior and make reasonable demands. Less active infants and toddlers bene�it from parents who
will engage them—asking questions, exploring, naming objects. Because active, outgoing children will naturally self-
stimulate, for them, intrusive adult involvement may limit exploratory behavior and innate curiosity. Many parents fail to
recognize when they are not responding according to their children’s temperament. In these instances, parenting
programs that include directed interventions to identify emotions appear to be helpful. In one study that focused on
these techniques, children were able to engage in a higher level of social behavior. Additionally, by learning how to
better recognize emotional cues in their children, parents also became more aware of their own emotional regulation
(Wilson, Havighurst, & Harley, 2012).
What is the association between infant temperament and personality development? Describe three different
types of infant temperament, including implications for parenting and goodness of �it.
11.2 Psychosocial Foundations of Personality Development
Like issues that arise with goodness of �it, it is not always easy to �ind an appropriate balance between being patient and
responsive, and imposing necessary restrictions on what appears to be normal developmental needs. How often should
dif�icult babies be held? How much freedom should teenagers be given to express themselves? Erikson’s theory of
psychosocial development outlines these issues. His theory of how social interactions affect personality development
remains a historical benchmark from which contemporary theory has evolved. In many ways, Erik Erikson is to
psychosocial development what Piaget is to cognitive development. And like Piaget, psychologists continue to �ind
Erikson’s ideas practical and worthwhile. Part of Erikson’s theory concerns the development of the self, which is a
conceptualization of how we evaluate our thoughts and attitudes about ourselves. Erikson stressed how the self
develops as a function of the way we constantly interact with society.
Erikson: Stages of Psychosocial Development
Erikson was in�luenced by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Both of these psychology pioneers emphasized the
importance of early development on later personality and behavior. However, while Freud felt early development was
largely a function of sexual con�lict, Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development focused on social in�luences during
the lifespan (Erikson, 1950/1993). According to Erikson, each developmental period is marked by a psychosocial
challenge that can have either a favorable or an unfavorable outcome. The desired outcome provides opportunity for
growth, whereas the alternative inhibits personality growth. The settlement of each stage does not have an all-or-none
effect on personality development; there are degrees of resolution. Although Erikson proposed general age ranges for
his stages, there is no �irm consensus on when each stage begins and ends.
Basic Trust Versus Mistrust (birth to 1 year old): Erikson proposed that the fundamental challenge of infancy
concerns an infant’s dependency needs and parental responsiveness. Infants need to feel secure that they will be fed,
changed, nurtured, and comforted. If parents are responsive and dependable, infants become con�ident that their
needs will be met; they develop a sense of trust. In contrast, an insecure infant (perhaps one who has been neglected)
will develop a sense of mistrust. Therefore, the �irst of Erikson’s stages is referred to as basic trust versus mistrust.
Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt (ages 1 to 3 years): If infants trust their parents, then as toddlers they can more
con�idently explore their environment. As toddlers begin to master skills like crawling, walking, talking, dressing, and
feeding themselves, they discover a sense of autonomy that leads to self-esteem. Parents must guide the development
of this independence so that children develop appropriate self-control without feeling shame that they have done
something bad and consequently doubt their own abilities.
Initiative Versus Guilt (ages 3 to 6 years): When children gain autonomy, they begin to master the world around them.
They become more independent but sometimes suffer negative consequences as a result. Early “experiments” with
food �lying off of a highchair, which �irst occur randomly, are now done with more purpose. Children might cut their
own hair. Parents again need to juggle reactions. If a 4-year-old attempts to bring a dish to the sink but ends up
breaking it, how should the parent react? Children can either be reinforced for taking the initiative or feel guilt for
having done something wrong. The key to helping children overcome this initiative versus guilt challenge is to set
balanced limits—not always an intuitive, easy task.
Industry Versus Inferiority (ages 5 to 12 years): Play becomes more purposeful or goal-oriented as children learn
more about the ways of the world. If they take the initiative, they can become accomplished and feel a sense of
industry. If they feel inadequate, perhaps because of the guilt from the earlier stage, children become discouraged in
their attempts to acquire knowledge or complete tasks. In that case, they may feel incompetent and unproductive,
which can lead to feelings of inferiority. By becoming industrious through the acquisition of a number of
competencies, children begin to build a sense of identity.
Identity Versus Role Confusion (adolescence): Erikson believed that the stage of identity development that coincides
with adolescence was pivotal. Early stages lead up to it, and later stages are dependent on it. In this stage, teenagers
try to discover who they really are, including their sexual identity and what they want to do in life. Beginning in early
adolescence, physical, sexual, and cognitive changes, as well as more complex social demands, contribute to confusion
about identity. Erikson called this time of potential upheaval the adolescent identity crisis. During this period,
adolescents will often try out different behaviors before �inding a clear path. The process of reconciling these
If young adults have had trouble forming an
identity, they can also have trouble forming
deep emotional connections and develop a
sense of isolation.
challenges results in an individual’s achieving a sense of identity. On the other hand, when children are not allowed to
explore, create, and accomplish, they do not develop the competence necessary to de�ine goals and forge a unique
sense of self. Current and future roles remain unde�ined, or confused. This role confusion may lead to dif�iculty
forming close adult relationships. After all, if a person does not have a strong sense of identity, then there are few
intimacies that he or she can share with another person. This outcome is sometimes referred to as identity diffusion
since the self, or personality, lacks a uni�ied core. Erikson proposed that identity versus role confusion was the key to
developing into an adult.
Intimacy Versus Isolation (early adulthood): The adult personality
rests �irmly on the successful resolution of the challenges of earlier
developmental stages. Although close relationships may have formed
prior to this stage, the task here is to form successful relationships
and create intimacy. If a young adult has not successfully resolved the
crisis of identity, then it becomes more dif�icult to form deep
emotional connections. Expressing hopes, dreams, and fears to an
intimate partner also helps solidify and integrate self-image. In the
absence of intimacy, relationships are more super�icial; without the
risk of vulnerability, a sense of isolation develops. Erikson does not
limit these intimate relationships to sexual intimacy but extends them
to relationships with special friends also.
Generativity Versus Stagnation (middle adulthood): Adults seek to
accomplish goals that make them feel as if they have made a
difference in the world. Personality is integrated to achieve
occupational, social, and personal goals. People gain a sense of
ful�illment from these accomplishments, but they also seek additional
satisfaction by “leaving a mark.” Generativity refers to providing for
the next generation, by engaging in activities like teaching values, coaching sports, raising children, and volunteering.
In contrast, some individuals may not get much satisfaction from their nine-to-�ive jobs, and simply come home, eat
dinner, watch some TV, and do it again the next day. They develop a sense of stagnation, a feeling of sel�ishness and
lack of productivity.
Integrity Versus Despair (late adulthood): If adults have been successful in prior stages, a sense of personal integrity
emerges. People accept their lives and what they have accomplished, including leaving a mark on younger
generations. When looking back on their lives, they experience a sense of ful�illment. There is an acceptance of life’s
limitations and the understanding that regrets are unproductive. Despair is the result of knowing that goals went
unful�illed and there is no longer enough time to achieve them.
Hope and Faith Versus Despair (mid-eighties and later): Late in his career, when he became old himself, Erikson and
his wife formulated a ninth stage (Erikson & Erikson, 1998). In the oldest stage there are some new challenges. One
has to contend with the death of close friends and family members. There is less autonomy than previously. Mobility
can become more dif�icult. People may be forced to move so that everyday activities are easier to manage. If the
challenges of this stage are successfully navigated, people will experience a feeling of hope and faith. Erikson
suggested that successful resolution of this stage includes a shift in perspective from a materialistic and rational view
of the world to one that is transcendent and not easily measured. Death is accepted as the way of all living things.
Application of Erikson’s View and Empirical Findings
Erikson’s view enjoys both theoretical and applied support and provides additional understanding of both child and
adult behaviors. For example, if an employee is extremely reserved and �inds it dif�icult to ask for a deserved raise,
Erikson’s stage theory would suggest the worker had not met the challenge of autonomy versus shame and doubt; the
person has not gained assertiveness. That outcome could lead to a failure resolving the next stage, initiative versus guilt,
where the worker associates assertion with negative feelings. The lack of con�idence and fear of self-assertion makes it
more dif�icult to form intimate relationships, leading to feelings of isolation from others.
Research provides general support for the theory as well. For instance, Erikson suggested that without a sense of
intimacy, it is dif�icult to commit to relationships and activities that will provide for the next generation. Further, studies
have shown that those who have stable relationships and careers are indeed more likely to demonstrate generativity
than those who are still �loundering (Peterson & Klohnen, 1995). As might be predicted, generativity increases as we
age. Roughly 50% experience it by age 40, which increases to 83% by age 60. Other research is similarly supportive
(e.g., Whitbourne, Zuschlag, Elliot, & Waterman, 1991). This motivation to “give back” and create a purpose in life is
widely seen among older adults and is an excellent predictor of happiness and success in marriage (Vaillant, 2002;
Wnuk, Marcinkowski, & Fobair, 2012).
Summarize Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, and explain how these challenges relate to the
development of personality.
Figure 11.1: Marcia’s identity statuses
James Marcia described four possible outcomes related
to adolescent identity development.
Source: Adapted from Marcia (1966, 2007).
11.3 Other Perspectives of Personality Development
Though an alternative psychosocial perspective over the lifespan has not emerged, there are theories that attempt to
explain individual stages. James Marcia’s identity status model is a well-regarded application that has found support
among Western cultures; Daniel Levinson’s life transitions has received much popular support outside of academia and
psychology professionals, but falls short scienti�ically. We will look at these two perspectives next.
Marcia: Identity Status Model
James Marcia uses Erikson’s stage of identity versus role confusion as a backdrop and suggests that there are four ways
of resolving the crisis of identity that adolescence presents. His identity status model classi�ies individual identity
development in terms of two characteristics: crisis and commitment. Crisis refers to a period of some turmoil, during
which adolescents begin to question previous values. As a result, individuals explore different alternatives. For example,
a high school senior may consider a technical school, traveling, or several different college majors. Commitment refers
to whether or not a decision has been made related to the exploration (Marcia, 1966, 2007). There is quite a difference,
for instance, between an unmotivated high school student who jumps in and out of menial part-time jobs and one who
attends college workshops and volunteers at a health care agency. In the latter case, exploration will eventually lead to
As Figure 11.1 indicates, Marcia organized four observable identity
statuses based on the two criteria of exploration (crisis) and
commitment. Identity achievement occurs when occupational and
social challenges of education, career, and marriage are explored and
pursued and there is a current commitment. For example, after an
individual investigates a number of opportunities in the mental health
�ield (e.g., social work, counseling psychology, research and teaching),
identity achievement would occur when the individual commits to the
pursuit of one over another. Early identity achievement is associated
with high achievement motivation, empathy, compassion, and self-
esteem. However, for most, identity does not solidify until the early to
mid-20s (Bang, 2013; Kroger, 2007; Kroger, Martinussen, & Marcia,
Adolescents sometimes commit to an identity without adequately
exploring alternatives, perhaps because of the strong in�luence of an
authority �igure or societal norm. They join the military, work in the
family business, or pursue a law degree because their parents have
decided that is “what is best.” This status of identity foreclosure
does not necessarily equal unhappiness, but it is associated with a
high need for approval. Identity foreclosure is more common among
Asian, European, and collectivist cultures than in mainstream, middle-
class culture in the United States. Therefore, the independence that is
indicative of identity achievement is not necessarily a desirable goal
for every group. Furthermore, secular changes within cultures affect goals and values. For instance, among adolescents
there has been a recent shift in attitudes, resulting in an increased concern for other people and the environment. As a
result, career development in the contemporary cohort of adolescents and young adults includes relatively more
collectivist goals and less materialism (Green�ield, Keller, Fuligini, & Maynard, 2003; Park, Twenge, & Green�ield, 2014;
Rothbaum, Weisz, Pott, Miyake, & Morelli, 2000).
Traditionally, though, middle-class culture in the United States is usually associated with exploration. The common
mantra of “you can be anything you want to be” is an example of parents encouraging the exploration of various
alternatives. When adolescents actively explore choices but are not committed, it is referred to as identity moratorium.
This struggle for identity is often associated with anxiety, since the future is unplanned. Those who are considering
changing majors or colleges, or dropping out of school altogether, are often in moratorium.
In what ways can attending college and
pursuing a degree be categorized as
identity foreclosure? When is it
The timing of events such as marriage,
childbearing, and retirement is much less
predictable than in past generations.
Finally, adolescents who have neither explored nor committed to any social or
occupational choices are in a state of identity diffusion. These individuals
tend to be �lighty, without clear direction for the future. They may be confused
about goals, occupation, sexual identity, or gender roles. The lack of
occupational or social dedication makes it dif�icult to sustain relationships.
Consequently, these individuals are more likely than others to become
It is considered a positive development when individuals move from diffusion to foreclosure to moratorium to
achievement. However, adolescents are not necessarily �ixed into one identity status, and achievement does not mean
identity will remain stable. It is common for individuals to change statuses from moratorium to achievement and back
again, in what has been called the MAMA cycle. This sequence is considered normal and may appear periodically
throughout the lifespan, though moratorium status peaks during late adolescence and declines thereafter. About half of
all adolescents have a stable identity status (Kroger, 2007; Kroger et al., 2010). Among college students, status begins to
change later than young adults who do not attend college.
The way in which Erikson and Marcia discuss the concept of identity development is both a culmination of sorts and a
jumping-off point. That is, according to Erikson, we have a tendency to strive to reach a key phase of self-identity and
carry that forward into marriage, community, and retirement. Note, however, that these processes apply mostly to
Westernized youth and young adults. (Neither Erikson nor Marcia suggested that their theories could be applied
universally.) Cross-cultural studies have validated Marcia’s conceptual basis for achievement. However, identity
development is quite different, even within Western countries, when there are choices in career and education and
everyday survival can be taken for granted (e.g., Brzezińska & Piotrowski, 2013; Cinamon & Rich, 2014; Crocetti, Sica,
Schwartz, Sera�ini, & Meeus, 2013). In coal-mining towns or other working-class communities, for instance, the menu of
careers to explore often appears limited. Education might not be a high priority, and economic necessity may dictate
when and where a young adult seeks work. Identity development through exploration would not even be considered
when daily living remains a struggle.
Levinson: Life Transitions
Another way of looking at how personality develops is to identify normative age-graded in�luences, or how people view
the world at any particular time (see Chapter 1). For instance, there are speci�ic life transitions that coincide with age-
based norms, such as turning 30 or the “Big 5-0.” Puberty and menopause are two examples of biological in�luences
that are linked by age. However, from a psychosocial perspective, age-based norms have become more �luid. For
example, the social clock (age-graded social expectations) that formerly existed for getting married, having children,
and even retirement has expanded widely. The timing of these events is much less predictable than in past generations.
Nevertheless, some have suggested that …