Theories of Personality Development in Psychology

Have you ever wondered why some people are outgoing while others are introverted? Or why some people are relatively stable while others seem to be constantly changing? If so, you’re not alone. These are just a few of the many questions that psychologists have been trying to answer for years when it comes to understanding personality development. In this blog post, we will explore some of the most popular theories of personality development in psychology. From Freud’s psychodynamic theory to Bandura’s social cognitive theory, we will cover a range of different perspectives on how personality develops over time.

Freud’s Psychosexual Theory

In his psychosexual theory, Freud believed that human personality development is based on the pleasure-seeking drives of our id. According to Freud, we are born with certain instinctual drives, or urges, which seek to satisfy our needs for food, water, and sex. As we grow and develop, we learn to control these drives in order to conform to the expectations of society.

However, Freud believed that some of these drives remain unresolved and continue to influence our personalities throughout our lives. For example, the id may continue to seek immediate gratification of its needs (such as through overeating or sexual promiscuity), while the superego may try to repress these impulses. This conflict can lead to psychological problems such as anxiety or depression.

Freud’s psychosexual theory has been criticized for its emphasis on early childhood experiences and its lack of scientific evidence. However, it remains one of the most influential theories of personality development in psychology.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

Erikson’s psychosocial theory is one of the most influential theories of personality development. The theory was first proposed by Erik Erikson in the 1950s. Erikson believed that personality development occurs throughout a person’s lifetime and is influenced by both social and psychological factors.

Erikson’s theory is based on eight stages of development, each of which is characterized by a different conflict. The first four stages, known as the “psychological birth to maturity” stage, occur during childhood and adolescence. The last four stages, known as the “social adulthood to old age” stage, occur during adulthood.

Stage 1: Trust vs. Mistrust

The first stage of Erikson’s psychosocial theory is trust vs. mistrust. This stage occurs during infancy, from birth to 18 months. During this stage, infants learn to either trust or mistrust people and things based on their experiences. If infants have positive experiences with people and things, they learn to trust them. If infants have negative experiences with people and things, they learn to mistrust them.

Stage 2: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

The second stage of Erikson’s psychosocial theory is autonomy vs. shame and doubt. This stage occurs during early childhood, from 18 months to 3 years. During this stage, children learn to either be independent or feel shame and doubt based on their experiences. If children are able to do things on their own and are praised

Piaget’s Cognitive-Developmental Theory

Cognitive-developmental theory was first proposed by Jean Piaget, a pioneering psychologist who conducted extensive research on child development. According to Piaget, children go through four distinct stages of cognitive development: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational.

In the sensorimotor stage (birth to 2 years), children learn about the world through their senses and motor activities. They gradually develop an understanding of object permanence (that objects continue to exist even when they can’t be seen or heard) and cause-and-effect relationships.

In the preoperational stage (2 to 7 years), children begin to use symbols and language but their thinking is still egocentric (self-centered). They have difficulty understanding concepts such as conservation (the concept that matter can’t be created or destroyed) and reversibility (the ability to mentally reverse a sequence of events).

In the concrete operational stage (7 to 11 years), children’s thinking becomes more logical and less egocentric. They can understand conservation and reversibility, as well as other concepts such as classification and seriation (the ability to put things in order based on size, quantity, or other attributes).

In the formal operational stage (11 years and up), adolescents and adults can think abstractly and form hypotheses. They can reason logically about hypothetical situations and make plans for the future.

Kohlberg’s Moral-developmental Theory

Kohlberg’s Moral-developmental Theory is one of the most well-known theories of personality development. This theory posits that there are three levels of moral development, which are based on cognitive development. The first level is the pre-conventional level, where individuals focus on their own needs and desires, and right and wrong is based on what will get them what they want. The second level is the conventional level, where individuals focus on following rules and meeting expectations, and right and wrong is based on what will maintain social order. The third level is the post-conventional level, where individuals focus on internalized principles and values, and right and wrong is based on what will uphold these principles.

Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

Bandura’s social cognitive theory is one of the most influential theories of personality development in psychology. The theory centers on the idea that people learn by observing others and that they can internalize the behaviors they observe to develop their own personality.

One of the key ideas in Bandura’s theory is that people are not passive learners; instead, they actively construct their own knowledge and experiences. This means that people are not just influenced by their environment, but they also play a role in shaping it. Another important idea is that human behavior is goal-oriented; people act in ways that they believe will help them achieve their goals.

The social cognitive theory has had a significant impact on research on personality development. It has been used to explain a wide range of phenomena, including aggression, altruism, self-efficacy, and moral development. The theory has also been applied to understand how people develop different personalities depending on their culture and how personality development changes across the lifespan.


A personality theory is a set of ideas that explain how human beings develop and change their personalities. The three most popular theories of personality development in psychology are psychodynamic theory, trait theory, and social learning theory.

Psychodynamic theory is the oldest and most well-known theory of personality development. It was first proposed by Sigmund Freud in the early 1900s. Freud believed that our personalities are shaped by our childhood experiences and the unconscious mind.

Trait theory is a more modern approach to personality development. It suggests that our personalities are made up of different traits, or aspects of our character. Social learning theory is another common approach to personality development. It suggests that we learn from our environment and the people around us.

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