Theories of Personality Development: From Past to Today

This content includes all the personality development theories that have contributed to Theories of Personality Development history. It is constantly updated and new personality theories are added.

Personality development theories are about how personality is formed in humans and how it develops from infancy to adulthood. After Freud, many theories emerged. What is Personality and Personality Development? We will answer these questions. After reading the article, you will gain some ideas about Personality Development and Personality Development Theories.


Freud examines personality from three perspectives with his psychoanalytic theory. Approaches to the structure, organization and development of personality theories: topographic, structural and psychosexual development theories.

sigmund freud - theories of personality development
Sigmund Freud – Theories of Personality Development

Topographic personality theory (Consciousness classification)

This theory is related to the cognitive activities of the individual. This theory emphasizes that human behavior is related to subconscious rather than consciousness. Freud aimed to determine the distance of the individual’s various cognitive activities to consciousness and also said that the cognitive contents are in certain cognitive regions.

Consciousness: It is the place where the individual lives at any moment.
Pre-Consciousness: This is the place where the individual can remember only by forcing his attention.
Unconscious: It is the place where the individuals are not aware of, they cannot bring to consciousness even if they are forcing their attention.

Structuralist personality theory (personality structure)

According to this model personality; It consists of id, ego, superego. These three systems of personality; constantly interacting with each other to direct the individual’s behavior.

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Theories of Personality Development

Id: It constitutes the primitive aspect of personality. Id always acts according to the principle of pleasure. It makes unrealistic and irrational requests and desires. It wants the immediate impulse of the individual to be fed at any cost.
According to Freud, in the first days of life (in newborn infants), the primitive structure consisting of a complete id forms the ego and the superego.

Ego: This is the part of the personality structure that acts according to the principle of reality and is partially conscious. The Ego determines how the needs of reality are met in an appropriate way, without difficulty, resulting from the individual’s internal impulses. The individual seeks solutions that will not get into trouble.

Superego: Represents the moral aspect of personality. Based on the principle of morality in all of its decisions, it opposes the fulfillment of excessive demands and demands that cannot be accepted under strict moral rules, in particular by checking the demands of the id regarding sexuality and aggression.

Freud, Psychosexual Development Theory, especially in the first six years of life, drawing attention to the traces of this period of the personality characteristics of the individual argued that the adulthood.

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Theories of Personality Development

Psycho-Sexual Development Theory

Oral Period: Involves the period of one or one and a half years after birth. In this period, the first pleasure center is the mouth. For him, sucking, chewing and biting are the main sources of pleasure.

Anal Period: Involves the age range of 2-3 years. The child is satisfied with the anus and anus-related actions. So, in this period, it is important not to make mistakes in toilet training.

Phallic Period: Involves the age range of 3-5 years. During this period, the child’s source of pleasure is his genitals, and he finds it enjoyable to play with them.

Latent Period: Involves 7-11 age range. It is the development phase in which the features gained in previous periods are reinforced. The interest of the child who starts to identify with his teachers and other adults besides his parents concentrates on acquiring social and intellectual skills.

Genital Period: It includes the years of young adulthood. The sexual focus of the young person is now other than himself and his family. In this period, it is possible to old unfixed problems emerge again.

Psychosocial Development Theory

Eros Erikson’s psychosocial theory emphasizes the determinant role of social factors as well as biological factors in the formation of personality. According to Erikson, the main forces that affect human behavior are not impulses of biological origin. He argued that man has gone through eight stages of development throughout his life and that each individual stage faces a new complexity that one must deal with.

  • Insecurity against trust (from birth to one year old)
  • Guilt Against Assertiveness (Period from three to six)
  • Sense of Inferiority to Success (Lasts from six to twelve)
  • Shame and Skepticism Against Independence (from twelfth to three years) Identity Role Complexity (Twelve-Eighteen)
  • Loneliness versus Friendship (Eighteen to twenty-six years old)
  • Productivity Pause (Covers mid-adulthood)
  • Despair Against Self Integrity (Includes advanced adulthood)
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Theories of Personality Development

Attachment Theory

The first research on attachment was made by John Bowlby. According to Bowlby, a secure attachment relationship between mother and child provides the child with the opportunity for healthy psychological development. Bowlby, believes that there is a similarity between this attachment relationship in Rhesus monkeys and the first attachment processes in humans. He claims that incorrectly developed or intermittent attachment relationships may lead to personality problems and mental illnesses. For example, according to him, insecure attachment forms the basis for the development of a neurotic personality.

According to attachment theory, for human life, attachment has three basic functions;
1- While exploring the world, having a safe harbor to return to.
2- Meeting physical requirements.
3- The chance to develop a sense of security about life.

Bowlby argues that if these requirements are not adequately met, pathology may develop in connection with the self-perception of the child. Many theorists who are interested in the attachment process also accept that it is the attachment relationship that one establishes with his mother in the early stages of his life, which determines the quality and expectations of the person’s relationships with other people in adult life.

Also, people who have a secure attachment style are more compatible with their family and friends, have more confidence in themselves and others and have less social problems. Those who have insecure attachment style are those who are uncomfortable with getting close to others, have difficulty in completely trusting them, have less adaptation to social life, cannot control their emotions too much and are more sensitive to stress.

Unorganized binding is the third type of binding. For example, the child is afraid of the caregiver, the caregiver is indifferent and frightening.

heinz kohut
Heinz Kohut

Self Psychology Theory

Self-psychology is a psychoanalytic theory developed by Heinz Kohut in the 1970s. This theory, which was originally proposed to understand the development of narcissistic personality, was later expanded to address other psychopathologies.
In this theory, the basic element of the spiritual structure is the self within the self. From the birth of man, there is an undeveloped self structure. For the development of the self, other people need the object. However Kohut sees the relationship between the infant and the object of the self as the basis of spiritual development.

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Nancy Chodorow Personality Theory

Nancy Chodorow: She is the founder of gender theory. According to Nancy Chodorow; There is a relationship between the attachment of the baby to his parents at an early age and the definition of himself as a man or woman.

Although Chodorow criticizes Freud, he emphasizes the importance of the mother rather than the father.

In the early stages of life, a child tends to emotionally attach to the mother because of the influence the mother has on it. If this attachment breaks at some point to reach a separate sense of self, the child may enter into a less strict dependence.

Chodorow reverses Freud’s emphasis to some degree. Masculinity, instead of femininity, is defined by a loss, the loss of strict attachment to the mother.

 Separation forms the male identity; therefore, when men engage in close emotional ties with others later in life, they might find it compromising.

Women, on the other hand, feel that the absence of close relationships with another person threatens their self-esteem. People transfer these patterns from one generation to another because of the primary role played by women in the socialization of children at an early age. Women define and express themselves primarily in terms of relationships. Men suppress these requirements and adopt a more motivating attitude towards the world.

Other Theories

According to Jung, personality consists of many interacting systems. Ego, personal subconscious, collective subconscious and archetypal systems have introversion-extraversion attitudes, emotion, intuition and thinking functions. Their unified personality, which is a combination of these, also forms the self.

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According to Adler; man is a social being.
According to Adler: personality is the product of the attitudes that individual develops toward itself, other people and society. The center of personality is consciousness. The individual is a conscious being. So it’s aware of it’s behavior. Every human being has a sense of deficiency. He is in despair because of his childhood inadequacy and his dependence on the environment. Throughout his life, he strives to establish superiority over individuals and also prove his strength.According to Alfred Adler; people want to be perfect.

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According to Eric Fromm: Personality forms due to experience as a result of social influences. Permanent personality is the common product of social and cultural influences and hereditary aspects that make up the individual’s physical structure and temperament. According to Eric Fromm, the main problem of psychology is to examine how an individual establishes a relationship with society, the world and himself. The individual’s environmental relations are in two directions. The first is socialization and the second is assimilation.


Last Updated on December 9, 2020 by Lucas Berg

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I am studying in Florida about Dialectic Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I'm doing research on Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET), Cognitive psychology, Metacognitive Therapy.

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