Admired Personality Traits.
Every cultural group has its own values regarding traits that are considered desirable or undesirable. Sooner or later, every child learns which traits fall in each category. He discovers that people who have the admired traits win social approval and acceptance, while those who have the undesirable traits are criticized, scorned, and rejected.
Furthermore, the child discovers as he grows older that not all people value traits in the same way. Parents, teachers, and other adults value certain traits more highly than members of the peer group do, and vice versa. He also discovers that there are sex-approved and social-class-approved traits. In spite of these variations, he learns, certain basic traits are honored by all cultural groups. Honesty, respect for others as people, respect for authority, and a sense of appreciation are universally approved.
In his desire to win the approval of important people in his life, the child tries to develop personality traits that will conform to the standards of the group with which he wants to be identified. Young children, in the preschool years, are more anxious to have the approval of adults than of their peers. For that reason, they strive to develop personality traits that will win for them the adult recognition and approval that they crave. But, as they enter school and become group-conscious, they are far more interested in winning the approval of their peers. As a result, the standards of socially approved personality traits change; the child now attempts to develop those traits which his playmates will respect.
As children grow older, personality traits which were admired in little children are regarded as “babyish," and new traits take their place in the favor of the group. The submissive, quiet, docile child must develop more aggressive traits. If he wants the approval of his playmates, the child often feels that he must develop personality traits which are not admired or even condoned by adults. With the onset of puberty and the psychological changes which accompany it, new standards of admired personality traits arise. Traits that are greatly admired in a boy are not admired in a girl. A boy who is sympathetic, kind, and thoughtful is admired by adults, but both boys and girls look upon him as a "sissy." The very traits that are condemned in a boy, however, are admired in girls, not only by other girls but also by boys. Similarly, an aggressive girl is labeled "bossy" by other children, but an aggressive boy is admired and is likely to assume the role of leadership.
By the time children enter school, concepts of "masculine" and "feminine” personalities are well established. The typical girl is judged to be quiet, popular, full of fun, a good sport, a "little lady," tidy, feminine, and modest. The typical boy, by contrast, is wiggly, quarrelsome, bossy, and a show-off. He takes chances, is not bashful, is good at games, and is a real boy. Thus, even in the primary grades, the pictures of a typical boy and a typical girl are almost photostats of adult concepts. These concepts are illustrated. Some revolutionary changes take place in the "most-admired-traits" lists of children, especially those of girls, between the ages of twelve and fifteen.
Various cultures value traits differently. A comparison of French and American children revealed that while children in both cultures develop personality patterns that are similar in major aspects, differences result because of the differences in values held by parents in the two cultures. For example, American children are encouraged to be come independent sooner than French children; American children are encouraged to assume responsibility earlier; and sociability is not regarded as an important goal by the French, who stress individualism, while Americans emphasize conformity as essential to social acceptance.
The values held by members of a cultural group are used by adults as models in child training methods. When American and English adults were asked to state what they thought constituted a properly brought-up child, the English adults stressed suppression of impulses which are socially disturbing, self-control, kindness to others, good manners, obedience, suppression of antisocial impulses, and self-reliance so that the individual will not be a burden to others.
The American pattern aimed at a smoothly functioning individual, equipped to get ahead with a varied armament of social skills, intelligence, geniality, good-naturedness, neatness, cleanliness, honesty, trust worthiness, straightforwardness, and sociability. In the American values, stress is on adjustment to other children, while in the English values, stress is on adjustment to adults.
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