The Shaping of Personality

This is an interesting article which appeared recently in the New York Times. Here Dr. Perri Klass discusses the importance of Birth Order.

He says-

 ‘Everyone takes it personally when it comes to birth order. After all, everyone is an oldest or a middle or a youngest or an only child, and even as adults we revert almost inevitably to a joke or resentment or rivalry that we’ve never quite outgrown.’There are many conceptions about the effects of birth order. Some think that a first born child tends to boss his younger siblings around. And that younger children are always jealous and try to catch up with their older brothers and sisters.

Some people think that birth order can be used to explain every trait in a person- A certain person is extremely ambitious because he is a first born. Another is very easy-going because he is a younger brother.

But just how important is it whether you are the eldest, the youngest, or maybe an only child? Does this have a defining effect on a person’s temperament?

Then there is the debate – Nature v/s Nurture – There have been numerous discussions about the relative importance of an individual’s innate qualities (nature) versus personal experiences(nurture).

Both factors certainly influence the manner an individual’s personality develops. But which is more important?

I remember an amusing story I read many years ago.- A small boy brings home his report card which shows that he has obtained very low marks.

As he hands it to his father to read, he asks-

What do think the problem with me is, Dad? Heredity or Environment?”

Well, this certainly gets him off the hook! In either case, the blame rests squarely on his parents’ shoulders!

Which brings me to my question to my blogger friends.

There are many factors which shape an individual’s personality. Some we have seen just now.

But we also see occasionally that some people, though born into adverse circumstances, rise above them, and go on to become happy, admirable, successful, or talented individuals, as the case may be.

They may have been born in a poor home to uneducated parents. They may have been the youngest of several brothers and sisters.They may have been teased and picked on at school. But they seem to have an inbuilt strength that enables them to succeed in life despite their circumstances.

So just how important are the factors of birth order, heredity, parental influence, home environment, peer pressure, etc? Are they sometimes just used as excuses to explain away our shortcomings?

Are we looking outwards when we should perhaps be looking inwards?

What do you think?



  1. What I heard from my friends doing genetic engineering researches that it is the Genetic code which a person is bestowed with at the time of birth. The process of nurturing only further develop that. In a favourable condition the initial aim of the genetic code bloom to the full otherwise it becomes latent. A person with a favorable genetic code to become a player may become Sachin if and only if Mr.Achrekar nutured him and Gavaskar recognised this talent to induct him in the National level. But a rround peg can never be fitted on a square hole. This is a very long discussion. Talent+favourable suurounding= 100% achievement of the inborn genetic code.


  2. In this eternal debate between nature and nurture, I think nurture is way ahead of nature. I dont think that being an nth child in a family of m children really has a bearing. What really matters is your bringing up, preferably of the no-nonsense type. Our parents had a lot of time for us. There was no concept of "making time" for the children. No one sat around and analyzed theories. I am sure the parents didnt know whether they were looking inward or outward. So long as they were looking for their children….. While i put my vote 100% on the nurture side, I wonder why this should come up for vote at all. (See the Sept issue of Maher for an amazing story about someone Date from Ichalkaranji…)


  3. I tend to agree with Pradeep Biswas who in way agrees with Dr Klass. It is the dynamic combination of heredity and the environment that shape us in varying degrees. The order of birth makes a difference in most cases; it is an important environmental factor.


  4. Pradip BiswasTalent+favourable suurounding= 100% achievement of the inborn genetic code-Yes, this seems logical. And I agree with this. The exceptions to this are what interest me. I mean those cases where we see that some individuals rise to greatness when it seems that nothing is favourable for them.Ugich Konitari– I agree that nurture is very important. A child will grow up much more confident and likely to succeed with good nurturing.But similar nurturing can produce very different results. And sometimes a child will turn out 'bad' despite being brought up well.And what about the cases we see where one child in a family will turn out to be a well-balanced person, but the other will become a crook (extreme case, but you know what I mean. :)).


  5. Vinodji– All these factors, do of course, influence a person's personality.As I mentioned above, I was thinking about the cases where individuals have had everything against them. Still they were able to become successful, etc. How is it that these various influences did not affect them in an adverse way? Or maybe we could say that they would have become even more successful if these circumstances had not been there?


  6. I didn't want to get into it…I don't think science can give a definite answer to this. You have to fall back to the Law of Karma and the "prarabdha" that is fructifying in this birth.If this is myth, so be it..till science catches up!


  7. I don't think being an older, middle or younger child makes a difference as long as they are brought up the same way. I would give 50-50 to nature and nurture. May be as the child grows, more percentage to nurture. This is just my opinion but I have seen many common things between my child and me as a child which she has never seen me doing it now. Surroundings matter, our approach matters.


  8. I don't know the answer to your question although I still think environment plays an important role…I don't think birth order has got anything to do with how people turn out…


  9. Manju jiThe extent of fulfillment of the genetic code depends upon the intensity of the genetic code(1)+ favourable conditions(2). If you have a diesel liquid it catches fire even on water. Because the hydrocarbon bonding is such that that its desire to go to the gaseous state is intense and a slight chance is needed to go upto that despite other conditions were highly unfavourable. Now(2) is never absolute zero, it has some value which is sufficient for a talented person to bloom. Something was favorable or some unfavourable thing which was made favourable.If you send bamboo to a talented person he shall utilise it to make a Murali.


  10. Chowlaji– I agree.Solilo– That's true. I, myself, do not think birth order makes too much of a difference.The study mentioned in the NYT article says, though, that it is not possible to bring up children in the same way.For an older child the family consists of him/herself and the parents. For the second child the family consists of him/herself, an older sibling and the parents. Since the family itself has changed it is not possible to bring up the second child in the same manner as the first.


  11. Sraboney– Well, the role of environment is indisputable….Pradipji– Nice explanation!You mean that even if minimum favourable circumstances are there, a person who has the natural capacity will be able to take advantage of that?


  12. Parents are more confident dealing with various aspects of parenting by the time the second child comes along. I don't know if this has some bearing as the second born somehow does breeze along atleast in the growing years . Later on, ofcourse the environment and various conditions come into effect. Temperament of the person is a combination of all these factors.


  13. LOL at.."What do think the problem with me is, Dad? Heredity or Environment.I feel Nurture is more important than nature. and order of the birth hardly matters, as our late PM Shastriji was I think nineth child of his parents…Karma and Prarabdh are important but given a good upbringing evryone gets atleast a certain good place in life, may not excel but still will be a good human being and resonably places. and here good upbringing means really that, I dont count giving food facilities or sending abroad a good upbringing,. For me it s teaching the child values, rights and wrongs, correcting him/her when they do any wrong and praise them when they do well. But some people succeed in life without any encouragement and facility also..they have some inherent desire to succed and from where they get it..dont know , may be from some book they read or someone they saw.BTW you have been tagged, I dont know whether you do them or not, so if you like, then please take it up.


  14. "What do think the problem with me is, Dad? Heredity or Environment?" This is the best line, Manju!I agree with environment. Heredity…I am 50/50 …e.g. Dr.Abdul kalaam. In our Kalaam's case, environment also is ruled out. Birth some extent, yes. The first child is mostly a bit reserved and silent. Reads a lot and develops intelligence. The younger one is carefree, though intelligent,tend to take everything easy and parents too give importance to the first child because whatever he or she does, is first time for the them too. The second one, just trails along. This, I have seen in many families. Here, parental behaviour plays an important part. I saw in 'saregamapa lil champs' a small boy sang very well and his father said that he has got 8 childreen! Did he have any part in bringing out the talent in this boy? Everything is a question mark. All cases are individual cases.


  15. Mahendra– I would love to read your post on this subject, but I am not able to open the blog-page.Radha– Yes, most people agree that parents are more confident while dealing with the second child-this will,of course have an effect.Renu– Those cases- where people succeed in life without encouragement- are very interesting to me.As you say, it is possible they may have been influenced by something they read, or perhaps someone they came into contact with.Sandhya– I agree, every individual case is different.A factor which has great influence in the case of one person may not have much effect on another.


  16. Intuitive post…NO doubt heredity, parental influence and home environment plays an important part in shaping our character.I was thinking if my home environment was better, i would have excelled better. but when i saw people excelling with home environment worser then me, i realised i can do better.In adult life our personal will is more important to achieve something which we inherently lack.I always feel, the environment influences us in a big way, be it positive or negative.


  17. As per my experience it is the time and space that makes a persons personality. Even though genetic codes and all that sort will have their own impact what I felt is if you don't have right time and place to explore yourself any heritage or the birth orders etc will matter.


  18. I liked your blog very much. I appreciate for your beautiful post. I feel its very important how a child is born and brought up and that plays a very important role.You are welcome in my blogs.


  19. Sunder– I agree, in adult life, our personal will determines to a great extent what we achieve. And that our environment influences us, is also true.Pangala Nagendra Rao– And the opportunity to explore what we can achieve depends in part on chance/ Karma/ other things beyond our control, it seems!Babli– Welcome!


Do share your views here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s