Do People Inherit their Personality?


Personality differences are one of the primary factors that differentiate different individuals, because of the varying nature of peoples’ behaviors. Behavioral differences are evident in people’s ways of thinking or reactions to different occurrences in their immediate environments.

Therefore, personality traits define an individual’s profile in terms of character hence, determining how such individuals will interact with their immediate environment and other people. The question of the primary determinant of peoples’ personality traits is one of the most controversial topics in psychology, because of the varying arguments presented by different psychologists.

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On one end, some psychologists believe that individuals acquire their personality traits through genetic inheritance; while on the other hand, some argue that peoples’ personality traits are products of the environment. Contrary to these two antagonizing notions, some psychologists believe that, both heredity through genetic inheritance and the environment play a role in shaping an individual’s behavior.

As research studies show, although individuals may inherit some personality traits from their parents, parental methodologies of nurturing children also contributes to shaping an individual’s personality (Nash & Bernstein, 1999, pp. 560-574). Considering this, although heredity through genetic inheritance plays a crucial role when it comes to defining an individual’s personality characteristics, environmental occurrences and challenges play some roles in shaping an individual’s personality.

Determinants of Personality

As research studies show, heredity only defines the limits of an individual’s personality traits, whereas the environment shapes the defined personality traits. The actual development of an individuals inherited personality traits primarily depend on one’s cultural, situational, and social environment. The ability of individuals to survive in any environment primarily depends on their ability to change their personalities in order for them to fit such environments.

Environmental factors, for example, culture, defines the type of values embraced by an individual whereas, others, for example situational factors can either diminish or encourage development of some features of an individual’s personality. In addition to such occurrences in one’s environment in shaping an individual’s personality, some environmental factors, for example, one’s family and religious affiliation also play a crucial role in defining the nature of values that an individual will embrace hence, greatly shaping their personality.

Therefore, although most nomotetic psychological researches undermine the significance of the environment in determining an individual’s personality, by holding that genetically inherited personality traits are constant, environmental influences can greatly alter an individual’s genetically inherited personality traits (Cervone, 2001, p.1).

Further, as psychological research studies show, although some aspects of an individual’s personality traits, for example, intelligence are purely products of genetic inheritance, the ability of individuals to act in a certain ways depend on factors in their immediate environments.

Psychologically, conditioned behaviors are products of learnt experiences. Hence, although individuals may inherit some genetic personality traits from their parents, through experiences, such personality traits are bound to change, this being the only mechanism of fitting into a certain environment.

For example, consider a case of children brought up in family with very irritable parents; although such children may inherit such a trait, if these parents provide these children with the required behavioral guidance, likelihoods of these children developing such traits are low.

This is because, as these children grow and interact with their environment, they are likely learn the consequences of such a behavior, a fact that will make them to detest irritability; hence, the likelihood of these children to control their tempers (Eysenck, 1990, pp. 246-260).


In conclusion, although individuals inherit some elements of their personality, heredity through genetic inheritance only defines the limit of personality traits, which individuals can have. Considering this, both genetics and the environment play a role in shaping an individual’s personality, because as genetics defines the limits of development, the environment shapes such developed traits.

Reference List

Cervone, D. parental influences on personality. Retrieved July 28, 2010, from

Eysenck, H. J. (1990). Genetic and environmental contributions to individual differences: the three major dimensions of personality. Journal of Personality, 55, 245-261.

Nash, P. W., & Bernstein, D. A. (1999). Essentials of Psychology. Belmont, California

Wadsworth Publishing Company. Retrieved July 28, 2010, from


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