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In every society, there are people of different behaviours and attitudes which affect their relationship with others. These characters are influenced by various aspects such as the social life of the individual, their culture and the surroundings. For most individuals, it takes a series of experiences to understand and accept their behaviours. Others depend on the general opinion of their friends and relatives, and this may contribute to shaping of characters in an effort to meet the set standards.

Character development in infants

According to the theories by Erickson and Freud, individuals develop their characters starting from their infant life. According to Erickson, the character of a person is influenced by the surrounding environment. For instance, a child who is taken care of very keenly by his or her parents develops a sense of security and trust. On the other hand, Freud’s theory states that a child’s sense of security and trust is developed depending on when the weaning period begins and for how long the child is breastfed. In Erickson’s theory, he states that the behaviour of an individual develops throughout his or her life with different experiences affecting a change in character. Freud’s theory states that an individual’s character is fully developed by the age of five (Friedman,95, 2008).

In their theories, Erickson and Freud make an effort to explain how people develop their characters. According to Erickson, character development is like evolution, meaning that it changes with time, depending on the individual’s exposure and experiences in daily life. A good instance is given in the ‘anal’ stage of a child. He states that a child’s confidence is determined by how successful the child is in that stage. He also points out that a constant change in character is due to conflict in an individual. On the other hand, Freud explains character development according to sexual development. According to him, an individual goes through various sexual stages, namely oral, anal, latency and genital stages. According to him, these stages contribute to shaping an individual’s character, hence, these are named as psychosexual (Hutchinson,197, 2006).

Social factors shaping an individual

Christopher Clunis was a paranoid schizophrenic who was charged with the murder of his own brother by stabbing him thrice in the face. This was after a long history of psychiatric treatment and cases of murder which collapsed due to lack of evidence. Clunis had gone through many mental hospitals, sometimes showing positive progress in medication and other times posing a threat to other patients, thus resulting in seclusion. In other instances, Clunis would disappear from the mental care institutions and would be found in a worse state wandering the streets. Despite his medical condition and threat to society, Christopher Clunis was always discharged from the mental hospitals and his cases not followed through.

In regard to his story, Clunis’s life seems to be shaped by his surroundings. According to the doctors, Christopher’s condition was influenced by his mother’s death when he was young. Other than the effect on Christopher’s life, the story also influenced the lives of the public with most people viewing mentally ill patients as a threat to society. The fact that Clunis was not given appropriate care is a clear indication of why his life took its course as reported. He was always discharged from hospital, despite his level of illness. This is a good example of a social factor that affected the life of Christopher Clunis.

It is after this incident that reports given by the media influenced people’s attitude towards the state and sense of security in the area. Negative attitudes arose towards mentally ill patients who were viewed as murderers. The case also brought to light ignorance by people who are in charge in hospitals and also the security system due to ignoring previous murder cases concerning Christopher Clunis.

The reasoning ability of individuals in a society, as well as the knowledge they possess is influenced by their interaction and the ideas shared. In light of Peter and Thomas’s book concerning social construction, an individual’s character is influenced by his or her social life rather than the individual alone. Social construction involves the influence of humans on bringing about social standards that are considered acceptable. The standards may not be a reality, but are ideas that have been taken in by society and been created by others. For instance, the attitude of people on gender roles is a clear example of social construction (Luckmann,61, 2011).

Social constructionism

Despite the biological difference that defines gender, human beings have added to the differentiation by coming up with roles for specific genders. This, therefore, affects how an individual will behave, regardless of the fact that it is not a natural aspect. This goes hand in hand with different cultures which shape society. Individuals’ behaviours are affected by their cultural beliefs and rules.  Despite the fact that the set standards have nothing to do with the natural aspects of society, they are accepted by the society, thus, creating a social reality. This is evident in religious beliefs of various groups of people, which affect their moral behaviour, hence influencing their actions and attitudes towards various issues.

In his book ‘Black skins, White masks’, Fanon brings about the attitude of a black individual towards a white individual. He points out the aspect of inferiority in light of an African trying to fit into the ways of a white individual. The racial division is clearly brought out, as the white man portrays a hateful and contemptuous attitude towards the ‘Negros’. This creates an attitude of self pity and self hate due to lack of appreciation by the other race. In addition to that, the individual develops a sense of minority. Due to this effect, the individual’s attitude towards the white man develops to hatred and this influences his or her actions. For instance, violence may be triggered for an individual that experiences that kind of racial neglect (Fanon,61, 1967).

Louis Althusser was a French Marxist who believed in communism. Althusser was a mentally ill patient, and his condition was even intensified by his participation in the war. Being a communist, Althusser joined the French Communist Party, which marked his support of Marxism. In his works, Louis Althusser shows the relation between Marxism and the political field. By relating political issues with Marxism, Louis Althusser influences different opinions in regard to capitalism and communism.

Religion of an individual may also be a contributor to the shaping of an individual’s character or the actions that the individual undertakes. In the book, ‘The alien and the alienist’, the authors describe religion as an escape from reality. It is stated that non-believers view that people involved in religion or those who are very religious are usually experiencing failure, in that the goals that they have set have not been achieved. An example given is the acceptance of black immigrants by the seventh day Adventist church in Britain. One of the attitudes of non-believers that are brought to light is that those who believe in religion are mentally ill, since they are involved in religion during times of hardships (Lipsedge,290, 1997).

Sociology has its own evolution, just like that of an organism, according to Herbert Spencer. He stated that the changing of social factors is from simple to more complex ones, just as it is seen in an organism. The simplicity of social life is when individuals set goals on improving their relationships and these then progresses, and eventually, peace and cohesion are achieved. This is achieved by social construction, which depends on individuals’ attitudes towards different aspects.

According to Spencer, a society ought to be free from evil for it to evolve to complexity. In addition to that, his theory states that there is no need for government involvement in the running of a society. This, he claims, is a source of slow evolution of a given society. Spencer adds that charity organisations and other departments involved in taking care of people with special needs in society is also a drawback to evolution. He attributes this to survival for the fittest which is also part of his theory (Samuel,140, 2008).

When compared to the case of Christopher Cluis, Spencer’s theory portrays a wide contradiction to the concerns raised regarding the case. In view of Christopher’s case, negligence of mentally ill people was an issue that raised great concern, since according to the society, these people posed a security threat. If Spencer’s theory was considered, the individuals would be a security threat not only to the society, but also to themselves. In addition to that, it would also be hard for a normal society to lack evil, hence this brushes off Spencer’s theory of having no evil in a society for it to progress.

Conclusion

To conclude, the character, attitudes, and behaviour of an individual and the society in large are determined by numerous factors, which are well explained in various theories and events. The development of an individual is not only physical, but also social, and it determines the person’s contribution to the success of the society. As it becomes evident in the various theories such as Erickson’s and Freud’s, people have different views on character development and growth. Such theories may have positive or negative implications on individuals, depending on the present position. For instance, individuals who may have negative attitudes and behaviours in light of what is stated in the theories, have a likelihood of not changing, especially if the problem seems to have come up when they were infants.

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