Many suggestions have been made as to the origins of human personality. Is personality chiefly attributable to a person’s learned attributions about the social world? Is it contained within a person’s genes? This simple choice between nature and nurture is made more complex by the issue of temperament.
Even from infancy, children show substantial variability in their reactions to the environment. One child enjoys rough play, isn’t easily distracted, and seeks out new or thrilling events; a different child is fearful, is easily distractible, and cries when exposed to low levels of stimulating play. These reactions, along with their regulating mechanisms, constitute the child’s temperament. Mary K. Rothbart defines temperament as, “individual differences in emotional, motor, and attentional reactivity measured by latency, intensity, and recovery of response, and self-regulation processes such as effortful control that modulate reactivity.” These differences are biologically influenced and linked to a person’s genetic inheritance.
The study of temperament dates back thousands of years, but remains current through studies in molecular genetics. Environmental contributions to personality development can be seen in the methylation and histone modification of stress hormone receptors based of alternative rat mothering patterns. Working together, temperament and experience ‘‘develop’’ a personality, which includes an individual’s developing cognitions about self, others, and the social and physical world, in addition to his or her attitudes, values, and coping strategies.
Methylation and histone modifications can occur along segments of deoxyribonucleic acid capable of synthesizing a protein. What is the term for this unit of genetic information?
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