Environmental Factors Affecting Growth and Development Environmental influences begin since the time of conception of the child into the womb of his mother. Mental, physical and emotional conditions of mother also influence the development of foetus in the womb. When child opens his eyes in the physical world, he immediately comes in contact with the environment. Since he takes birth in a society, he is also influenced by a number of social and cultural factors. The impact of some of these factors on his growth and development is given below:

1. Physical factors of the environment :

Physical and geographical conditions of the environment play an important role in shaping the personality of an individual. People living in deserts, hilly areas and plains have great difference in their body strength, height, structure, mode of living, habits etc. Climate of the region also affects the behaviour, body built and resistance to fight the environmental forces. For example, people living in Siberian region can tolerate lower degree of temperature than those who live in Indian sub continent. Personality traits are also determined by these environmental factors, for example, people living in African continent are more aggressive and get easily annoyed than those living in North America.

2. Family of the individual : Personality of an individual develops fully only when interaction between biological inheritance and environmental forces take place. Home is the first place of these interactions. Whatever early changes take place in the nature and pattern of personality formation in the initial life of an individual at home, they are generally upheld in the whole life. In the family, child comes in contact with his parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins. These people give full recognition to the child. They also respond him keeping his likes and dislikes. Several empirical evidences support that childhood experiences are decisive determinants of his personality in later life. For example, if a child is deprived of family love and other facilities, he may grow into either an aggressive or totally submissive person in future. Margarets Ribble in 1944 started a series of investigations on the effects of some psychological deprivations in infancy. She studied 600 children in this regard and concluded that lack of adequate cuddling and other close physical contact with some friendly adults can impose serious handicaps on the growing infants. Each and every characteristic of the family affects the personality of the child in future. We are taking here one more example of morale of the family. A low morale home does not present a good model before the child for imitation. Stort in 1939 on the basis of a questionnaire administered on 1800 adolescents concluded three things given below

Children coming from homes where good morale pattern dominated were better adjusted, more independent in thinking and action and more satisfactorily related to their parents than those who were average in this dimension. Adolescents who came from discarded and nagging families were poorly adjusted in the society. Economic factors also influence the development of personality. Poverty of parents and lack of money even to fulfil legitimate needs of their children led to certain kinds of frustrations in adolescents.

3. School : School is a miniature society in itself. Here individual stays for almost six hours daily in the early quarter period of his life. His personality is shaped by the school in the following ways.

  • School poses new problems before the child to be acquired and new models for imitation.
  • School provides new knowledge and expands the horizon of the child. These behavioural changes determine the pattern and direction of growth and development.
  • Social interaction with teachers, classmates and peers is possible in schools. These interaction also shape the personality of the individual.

4. Teacher : Teacher can play a very crucial role in shaping the personality of the individual. The way the teacher behaves and handles his students and the personality traits exhibited by him have an important effect on the future personality of students. He influences a child in the following ways.

The way the teacher carries out his role in the class will affect the emotional climate of the classroom. An authoritarian teacher will establish an autocratic climate and a democratic teacher will create a permissive climate in the classroom. Autocratic climate will tend to create aggression and bostility among students. If climate is democratic, it will develop constructive, thoughtful and cooperative behaviour among students. All good personality traits can be developed by democratic climate in the class. Because of this reason democratic dealing is preferred to autocratic dealing. The more a teacher is democratic in his attitude and behaviour, the more his students will be accommodative to others.

Studies have shown that children who repeatedly fail in the class are likely to be cruel, selfish, unfriendly, unhappy, impolite, boastful and quarrelsome. Thus, teacher tries to reduce the occurrence of failures in the class by his dedicated efforts.

Whatever model of character is presented by the teacher in the class, it is immediately copied down by the students. If teacher has ideal traits in him, students, are also likely to be idealistic.

5. Language : Language is the medium by which the society is structured and experiences of the race are transmitted from generation to generation. The child learns the languages of the society. He learns many experiences and knowledge by these languages. He also communicates the other members of the society by these languages. Thus, by these processes he becomes an integral part of the social environment.

6. Social roles : The word role has been derived from the theatre world. In theatres the actors play the role of different characters as the situation demands. Worlds is also a stage and human beings are just actors who play their respective roles. Man is a social animal. He comes in contact with different people in the society. As a result he has to play the role of a father, son, brother, friend, student etc. throughout his life at various stages of his development. Social roles are the process by which an individual interacts with other members of the society. Thus, social roles are the collection of behaviour and relevant attitudes towards others. These roles are learned by individuals through observation and imitation.

7. Self concept : Self concepts are the means by which we create our unique image and identity in the society. Self concept in the child is initiated by physical awareness. The other means of developing self concept are how we maintain our social status, how we dress ourselves and how we speak and respond to others. Self concept influences our personality development in two ways. The first is that if people hold us in high esteem, we feel exalted. And the second is that if others hold negative attitude towards us, it creates the feeling of worthlessness and it may lead to self defence or withdrawl from the social situation. If self concept is fully developed in an individual his rate of growth and development will be high.

8. Identification : Identification is the process by which we imitate the physical, social or mental characteristics of our model. When a boy identifies himself with his father by coping father’s behaviour it means that he wants to be like him. If identifying models are solid physically, mentally or socially, the identification process will also be solid and healthy.

9. Living standard : Physical and mental health of a person is directly related to his living standard. If he is getting nutritious food and sufficient amount of time for sports and exercise, his rate of development will be high. People of developed countries are found very advanced because of this reason.

10. Cultural heritage : Every society is identified by its cultural heritage which is transmitted from one generation to the next. The transmission of cultural heritage may also be termed as social heredity. The personality of an individual is gradually shaped by the culture he is born in. .

E.R. Tyler defined culture in the following words.

“It is that complex whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, morals law, customs and many other capabilities (skills) and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”

Thus, culture refers to total life activities of a society. Whatever a person learns from the society by the process of interaction is called culture. In other words, what the people think. feel and do constitute the culture of a society. Biological inheritance is more or less the same all over the world but whatever differences are seen in the process of growth and development of personality among individuals it is because of the differences of social inheritance (culture). We can easily identify people reared in different cultures by the personality patterns they possess. English, Africans, Arabs and Indians can be identified by their cultural background more than by their biological heredity. 

No single culture dominates in big countries. Sub cultures within the culture is also seen which brings about social conflicts. This conflict distorts the personality of individuals as well. Culture or sub cultures are silent educators and they mould the personality of individuals very silently. 

The influence of cultural forces is so powerful that if three identical twins of a Hindu family are reared in three different cultures such as houses of Muslims, Christians and jews, the impact of their respective cultures will produce three distinct type of personality. These twins will not have any thing of their original Hindu culture.

The influence of culture can also be understood by the following words:

“Culture regulates our lives at every turn. From the moment we are born until we die, whether we are conscious of it or not, constant pressure on us forces us to follow certain types of behaviour that other men have created for us”.

Culture influences the personality development of an individual in the following ways:

Ideas, values, beliefs, customs and traditions are internationalized through the process of learning. A child who takes birth in a particular culture is reared in that very culture. He learns ideas, beliefs, values, customs etc. of his society and thus he acquires distinctive personality characteristics in the process.

Various cultures are propagated by various institutions. When individual takes part in these activities actively or in a passive manner, he gets attached to these cultural institutions. Thus, his culture is institutionalized. This is the second stage of culture formation. When culture of a region reaches this stage it becomes very difficult to wipe it out by other cultures.