Character structure

From Academic Kids

A character structure is a constellation of enduring motivational and other traits that are manifested in the characteristic ways that an individual reacts to various kinds of challenges. The word "structure" indicates that these several characteristics and/or learned patterns of behavior are linked in such a way as to produce a state that can be highly resistant to change. The idea has its roots in the work of Sigmund Freud and several of his followers, the most important of whom (in this respect) are Wilhelm Reich and Erich Fromm. Among other important participants in the establishment of this concept must surely be counted Erik Erikson.

Among the earliest factors that determine an individual's eventual character structure are his or her genetic characteristics, the conditions under which gestation occurred, and early childhood nurture and education. A child who is well nurtured and taught in a relatively benign and consistent environment by loving adults who intend that the child should learn how to make objective appraisals regarding the environment will be likely to form a good character structure. On the other hand, a child whose nurture and/or education are not ideal, living in a treacherous environment and interacting with adults who do not take the long-term interests of the child to heart will be more likely to form a pattern of behavior that suits the child to avoid the challenges put forth by a malign social environment. The means that the child invents to make the best of a hostile environment may serve the child well while in that bad environment, but may also cause the child to react in inappropriate ways, ways damaging to his or her own interests, when interacting with people in a more ideal social context. Major trauma that occurs later in life, even in adulthood, can sometimes have a profound effect. See Post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the theory of Erich Fromm the character structure consists of character traits which combine themselves to specific character orientations. The individual character can similarly be described in structural regard as a typical combination of character traits and character orientations like the social character. Fromm notes that character structures develop in each individual to enable him or her to interact successfully within a given society may be very counter-productive when used in a different society. For instance, a Native American socialized in a tribal community that teaches cooperation rather than competition may face severe difficulties if events conspire to make him or her engage in commercial or other activities in the cut-throat world outside.

On-line Information

[The Legacy of Erich Fromm (|)]



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