Can a Bad Influence Affect a Child's Personality?

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Bad influences a child encounters can affect his personality, and can lead to emotional problems, risky behaviors, and problems with family and social relationships throughout life. A March 2004 article published for the American Psychology Association's “Monitor on Psychology,” points out that while genetics are a factor in a child developing a personality disorder, environmental influences can play a role. Recently, researchers are leaning more toward a relationship between the two.


Watching too much television can be a bad influence on a child, particularly watching programs that portray violence and show TV characters involved in risky behaviors. According to the American Psychological Association, the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, along with the National Institute of Mental Health's report that watching violence on television can negatively impact a child's personality. Research shows that repeated exposure to violent programming can make a child more likely to act aggressively toward others or desensitize her so that she shows less empathy for other people's problems. Some children become more afraid because they see the world as a dangerous place.

Video Games

Like inappropriate television programs, video games can have a negative impact on children, as well. Many action-adventure video games expose a child to violence and aggressive behavior. Some focus on horror, which can frighten children or blur the line between realty and make believe. The APA reports that studies conducted by psychologist Dr. Craig A. Anderson from Iowa State University show that playing violent video games can increase a child's aggressive thoughts and can lead to aggressive behaviors. The findings of a 2000 study led by Anderson suggests that playing violent video games may actually have an even greater effect on a child than watching violent television programs or movies. Unlike television, video games are interactive, and assign the player to the role of the aggressor.

Bad Language

In a 2012 article titled "Will Swearing Harm Your Child?" in “Psychology Today,” Dr. Ronald E. Riggio, an expert in organizational and social psychology, points out that while there hasn’t been much research on whether exposure to profane language is harmful to a child, it’s more likely that the reason why someone swears has more of an effect. For example, swearing in the context of verbal abuse could be harmful to a child. However, in an article published by the Association for Psychological Science's "Observer," authors Timothy Jay and Kristin Janschewitz say their research suggests swearing does not usually lead to negative consequences and generally is not seen as being harmful. The researchers recorded more than 10,000 incidents of public swearing.

Childhood Trauma

Although depression runs in families, which genetically predisposes some children to depressive disorders, the death of a parent or other early childhood trauma can also lead to depression, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Children who are physically, emotionally or sexually abused, those who are neglected or feel rejected and those who witness domestic violence often experience feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, anger and guilt. Life experiences such as the loss of a nurturing adult, family dysfunction or living with a depressed parent can contribute to a child’s outlook on life, potentially diminishing her self-esteem and affecting the way she handles hher feelings. An article first published in the February 2002 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter explains that depressed preschoolers often have a tendency to experience phobias, whereas early school-age children who are depressed can sometimes behave aggressively. Depression in adolescents may come out as delinquent behavior, and can include drug and alcohol abuse.