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Symonds, M. (1964). Timing as a Factor in Character Development. Am. J. Psychoanal., 24(2):202-205.

(1964). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 24(2):202-205

Timing as a Factor in Character Development

Martin Symonds, M.D.

In Preparing for tonight's meeting, I found myself reminiscing about the past. About thirty years ago I used to participate in many heated arguments about heredity and environment. At the time I believed all that mattered was environment. As I look back, those heated discussions never seemed to have any resolutions.

Tonight, with more experience and more humility, I shall explore my more recent thoughts on this subject, which were stimulated by the topic “The Influence of the Family Climate on the Development of Character Structure.” Through the use of clinical material I shall attempt to demonstrate this influence.

At the outset, let me state my position. I firmly believe that family climate influences character development. This should be no surprise since the majority of workers in this field believe this. Almost everyone states that character development is the resultant of forces from within and without. One notable exception is the behavioristic school of psychology. I quote from Dr. J. B. Watson, a leading proponent of this school of thought: “The behavorists believe there is nothing from within to develop.”1

The sixty-four thousand dollar question is what and how much is within the individual. Some have called this inner force instincts and a few have asserted that these instincts primarily determine character structure with the environment playing a minor role. Others have used the concept of temperament. Some have attempted to isolate the inner source in the endocrine system, and today a further refinement is taking place in the attempt to localize it in the nucleic acids.

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