IS it nature or nurture? Do kids grow the way they do primarily because of genetic endowment or is it the way they are reared? Do we have fixed personalities which we can do little to change or does personality change with age and circumstances?
Just a few years ago, Dr Stanley Greenspan, clinical professor of psychiatry and author of The Challenging Child (Millennium Books, $19.95) claimed that it's the combination of genes and the early and ongoing environment that shape the child's personality.
He lists five personality categories that can cause problems for parents: the hypersensitive or fearful style, the fearless, active style, the stubborn and defiant style, the withdrawn, tuned out, escape into fantasy style and the inattentive (ADD?) style.
These five dispositions, Dr Greenspan argues, might be innate tendencies but need not be disadvantages depending on the method of home management.
If parents can get to know their own child - their style, fears, loves, priorities, method of managing stress, problem solving style, favourite time to talk and their cuddly times, then the children can learn to feel good about themselves and to cope with their weaknesses or predispositions.
Knowing your own child does wonders for their self esteem too.
Parents are in a much better position to steer their children towards hobbies, sports or groups that need their style and talents so the kids feel their life was not a genetic gerrymander.
As Dr Greenspan reminds us, many of the qualities we value most - empathy, creativity, honour, the ability to love and trust - come from relationships, from how …