Bandura (1986) contends that environmental events, personal characteristics, and behavior influence each other bidirectionally. Behavior is regulated by personal and environmental characteristics, environmental events are regulated by personal characteristics and behavior, and personal characteristics are influenced by environmental events and behavior. When environmental constraints are weak, personal characteristics exert greater influence on behavioral outcomes and when environmental constraints are strong, environmental factors tend to be more pertinent to behavior than personal factors. The relative impact and importance of each of these factors fluctuates over time and across situations and activities.
Bandura (1986) describes three types of environments. Imposed Environments are those that individuals experience whether they choose to or not (e.g., school). Personal characteristics exert little influence on the Imposed Environment. Selected Environments are those that we choose to experience (e.g., peer group) and thus, personal characteristics are highly influential in this domain. Finally, Constructed Environments are those that we create (e.g., contents of locker at school) and thus, are highly influenced by personal characteristics. The selected and constructed environments that we frequent are marked by our personal characteristics and behavior and likewise, these environments affect the reciprocal interplay between our personal characteristics and behavior.
There are similarities between the environmental component of Bandura's social cognitive theory and Scarr and McCartney's (1983) description of niche-selection and niche-building. Scarr and McCartney, though, emphasize developmental shifts in niche-building activity where initially in the developmental sequence, niche-building activities are mostly passive; participation in niche-building and niche-selection tends to become more active with development. For example, infants and most young children have limited input regarding the design of their environment and the specific items that are in their room. For infants and children, niche-building behavior is likely to be more passive than active. Many older children and adolescents, however, participate in the design of their bedrooms, thereby taking a more active role in niche-building.
Passive niche-building has been alluded to in studies of gender role development. Researchers have observed that parents tend to place vehicles, machines, and sports equipment in their male child's bedrooms, and dolls, doll accessories, and floral furnishings in their female child's rooms (Pomerlean, Bolduc, Malcuit, & Cossette, 1990). Likewise, Rheingold and Cook (1975) observed, among their sample of children age six and under, that none of the girls' rooms contained masculine type toys (e.g., vehicles, buses, front-end loaders) and none of the boys' rooms contained "doll houses" (p. 462). Rheingold and Cook concluded that gender differences in the type of toys located in infant and young children's rooms were largely a function of parental provision. These findings provide evidence of passive niche-building on the part of young children.
According to Scarr and McCartney (1983), age, and particularly the emergence of adolescence, promotes a shift from passive to active niche-building and selection. They attribute this shift to the adolescent's increased capacity to choose which environments to attend to and to learn from, including opportunities outside the immediate family context. Other factors that contribute to this shift include an emerging identity, increasing access to more and varied opportunity structures, and the growing importance of peer and media influence (Ibid).
Research on Personal Living Space (PLS) provides numerous examples of active niche-building that illustrate how personal characteristics influence the constructed environment. A PLS is "a room nestling within a larger residential setting while affording primary territory for a designated individual" (Gosling, Craik, Martin, & Pryor, 2005, p. …