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Personality and Personality Development - An Overview

Every individual has his own characteristic way of behaving, responding to emotions, perceiving things
and looking at the world. No two individuals are similar.

You might like going out for parties but your friend might prefer staying back at home reading his/her
favourite book. It is really not necessary that if you like partying around, your friend will also like the same.
Here comes the role of personality.

What an individual sees in his childhood days and most importantly his/her growing days form his
personality. How an individual is raised plays an important role in shaping his/her personality.

Personality is nothing but the aggregate conglomeration of memories and incidents in an

individual’s entire life span. Environmental factors, family background, financial conditions, genetic
factors, situations and circumstances also contribute to an individual’s personality.

In a layman’s language, how we behave in our day to day lives reflects our personality. How an individual
behaves depends on his family background, upbringing, social status and so on. An individual with a
troubled childhood would not open up easily. He/she would always hesitate to open his heart in front of
others. Some kind of fear would always be there within him. An individual who never had any major
problems in life would be an extrovert and would never have issues interacting and socializing with
others. You really can’t blame an individual for not being an extrovert. It is essential to check his/her
background or past life. It is quite possible that as a child, he was not allowed to go out of his home, play
and freak out with friends. These individuals start believing that their home is their only world and they are
not safe outside. Such a mindset soon becomes their personality.

Personality also influences what we think, our beliefs, values and expectations. What we think
about others depends on our personality.

In a layman’s language personality is defined as the personal qualities and characteristics of an

individual. Personality is how we interact with others. Personality is a sum of characteristics of an
individual which makes him different from the others. It is our personality which makes us unique and
helps us stand apart from the crowd.

Determinants of Personality
Following are the factors which help in shaping one’s personality:

1. Heredity - Heredity refers to factors that are determined once an individual is born. An
individual’s physique, attractiveness, body type, complexion, body weight depend on his/her
parents biological makeup.
2. Environment - The environment to which an individual is subjected to during his growing years
plays an important role in determining his/her personality. The varied cultures in which we are
brought up and our family backgrounds have a crucial role in shaping our personalities.
3. Situation - An individual’s personality also changes with current circumstances and situations. An
individual would behave in a different way when he has enough savings with him and his
behavior would automatically change when he is bankrupt.

An individual’s appearance, character, intelligence, attractiveness, efficiency, style determine his/her


What is Personality Development?

Personality development is defined as a process of developing and enhancing one’s personality.
Personality development helps an individual to gain confidence and high self-esteem.

Personality development also is said to have a positive impact on one’s communication skills and the way
he sees the world. Individuals tend to develop a positive attitude as a result of personality development.

Importance of Personality Development

An individual’s personality refers to his/her appearance, characteristics, attitude, mindset and behavior
with others.

Let us go through the importance of personality development.

Personality development grooms an individual and helps him make a mark of his/her own.
Individuals need to have a style of their own for others to follow them. Do not blindly copy others. You
need to set an example for people around. Personality development not only makes you look good and
presentable but also helps you face the world with a smile.

Personality development goes a long way in reducing stress and conflicts. It encourages individuals
to look at the brighter sides of life. Face even the worst situations with a smile. Trust me, flashing your
trillion dollar smile will not only melt half of your problems but also evaporate your stress and worries.
There is no point cribbing over minor issues and problems.

Personality development helps you develop a positive attitude in life. An individual with a negative
attitude finds a problem in every situation. Rather than cribbing and criticizing people around, analyze the
whole situation and try to find an appropriate solution for the same. Remember, if there is a problem,
there has to be a solution as well. Never lose your cool. It would make the situation worse.

It is essential for individuals to behave well with people around. Being polite with others will not only make
you popular among other people but also earn you respect and pride. You can’t demand respect by being
rude with people around. Personality development plays an important role in developing not only your
outer but also inner self. Human being is a social animal. One needs people around. An individual needs
to have that magnetic power which attracts people towards him. You need to have that charisma of yours.
Personality development helps you gain recognition and acceptance from the society as well as people

Personality development plays an essential role not only in an individual’s professional but also personal
lives. It makes an individual disciplined, punctual and an asset for his/her organization. An in-disciplined
individual finds it difficult to survive in the long run. Personality development teaches you to respect not
only your Boss and fellow workers but also family members, friends, neighbours, relatives and so on.
Never make fun of anyone at the workplace. Avoid criticizing and making fun of your fellow workers.

One should never carry his/her attitude or personal grudges to work. Office is not a place where you can
be rude to others just because you had a fight with your friend last night. Personality development
sessions help you differentiate between your personal as well as professional life. It is really essential to
keep a balance between both the lives to lead a peaceful and stress free life.

Personality development helps an individual to inculcate positive qualities like punctuality,

flexible attitude, willingness to learn, friendly nature, eagerness to help others and so on. Never
hesitate to share information with others. Always reach office on time. Some people have a tendency to
work till late. Late sittings not only increase your stress levels but also spoil your personal life. Sitting till
late at the office indicates that an individual is extremely poor in time management skills.

Personality development helps you develop an impressive personality and makes you stand apart from
the rest. Personality development also plays an essential role in improving one’s communication skills.
Individuals ought to master the art of expressing their thoughts and feelings in the most desired way.
Personality development makes you a confident individual who is appreciated and respected wherever he

Personality Development Tips

Let us go through some tips for enhancing one’s personality:

 Smile a lot- Nothing works better than a big smile when it comes to interacting with people
around. Do not forget to flash your trillion dollar smile quite often. Believe me, it works! As they
say “a smile is a curve that sets everything straight”. A smiling face wins even the toughest soul.
Wear your smile while interacting with others. Smile not only helps in enhancing an individual’s
personality but also winning other’s heart.
 Think positive- It is really essential to think positive. Remember there is light at the end of every
dark tunnel. Do not always think negative as it not only acts as a demotivating factor but also
makes an individual dull and frustrated. Don’t get upset over minor things. Be a little flexible and
always look at the broader perspectives of life.
 Dress Sensibly- Dressing sensibly and smartly go a long way in honing one’s personality. One
needs to dress according to the occasion. How would a female look if she wears a sari to a
discotheque? Obviously ridiculous! No matter how expensive your sari is, you can’t wear it to a
night club or a pub where everyone is dressed in smart casuals. Price has nothing to do with
smart dressing. An individual who is well dressed is respected and liked by all. No one
would take you seriously if you do not wear suitable clothes fitting with occasions. Do take care of
the fit of the dress as well. An individual should wear clothes as per his/her body type, height,
physique and so on. Someone who is bulky would not look very impressive in body hugging
clothes. It is not necessary that something which looks good on your friend would also look good
on you. Wear the right make up. You do not have to apply loud make up to look good and
attractive. Even minimal make up, if applied sensibly can really make you stand apart from the
 Be soft-spoken- Do not always find faults in others. Fighting and quarrelling lead to no solution.
Be polite with others. Be very careful of what you speak. Avoid being rude and short tempered.
 Leave your ego behind- An individual needs to hide his ego everywhere he goes. Be it office or
workplace you need to leave your ego behind if you wish to win appreciation from others. An
individual who is good from within is loved by all.
 Avoid Backbiting- Backstabbing and criticizing people are negative traits which work
against an individual’s personality. Learn to appreciate others. If someone has done some
extraordinary task, do not forget to give a pat on his/her back. Believe me; the other person will
speak high of you even when you are not around. Do not spread unnecessary rumours about
someone. An individual should not try to interfere too much in someone’s personal life.
Dishonesty, cheating, lies tarnish your image and people start avoiding you in the long run. If your
friend is seeing someone, you have absolutely no rights to make his/her affair national news.
 Help others- Do not always think of harming others. Share whatever you know. Remember no
one can steal your knowledge. Always help others.
 Confidence- Confidence is the key to a positive personality. Exude confidence and positive aura
wherever you go.
 A Patient listener- Be a patient listener. Never interrupt when others are speaking. Try to imbibe
good qualities of others.

Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers

American psychologist Abraham Maslow furthered an idea that Freud brought into
the mainstream: At least some aspects or drivers of personality are buried deep within
the unconscious mind.

Maslow hypothesized that

personality is driven by a set of
needs that each human has. He
organized these needs into a
hierarchy, with each level requiring
fulfillment before a higher level can
be fulfilled.

The pyramid is organized from bottom to top (pictured to the right), beginning with
the most basic need (McLeod, 2007):

 Physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest);

 Safety needs (security, safety);
 Belongingness and love needs (intimate relationships, friends);
 Esteem needs (prestige and feelings of accomplishment);
 Self-actualization needs (achieving one’s full potential, self-fulfillment).

Maslow believed that all humans aim to fulfill these needs, usually in order from the
most basic to the most transcendent, and that these motivations result in the behaviors
that make up a personality.

Carl Rogers, another American psychologist, built upon Maslow’s work, agreeing
that all humans strive to fulfill needs, but Rogers disagreed that there is a one-way
relationship between striving toward need fulfillment and personality. Rogers believed
that the many different methods humans use to meet these needs spring from
personality, rather than the other way around.

Rogers’ contributions to the field of personality research signaled a shift in thinking

about personality. Personality was starting to be seen as a collection of traits and
characteristics that were not necessarily permanent rather than a single, succinct
construct that can be easily described.

Multiple Personality Traits

In the 1940s, German-born psychologist Hans Eysenck built off of Jung’s dichotomy
of introversion versus extroversion, hypothesizing that there were only two
defining personality traits: extroversion and neuroticism. Individuals could be high
or low on each of these traits, leading to four key types of personalities.

Eysenck also connected personality to the physical body in a greater way than most
earlier psychology researchers and philosophers. He posited that differences in the
limbic system resulted in varying hormones and hormonal activation. Those who were
already highly stimulated (introverts) would naturally seek out less stimulation while
those who were naturally less stimulated (extroverts) would search for greater

Eysenck’s thoroughness in connecting the body to the mind and personality pushed
the field toward a more scientific exploration of personality based on objective
evidence rather than solely philosophical musings.

American psychologist Lewis Goldberg may be the most prominent researcher in the
field of personality psychology. His groundbreaking work whittled down Raymond
Cattell’s 16 “fundamental factors” of personality into five primary factors, similar to
the five factors found by fellow psychology researchers in the 1960s.

The five factors Goldberg identified as primary factors of personality are:

1. Extroversion
2. Agreeableness
3. Conscientiousness
4. Neuroticism
5. Openness to experience

This five-factor model caught the attention of two other renowned personality
researchers, Paul Costa and Robert McCrae, who confirmed the validity of this model.
This model was named the “Big Five” and launched thousands of explorations of
personality within its framework, across multiple continents and cultures and with a
wide variety of populations.

The Big Five brings us right up to the current era in personality research. The Big
Five theory still holds sway as the prevailing theory of personality, but some salient
aspects of current personality research include:

 Conceptualizing traits on a spectrum instead of as dichotomous variables;

 Contextualizing personality traits (exploring how personality shifts based on
environment and time);
 Emphasizing the biological bases of personality and behavior.

Since the Big Five is still the most mainstream and widely accepted framework for
personality, the rest of this piece will focus exclusively on this framework.

OCEAN: The Five Factors

As noted above, the five factors grew out of decades of personality research, growing
from the foundations of Cattell’s 16 factors and eventually becoming the most
accepted model of personality to date. This model has been translated into several
languages and applied in dozens of cultures, resulting in research that not only
confirms its validity as a theory of personality but also establishes its validity on an
international level.

These five factors do not provide completely exhaustive explanations of personality,

but they are known as the Big Five because they encompass a large portion of
personality-related terms. The five factors are not necessarily traits in and of
themselves, but factors in which many related traits and characteristics fit.

For example, the factor agreeableness encompasses terms like generosity, amiability,
and warmth on the positive side and aggressiveness and temper on the negative side.
All of these traits and characteristics (and many more) make up the broader factor of

Below, we’ll explain each factor in more detail and provide examples and related
terms to help you get a sense of what aspects and quirks of personality these factors

A popular acronym for the Big Five is OCEAN. The five factors are laid out in that
order here.

1. Openness to Experience

Openness to experience has been described

as the depth and complexity of an
individual’s mental life and experiences
(John & Srivastava, 1999). It is also
sometimes called intellect or imagination.

Openness to experience concerns people’s willingness to try to new things, their

ability to be vulnerable, and their capability to think outside the box.

Common traits related to openness to experience include:

 Imagination;
 Insightfulness;
 Varied interests;
 Originality;
 Daringness;
 Preference for variety;
 Cleverness;
 Creativity;
 Curiosity;
 Perceptiveness;
 Intellect;
 Complexity/depth.

An individual who is high in openness to experience is likely someone who has a love
of learning, enjoys the arts, engages in a creative career or hobby, and likes meeting
new people (Lebowitz, 2016a).

An individual who is low in openness to experience probably prefers routine over

variety, sticks to what he or she knows, and prefers less abstract arts and

2. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is a trait that can be described as the tendency to control impulses

and act in socially acceptable ways, behaviors that facilitate goal-directed behavior
(John & Srivastava, 1999). Conscientious people excel in their ability to delay
gratification, work within the rules, and plan and organize effectively.

Traits within the conscientiousness factor include:

 Persistence;
 Ambition;
 Thoroughness;
 Self-discipline;
 Consistency;
 Predictability;
 Control;
 Reliability;
 Resourcefulness;
 Hard work;
 Energy;
 Perseverance;
 Planning.

People high in conscientiousness are likely to be successful in school and in their

careers, to excel in leadership positions, and to doggedly pursue their goals with
determination and forethought (Lebowitz, 2016a).

People low in conscientiousness are much more likely to procrastinate and to be

flighty, impetuous, and impulsive.

3. Extroversion

This factor has two familiar ends of its spectrum: extroversion and introversion. It
concerns where an individual draws their energy from and how they interact with
others. In general, extroverts draw energy from or recharge by interacting with others,
while introverts get tired from interacting with others and replenish their energy with

 Sociableness;
 Assertiveness;
 Merriness;
 Outgoing nature;
 Energy;
 Talkativeness;
 Ability to be articulate;
 Fun-loving nature;
 Tendency for affection;
 Friendliness;
 Social confidence.

The traits associated with extroversion are:

People high in extroversion tend to seek out opportunities for social interaction, where
they are often the “life of the party.” They are comfortable with others, are gregarious,
and are prone to action rather than contemplation (Lebowitz, 2016a).

People low in extroversion are more likely to be people “of few words who are quiet,
introspective, reserved, and thoughtful.

4. Agreeableness

This factor concerns how well people get along with others. While extroversion
concerns sources of energy and the pursuit of interactions with others, agreeableness
concerns one’s orientation to others. It is a construct that rests on how an individual
generally interacts with others.

The following traits fall under the umbrella of agreeableness:

 Altruism;
 Trust;
 Modesty;
 Humbleness;
 Patience;
 Moderation;
 Tact;
 Politeness;
 Kindness;

 Loyalty
 Unselfishness;
 Helpfulness;
 Sensitivity;
 Amiability;
 Cheerfulness;
 Consideration.

People high in agreeableness tend to be well-liked, respected, and sensitive to the

needs of others. They likely have few enemies and are affectionate to their friends and
loved ones, as well as sympathetic to the plights of strangers (Lebowitz, 2016a).

People on the low end of the agreeableness spectrum are less likely to be trusted and
liked by others. They tend to be callous, blunt, rude, ill-tempered, antagonistic, and
sarcastic. Although not all people who are low in agreeableness are cruel or abrasive,
they are not likely to leave others with a warm fuzzy feeling.

5. Neuroticism

Neuroticism is not a factor of meanness or incompetence, but one of confidence and

being comfortable in one’s own skin. It encompasses one’s emotional stability and
general temper.

These traits are commonly associated with neuroticism:

 Awkwardness;
 Pessimism;
 Moodiness;
 Jealousy;
 Testiness;
 Fear;
 Nervousness;
 Anxiety;
 Timidness;
 Wariness;
 Self-criticism;
 Lack of confidence;
 Insecurity;

 Instability;
 Oversensitivity.

Those high in neuroticism are generally prone to anxiety, sadness, worry, and low
self-esteem. They may be temperamental or easily angered, and they tend to be self-
conscious and unsure of themselves (Lebowitz, 2016a).

Individuals who score on the low end of neuroticism are more likely to feel confident,
sure of themselves, and adventurous. They may also be brave and unencumbered by
worry or self-doubt.

Nature vs. Nurture

Developmental psychology seeks to understand the influence of genetics (nature) and environment
(nurture) on human development.


o A significant issue in developmental psychology has been the relationship between

the innateness of an attribute (whether it is part of our nature) and the
environmental effects on that attribute (whether it is derived from or influenced by
our environment, or nurture).
o Today, developmental psychologists rarely take polarized positions with regard to
most aspects of development; instead, they investigate the relationship
between innate and environmental influences.
o The biopsychosocial model states that biological, psychological, and social factors
all play a significant role in human development.
o Environmental inputs can affect the expression of genes, a relationship called gene-
environment interaction. An individual’s genes and their environment work together,
communicating back and forth to create traits.
o The diathesis–stress model serves to explore how biological or genetic traits
(diatheses) interact with environmental influences (stressors) to produce disorders,
such as depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia.


 genotypeThat part (DNA sequence) of the genetic makeup of a cell, and therefore of an
organism or individual, which determines a specific characteristic (phenotype) of that
 heritabilityThe ratio of the genetic variance of a population to its phenotypic variance;
i.e., the proportion of variability that is genetic in origin.

 geneA unit of heredity; a segment of DNA or RNA that is transmitted from one generation
to the next and carries genetic information such as the sequence of amino acids for a
 traitAn identifying characteristic, habit, or trend.
 innateInborn; native; natural.

Developmental Psychology
Developmental psychology is the scientific study of changes that occur in human beings
over the course of their lives. This field examines change and development across a
broad range of topics, such as motor skills and other psycho-physiological
processes; cognitive development involving areas like problem solving, moral and
conceptual understanding; language acquisition; social, personality, and emotional
development; and self-concept and identity formation. Developmental psychology
explores the extent to which development is a result of gradual accumulation of
knowledge or stage-like development, as well as the extent to which children are born
with innate mental structures as opposed to learning through experience.

Nature Versus Nurture

A significant issue in developmental psychology is the relationship between the
innateness of an attribute (whether it is part of our nature) and the environmental effects
on that attribute (whether it is influenced by our environment, or nurture). This is often
referred to as the nature vs. nurture debate, or nativism vs. empiricism.

 A nativist (“nature”) account of development would argue that the processes in question
are innate and influenced by an organism’s genes. Natural human behavior is seen as the
result of already-present biological factors, such as genetic code.
 An empiricist (“nurture”) perspective would argue that these processes are acquired
through interaction with the environment. Nurtured human behavior is seen as the result
of environmental interaction, which can provoke changes in brain structure and chemistry.
For example, situations of extreme stress can cause problems like depression.

The nature vs. nurture debate seeks to understand how our personalities and traits are
produced by our genetic makeup and biological factors, and how they are shaped by
our environment, including our parents, peers, and culture. For instance, why do
biological children sometimes act like their parents? Is it because of genetic similarity, or
the result of the early childhood environment and what children learn from their parents?

Interaction Of Genes And The Environment

Today, developmental psychologists rarely take such polarized positions (either/or) with
regard to most aspects of development; instead, they investigate the relationship
between innate and environmental influences (both/and). Developmental psychologists

will often use the biopsychosocial model to frame their research: this model states that
biological, psychological, and social (socio-economical, socio-environmental, and
cultural) factors all play a significant role in human development.

We are all born with specific genetic traits inherited from our parents, such as eye color,
height, and certain personality traits. Beyond our basic genotype, however, there is a
deep interaction between our genes and our environment: our unique experiences in
our environment influence whether and how particular traits are expressed, and at the
same time, our genes influence how we interact with our environment (Diamond, 2009;
Lobo, 2008). There is a reciprocal interaction between nature and nurture as they both
shape who we become, but the debate continues as to the relative contributions of

Heritability refers to the origin of differences among people; it is a concept in biology

that describes how much of the variation of a trait in a population is due to genetic
differences in that population. Individual development, even of highly heritable traits
such as eye color, depends not only on heritability but on a range of environmental
factors, such as the other genes present in the organism and the temperature and
oxygen levels during development. Environmental inputs can affect the expression of
genes, a relationship called gene-environment interaction. Genes and the environment
work together, communicating back and forth to create traits.

Some concrete behavioral traits are dependent upon one’s environment, home, or
culture, such as the language one speaks, the religion one practices, and the political
party one supports. However, some traits which reflect underlying talents and
temperaments—such as how proficient at a language, how religious, or how liberal or
conservative—can be partially heritable.

This chart illustrates three patterns one might see when studying the influence of genes
and environment on individual traits. Each of these traits is measured and compared
between monozygotic (identical) twins, biological siblings who are not twins, and
adopted siblings who are not genetically related. Trait A shows a high
sibling correlation but little heritability (illustrating the importance of environment). Trait
B shows a high heritability, since the correlation of the trait rises sharply with the degree
of genetic similarity. Trait C shows low heritability as well as low correlation generally,
suggesting that the degree to which individuals display trait C has little to do with either
genes or predictable environmental factors.

Heritability Estimates

This chart illustrates three patterns one might see when studying the influence of genes
and environment on individual traits. Typically, monozygotic twins will have a high
correlation of sibling traits, while biological siblings will have less in common, and
adoptive siblings will have less than that. However, this can vary widely by trait.

Diathesis-Stress Model
The diathesis–stress model is a psychological theory that attempts to explain behavior
as a predispositional vulnerability together with stress from life experiences. The
term diathesis derives from the Greek term for disposition, or vulnerability, and it can
take the form of genetic, psychological, biological, or situational factors. The diathesis,
or predisposition, interacts with the subsequent stress response of an individual.
Stress refers to a life event or series of events that disrupt a person’s psychological
equilibrium and potentially serve as a catalyst to the development of a disorder. Thus,
the diathesis–stress model serves to explore how biological or genetic traits (diatheses)
interact with environmental influences (stressors) to produce disorders, such as
depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia.

Psychosocial Theory

Now, let’s turn to a less controversial psychodynamic theorist, the father of

developmental psychology, Erik Erikson.

The Ego Rules

Erik Erikson (1902-1994) was a student of Freud’s and expanded on his theory of
psychosexual development by emphasizing the importance of culture in parenting
practices and motivations and adding three stages of adult development (Erikson, 1950;
1968). He believed that we are aware of what motivates us throughout life and the ego
has greater importance in guiding our actions than does the Id. We make conscious
choices in life and these choices focus on meeting certain social and cultural needs
rather than purely biological ones. Humans are motivated, for instance, by the need to
feel that the world is a trustworthy place, that we are capable individuals, that we can
make a contribution to society, and that we have lived a meaningful life. These are all
psychosocial problems. Erikson divided the life span into eight stages. In each stage,
we have a major psychosocial task to accomplish or crisis to overcome. Erikson
believed that our personality continues to take shape throughout our life span as we
face these challenges in living. We will discuss each of these stages in length as we
explore each period of the life span, but here is a brief overview:

Psychosocial Stages
1. Trust vs. mistrust (0-1): the infant must have basic needs met in a consistent way in
order to feel that the world is a trustworthy place
2. Autonomy vs. shame and doubt (1-2): mobile toddlers have newfound freedom they
like to exercise and by being allowed to do so, they learn some basic independence

3. Initiative vs. Guilt (3-5): preschoolers like to initiate activities and emphasize doing
things “all by myself”
4. Industry vs. inferiority (6-11): school aged children focus on accomplishments and
begin making comparisons between themselves and their classmates
5. Identity vs. role confusion (adolescence): teenagers are trying to gain a sense of
identity as they experiment with various roles, beliefs, and ideas
6. Intimacy vs. Isolation (young adulthood): in our 20s and 30s we are making some of our
first long-term commitments in intimate relationships
7. Generativity vs. stagnation (middle adulthood): the 40s through the early 60s we focus
on being productive at work and home and are motivated by wanting to feel that we’ve
made a contribution to society
8. Integrity vs. Despair (late adulthood): we look back on our lives and hope to like what we
see-that we have lived well and have a sense of integrity because we lived according to
our beliefs.

These eight stages form a foundation for discussions on emotional and social
development during the life span. Keep in mind, however, that these stages or crises
can occur more than once. For instance, a person may struggle with a lack of trust
beyond infancy under certain circumstances. Erikson’s theory has been criticized for
focusing so heavily on stages and assuming that the completion of one stage is
prerequisite for the next crisis of development. His theory also focuses on the social
expectations that are found in certain cultures, but not in all. For instance, the idea that
adolescence is a time of searching for identity might translate well in the middle-class
culture of the United States, but not as well in cultures where the transition into
adulthood coincides with puberty through rites of passage and where adult roles offer
fewer choices.