Personality development and assessment

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Reviews the book, Personality Development and Assessment by Charles M. Harsh and H. G. Schrickel (see record 1950-05116-000). Books carrying the word ‘personality’ in the title might be distributed along two intersecting axes. The first axis represents the continuum of originality. At one pole stand books which further knowledge and advance new theories. At the other pole are texts which attempt to survey the field for the benefit of undergraduates; their function is didactic rather than creative. The second axis represents the degree of stress on personal adjustment. At one pole are books which propose to help the student solve his own problems. At the other pole are books which give a nonevaluative account of underlying dynamics and their overt manifestations. Harsh and Schrickel's Personality Development and Assessment may be localized in this field as a straightforward undergraduate text. It describes various aspects, of personality development from an eclectic point of view, without assuming the mental hygiene approach. No original material is introduced. The compendium of possibilities is divided into sections chronologically. Within each age-level the different psychological aspects are treated one after another. The material is presented with a minimum of systematization. Probably for sheer bulk of description, this text surpasses all others in its field. Often it makes fascinating reading; examples are brought in from other cultures, specific experimental findings are summarized, and the instances drawn from daily life ring true. Unfortunately, in this sort of presentation, fundamental dynamics tend to be split up into serial sections, and their longitudinal effects are lost. In science, parsimony is often gained through subsumption. Perhaps it would have been better if the authors could have dissected out certain of the recurrent phenomena and used them as bones upon which to range the flesh of their examples, a few from each stage, presented so as to show continuity throughout the stages. Throughout the book there is no systematic presentation of the role of unconscious motivation. The final third of the book summarizes leading theories of personality, and gives several chapters to the methodology used by these theories in particular and by the various branches of applied psychology in general. The presentation of each theory is rather truncated. In summary, this book must be evaluated primarily as a text for undergraduates. On the positive side of the ledger, it contains a rather complete compendium of ‘things that happen’ at each stage of personality development. The style captivates the reader. The experimental material is unobtrusively worked into the body of the text. Cross cultural comparisons are stressed. On the negative side of the ledger, the presentation is molecular and disorganized. The student may lose his way among the specific phenomena and fail to grasp the essential continuity of dynamics. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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