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Personality Assessment Models

Personality, a key constituency of individuals has attracted varied definitions, for example, Funder (2001, cited in Mroczek and Little, 2006, p.108) defines personality as those characteristics which individuals possess and which manifest in terms of thought, emotion and behavior together with the psychological mechanisms that are either hidden or not. This involves those characteristics that are more ascriptive to individuals, stable over time, and largely psychological. On the other hand, Allport (1937) gives a different view of the concept of personality. He sees personality to constitute various distinct meanings and as a result, personality cannot be described unilaterally. He synthesizes the definition of personality and states that “personality is the dynamic organization within the individuals of those psychophysical systems that determine his or her unique adjustments to his or her environment” (Mroczek and Little, 2006, p.108). Therefore, personality development can be said to be the sequential process that follows certain emotional, cognitive, social, and contextual changes, phases, and stages over time.

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James Madison (1751-1836)

James Madison, the fourth president of the USA was born in 1751 at the homestead of his maternal grandmother which is opposite Port Royal, in southern parts of Virginia. His parents’ house was situated in Orange country were James Madison came to reside most of his time. Madison came to beautify his parents’ house which resonated well with the beauty of the scenery and the purity of the air, the two elements that came to characterize Madison’s fundamental beliefs in championing the American cause. Madison’s parents were active in the church, for instance, his mother was a stalwart of her local parish and one of the few people who remained in the church when it disintegrated. On the other hand, his father was a vestryman of the church and opposed attempts for Baptists to use the neighborhood and to which James Madison did not like. Taking a stand for religious dissenters and supporting them, James Madison cultivated an image of “his own man” and later, politics enabled him to act to “right or wrong”.

Madison went through the usual elementary education and was taught by Donald Robertson, who was a renowned teacher in the region. Later Madison studied under Reverend Thomas Martin, who was an established parish minister of the Church of England and also a family friend of the Madison’s. From an early age, Madison developed a learning culture that was to characterize his public life, for instance, it is said how he retained a lively recollection of learning of his college instructor Dr. Wotherspoon, where he often indulged in sprightly narrative and imitation by playfully repeating the doctor’s curious remarks (Lohman, 1838, p.178). While still at college, Madison’s health deteriorated due to what was termed as over-ardent study. Although he was released to go home, Madison had laid a deep foundation of those attainments, habits, and principles which gradually started to define his personality in life. With ruined health, he never abandoned books but continued with his extensive and systematic reading, although trained in law he had little concern for it. He trusted most his reasoning conviction than education literature and this was manifested in his every affected purpose where he relied on reason alone to propagate it despite opposition or lack of support for it.

Madison had strong early life enculturation of strong impressions in favor of liberty, both civil and religious, which characterized his zeal for the American cause in his life. For example, the early persecution of Baptist preachers impacted strongly on the personality of Madison. When in 1776 he was first elected to the Virginia Convection, his immediate task was to see the freedom of conscience exercised and as a result, he influenced the wording of the Declaration of Rights on religious freedom to read as “the entitlement to free exercise of religion” and which he believed was a right of everyone (Vile, 2008, p.26). Throughout his political life, Madison’s religious liberty remained his greatest concern, and addressing state in his last message as the president in 1816, Madison articulated his appreciation for the devotion to true liberty by the people of America and to the government that had foreseen and promoted “purity of elections, the freedom of speech and press, the trial by jury and the equal interdict against encroachments and compacts between religion and the state” (Vile, 2008, p.26). Writing about Madison, Ralph Ketcham noted that throughout Madison, “religious liberty stands out as the one subject upon which Madison took an extreme, absolute, undeviating position throughout his life” (Vile, 2008, p.27).

Personality development models and James Madison

Psychoanalytic and neoanalytic theories

The psychoanalytic theory has been regarded as the legacy of turmoil. The theory advances the fact that early conflicts and detachment instead of harmony and attachment, characterize the normal life of an individual and this has a great impact on the personality development of the individual in his or her lifespan (Lam, 2007, p.15). On the other hand, the new analytic theory postulate that upon an individual becoming content to be mature enough, he or she moves away from his or her parents to become independent and therefore achieve a sense of personal identity (Lam, 2007, p.15). During this period, physical, emotional, and ideological separations from parents become key elements in constituting an individual’s identity formation. The early life of Madison was characterized by turmoil. As a result of ill-health, he did not become active like other age-mates but he largely remained insulated in the family. Upon coming back from college, some literature has indicated he was much involved in ‘identity discovery’ at his father’s plantation estate and here Madison was searching for his role in what has been described as, “our first entry on the theater of life” (Vile, 2008, p.23). His search for a job, desire to move away from home characterized Madison’s early personality. He became too religious, for instance, asked about his career by his friend William Bradford, Madison indicated that he intended to be ‘an advocate in the cause of Christ” (Vile, 2008, p.23). Madison was very much attached to his family and literature indicates how he spent much of his life in his father’s home and which he came to love more. His family attachment extended even into adulthood where he remained very close to his siblings and family relatives. Ville summarizes by stating that, during this period Madison was going through what a psychologist Erik Erikson termed as “identity crisis” which is an intense period of psychosocial distress when a person is struggling more or less consciously for a clear sense of unified self and role in society (Vile, 2008, p.23).

Psychosocial theories

Psychosocial development theories are largely concerned with how the experiences of an individual’s earlier life contribute to his behaviors in later years. These theories believe that individual behaviors are shaped by his or her complex interaction among the psychological and social factors. Madison’s early interaction with slaves on his parents’ farm shaped his later views about slavery. At the same time, his religious training in early life was fundamental in shaping his beliefs as a legislator, and a president.

Cognitive, Behavioral, and Social Learning theories

These theories promote the idea that an individual’s cognitive function and beliefs arbitrate or influence his or her effect and behavior. For instance, an individual’s perceptions, thoughts, attitudes, values, and beliefs are connected, and the way these work together will influence and determine an individual’s emotions and day-to-day behavior. For Madison, it is understood how he was loyal to his reason than even what the popular believed. For instance, his beliefs about liberty and the freedom of humankind were evident from childhood. He disagreed with his father over the Baptist’s priest case and he became at the forefront in championing the Baptist’s course.

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Humanistic theories

These theories are concerned with explaining how subjective experience, human problems, and personal potentials are vital in determining self-image or constructing self-concept (Coon and Mitterer, 2008, p.486). For example, Rogers (1959) showed how anxious people have created distorted mental images of themselves and this leads them to be vulnerable to different information or circumstances (Coon and Mitterer, 2008, p.486). Madison at an early stage failed to go to Virginia schools due to fears of his health; he expressed this in his autobiography when he wrote that, “the climate at William and Mary [is] regarded as unfavorable to the health of persons from the mountainous regions (Ketcham, 1990, p.23). His later life was characterized by his cautious steps and activities about his health.

The ability of these different theories to provide true and reliable conclusions depends on their adequacy in explaining and detailing personality traits. A particular theory only becomes useful if it can address the key aspects that a researcher is interested in and at the same time provide enough evidence for a particular personality trait pattern.

Measuring personality in an individual

Always it has been difficult to get information about an individual’s personality. Such episode has resulted in the development of several different methods that are used to measure personality. In many cases, four types of methods are employed depending on which personality traits a researcher is interested in. These methods are objective self-report, projective, behavioral, and psychophysiological (Carducci, 2009, p.47). In this case, the Behavioral technique of assessment was used. This technique emphasizes observation of behavior as a way of assessing the personality of individuals since behavior is a determinant of many factors Carducci, 2009, p.59). Using this technique, individual attributes and also cues from the environment are studied as the basics that elicit behavior differences among individuals. Furthermore, under this technique, other sub-techniques can be employed and they include; direct observation, self-monitoring, behavior inventories, and cognitive assessment. These techniques were appropriate in studying the personality development of James Madison.


Therefore, it can be concluded that James Madison’s personality development started in early life in the environment of his family, religion, school, and greater, his country. These particular aspects compounded with his reasoning conviction, are what shaped and characterized his life as a statesman. He believed in religious and civil liberty and freedom to free expression. He never feared failing in his course however delicate and sensitive it may be even if it meant costing his political life. His personality centered on purity in all spheres of human life and no abrogation was to be allowed.


  1. Carducci, B. J. (2009). The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications. MA, Wiley-Blackwell. Web.
  2. Coon, D. and Mitterer, J. O. (2008). Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. CA, Cengage Learning. Web.
  3. Ketcham, R. L. (1990). James Madison: a biography. VA, University of Virginia Press. Web.
  4. Lam, C. M. (2007). Not grown up forever: a Chinese conception of adolescent development. NY, Nova Publishers. Web.
  5. Lohman, C. (1838). American history and biography: containing an epitome of American history. NY, New York Public Library. Web.
  6. Mroczek, D. K. and Little, T. D. (2006). Handbook of personality development. NY, Routledge. Web.
  7. Vile, J. R. (2008). James Madison: philosopher, founder and statesman. OH, Ohio University Press. Web.

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