What is the most important influence on a person's identity?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

At this point in human understanding and scientific knowledge, this is still an opinion based question and answer. There is evidence that supports various angles, but nothing definitive has been accepted by the scientific community.

In as wide of angle as possible, this question is asking about the basic nature...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

At this point in human understanding and scientific knowledge, this is still an opinion based question and answer. There is evidence that supports various angles, but nothing definitive has been accepted by the scientific community.

In as wide of angle as possible, this question is asking about the basic nature versus nurture debate. Is a person's identity mainly based on the genetic information contained within that person's cells, or is a person's identity mainly influenced by social experiences found throughout that person's life? Plenty of studies on twins, even twins separated at birth, have been performed. These studies indicate that a great deal of personal identity is based on genetics. However, many studies have been performed that point toward to the importance of family, friends, culture, etc.

In 2015, the Barna Group surveyed 1,000 Americans in an attempt to discover what factors most influenced the personal identity of Americans. The top three things that the study pointed toward as major influences on a someone's identity were family, country, and faith. I would agree that those are indeed powerful outside influences on a person's identity. However, the study didn't ask those 1,000 people about genetics, nor did the study ask for feedback on how peer groups influence a person's identity. Finally, the study's sample pool is quite small when you consider the overall population size of the United States.

Personally, I do not think that any one factor could be considered "most important." A person's identity is formed over an extended period of time through a complex mixture of genetic influences in addition to personal experiences found through family, friends, jobs, culture, and society.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team