What are the stages of personality development as described by Albert Bandura's Social-Cognitive theory?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The stages of personality development as outlined by Albert Bandura's Social-Cognitive theory are observational learning, reciprocal determinism, and self efficacy.

In Bandura's own words

Social cognitive theory subscribes to a model of emergent interactive agency (Bandura, 1986; 1997a).

Therefore the personality theory proposed by Bandura does not delineate a firm model, such as Erikson's psycho-social stages or Freud's Epigenesis, but an interdependent model that involves external stimulus as well as internal, cognitive processes.

The result of such interactive agencies will be the creation of a personality, either productive or toxic, that would be molded from the myriad of cognitive processes that take place in critical thinking, choice-making, stress-control, and problem-solving, among many others.

Observational Learning

This stage of personality development encompasses the Social Learning theory, as a whole. It entails that most of the compilation of traits that determine our unique personality is learned through modeling the behaviors of others. This does not necessarily entails mimicry or imitation, but the concession is that inherent natural processes motivate us to regulate our behavior through exposure to the behavior of others.

Reciprocal determinism

This theory states that personality is caused by the person and the circumstances surrounding personal development. By nature, and through observational learning, an inherent part of our brain will combine everything it sees, feels, and understands. Then, personal factors such as our own capacity to problem solve, to think critically, and to differentiate one thing from another, will extrapolate our unique personality traits.


Self-Efficacy is the value that we give to our capacity to overcome challenges. Through responsible upbringing, human beings are guided from the very early stages of life to solve problems, to tell the difference between appropriate or inappropriate behavior, and to trust our own skills. A personality that is well-formed and adjusted accordingly to its environment often shows traits of self-awareness, consciousness, and a healthy role identity.

Therefore, this is the synthesis of Bandura's work: we cause ourselves through causing our environment. The opposite is also true: our environment causes us as well.

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