The last two posts on this topic has now allowed one to arrive at a discussion of the psychological process of attribution. This is an interesting process relating to child development and how a child ‘acquires’ its personality. It is interesting in that most environmental effects on the child subtract from it whereas attribution is an additive process.
A good example of attribution at work is with the naming of a child as I have described previously. Using myself as an example. I was named after my grandfather and this may have attributed some of his qualities to me. If the parents tell the child who they are named after and what that person was like the child can then take that as a directive that they are like that person. The qualities are attributed to the child by the parents story behind the naming. Perhaps my life script was to work in helping people in psychological distress like my grandfather’s work was to help people in physical distress? This may have been attributed to my life script by my mother’s naming of me.
Most theories of child development including Transactional Analysis tend focus on what is subtracted from the Free Child of the youngster. This is reflected in script injunctions as shown below
Don’t be you (sex you are)
Don’t be a child
Don’t grow up
Don’t make it (succeed)
Don’t be important
Don’t be close
Don’t be well (sane)
Parents demand these of young children for various reasons and each one of these subtracts from the Free Child. Each time the child accepts the injunction part of its Free Child is inhibited in the way described.
Attributions do not work in the same way. Instead of demanding that a child not be a certain way an attribution gives a child some idea of how to be. It adds to the child rather than subtracts from it. When a parent delivers a “Don’t” the child feels pain whereas an attribution through a name does not result in that same painful process.
A man can become a drunkard because he has been given the injunction, Don’t feel. He stops himself having feelings by numbing himself with alcohol. As a young boy his father hit him when he cried and called him a sissy. The boy thus felt pain as he learnt not to have feelings.
A man can become a drunkard because he was named after his uncle Harry who was a drunkard and a womaniser. There is no pain or subtraction in this socialisation of the child. The parents are not hitting the child nor are they demeaning it and thus it is not painful in the same way.
When a “Don’t” injunction is imposed on a child it is forced to move into its Conforming Child ego state and conform to the directive not too feel. There is much less conformity involved in the attribution process. Uncle Harry may also have been a successful business man. Which characteristics the child selects is really up to it and thus not a similar conforming process.
One could say attributions are more of a passive scripting or personality formation process that is directed more by the child than the parents.
Parents can deliver attributions by other means. They can say things like
“She is the pretty one”
“He’s the little scientist”
“He’s the sporty one”
Or giving the child a telescope for christmas.
Or by taking it to museums.
All these are not done out of the need of the parent’s own Child ego state. If that happens it is more of an injunction and a “Don’t”. It is a much kinder type of scripting that the parents do out of fun and simply noticing characteristics of the child. Parent’s cannot not give attributions. Every time they comment on attributes of the child it maybe happening in the child’s mind.
Sometimes however parents may be feathering their own nest. In many families one child is often groomed by the parents to look after them in their declining years. In a family of three sons and one daughter it is usually the daughter who gets the job. Attributions can be used in this way.
“She’s the little nurse”
“She is so kind and caring”