Environmental factors in the development of personal values orientation


Environmental factors in the development of personal values orientation

Ojars Rode

Daugavpils University, Latvia ABSTRACT

The problem is related to essential differences between the publicly desirable and actual values orientation of basic school learners. The aim of the research is to assess environ­ment and other factors in childhood that affect personal values orientation. The research comprises analysis of relevant literature in psychology and education about the devel­opment of personal values orientation; it also singles out factors of values orientation in life-stories of self-ascertained personalities. The practical part of the research is produced with the method of phenomenological analysis. The article analyses intentionally sam­pled in-depth interviews with personalities that are well-known in Latvian society. The sample includes interviews with representatives of various professions: artists, scientists, cultural and public figures who have achieved self-expression and ascertainment in their chosen professions and in life in general. Phenomenological analysis of interview data and relevant literature suggests that personal values orientation is formed in early child­hood. Significant factors that affect the values orientation of basic school learners were identified: the environment surrounding a person in childhood and the child's character traits. Consideration of both these factors is important when dealing with the problem of learners' values orientations.

Key words: values orientation, self-ascertainment, environment, character


The present study is a sequel to a prior investigation of the connections between values oriented environment for upbringing and children's values orientations (Rode, 2010). The goal of both studies is to determine the prerequisites for shaping school environment in sustainable education. Prior investigations proved that values and the connection be­tween an individual and their environment found in folk traditions are related to sustain- ability. Folklore suggests that for harmonious relations of an individual and environment to develop it is important to balance individual and public interests which shape an indi­vidual's sense of belonging to the environment. Sense of environment is perceived as an aspiration, grounded in the feeling of community, to belong to a certain environment or community. It involves both physical belonging (a bond with a close or somewhat distant physical environment such as house, yard, school, etc.) and social belonging (a feeling of inclusion in the family, a circle of friends, a classroom, etc.) (Apine & Roga, 2010). While searching for conditions of mutual compliance between individual and public interests, it is important to determine how the ideas found in folk cultural legacy resonate with the relationship of an individual and the environment in modern times through life stories of self-realised personalities.

Contemporary studies, even those in widely recognised systems of education (Kuurme & Carlsson, 2010), suggest that a traditional school, though well organised technologi­cally, professionally and innovatively, does not secure a positive quality of life (feeling of comfort) among learners. According to empirical research, this discrepancy mainly stems from the fact that school environment fails to facilitate learners' aspirations for self-respect and independence, which are essential to their values orientations (Orska, 2006), self-ascertainment (Anspoka & Silins-Jasjukevica, 2010), or sense of belonging to an environment (Apine & Roga, 2010; Augskalne & Garjane, 2010).

Lack of comfort is probably the reason for the growing disciplinary problems and low performance in academic subjects (Lieginiece, 2009; Geske, Grinfelds, Kangro, & Kiselova, 2010). Feeling of comfort, according to the above mentioned studies, depends on the rela­tion between the learners' values orientations and the environment, which suggests that balancing these relations should improve learners' discipline and performance in academ­ic subjects. One such educational programme is proposed by Bala (2006). He describes a multicultural programme "Education in Human Values", which has been adapted to 166 countries around the world, including all continents. According to Bala (2006), its imple­mentation results in improvement of learners' discipline and academic achievement even in schools with learners labelled as "problem" children. The programme is based on five human values: Love, Truth, Serving, Non-Violence and Peace. The basic values are revealed in sub-values. Bala's programme envisages the development of a balanced personality by means of training in the above mentioned general human values. Instead of enforcing val­ues, the programme provides an opportunity for the individual to arrive at a positive deci­sion by themselves, emphasising and consolidating in each child their inherent kindness and forming conditions for practising these values. The environment shaped by teachers in cooperation with parents, or, in other words, developed in learner-teacher-parent partner­ship, is recognised as especially important. The programme emphasises that the teacher should enact these values rather than exhibit professional qualities.

A similar model of "Living Values Education" which creates a specific environment for the development of a positive values orientation among children is described by Drake (2007). This model is also approbated in many countries around the world. The programme envisages organising an environment in which everybody 'breathes in one breath' - school staff, parents and learners and the surrounding community all work as a single team. Drake emphasises the key role of the teacher's personality in such a team. He claims that no success is possible unless the teacher's personality is oriented to gen­eral human values. Teacher should not play one role at school and another one outside it.

Drake's "Living Values Education" programme highlights the significance of learn­ers' individual traits. According to Drake (2007), education is incomplete if it ignores the human personality and its experience as a whole. It must help each person best express all of their talents, potentials and dreams. The programme offers education in twelve human values: peace, respect, cooperation, freedom, happiness, honesty, humility, love, responsibility, modesty, tolerance and unity. The philosophy Drake's programme encour­ages teachers to use the legacy of their folk culture.

Folk traditions that concern children's upbringing are usually called folk pedagogy. Analysis of folk culture legacy from this perspective (Poge, 2012) reveals a series of factors which shape the environment for upbringing and are essential for children in that they form stable values orientations. Major values orienting environments in this respect are family, homestead, community, ethnos, nature, rural homestead, family routine and labour environment in nature and rural homestead. Examination of folk traditions in upbringing in the light of the components of sustainable development (ecological, economic, social, culture) reveals an overlap or a merging of their content (Poge, 2012). No major component can be singled out among them, or a major environment, for that matter, as they are all harmoniously related and equally significant in the development of children's values ori­entations. This idea echoes what Gebser describes as indivisibility of the chronotope of an environment for upbringing (Neville, 1999). Gebserian structured model of consciousness distinguishes five manifestations of the latter: archaic, magic, mythical, mental, and inte­grated consciousness which simultaneously coexist in humans. This means that one must carefully examine relevant theories on child and adolescent development that acknowledge developmental hierarchy. Gebser does not perceive any need to create different environ­ments for the upbringing of children of different sexes, abilities or age groups. It is vital that one environment helps each child realise their full potential.

Gebser's ideas and the totality of folk pedagogy in the legacy of Latvian folk traditions should become the foundation for a sustainable school environment in the conditions of Latvia. Therefore, it is crucial to determine whether the natural development of folk pedagogy, under the conditions of contemporary life, can support successful personality development. To gain any notions of that, childhood stories recounted by self-realised personalities in Latvia have been investigated.


The aim of life story studies was to find in the life stories of self-ascertained personali­ties those factors that determined their values orientation. In the research we looked for general traits of the environment and the individual in childhood period that could have facilitated personality development without clarifying why personalities have found their meaning of life in a certain profession.

The study is based on in-depth semi-structured interviews with well-known person­alities in Latvia. The respondents were given freedom to tell their life story. At the end of the interview, if necessary, respondents were asked to retell in greater detail a particular aspect of their life which had been less revealed. The total of 13 life stories was ana­lysed. The combined duration of interview audio recordings is 16 hours and 26 minutes. Transcription produced 94 pages (interval 1.5).

Analysis of respondents' CVs reveals that the sample includes representatives of vari­ous professions: artists, scientists, cultural and public figures who have ascertained them­selves in their chosen professions and lives (have higher education, hold research degrees, are active both at work and in public life). The age of interviewees ranges from 31 to 80 and is relatively evenly distributed by approximately 3.5 year segments; the female/male ratio is 6:7. The method of phenomenological analysis is used in the study. Transcripts were read for topics related to childhood and school years.

Due to spatial limitations, a detailed interpretation of only one respondent's life story will be given as a salient example before outlining a summary of key findings from all life story interviews.

Analysis of A respondent's interview, discussion

The respondent was born in unfavourable socio-political and economic conditions in an intelligentsia family. "I am a child born in the times of war and my Mum was in prison when she gave birth to my sister, a German prison..." The interviewee grew up on the outskirts of town, in physically and spiritually ordered, aesthetically pleasing yet modest environment, without amenities and comfort supplied by parents. "There were flowers, there was grass, there were shrubs - lots of lilac and rose bushes..." The respondent sensed belonging to this environ­ment. "There, in my childhood, in that house, though it was my Mum and dad's, I felt at home..." Respondent's parents appear to have set strict demands for cleanliness, order and perfor­mance of certain duties in the family. ".for the most part, something had been cooked, we had to heat it, wash up and clear everything in the kitchen, everything had to be kept in order..." Because of parent's heavy work duties, the respondent had grown up without much supervision, under conditions of uninhibited development, being on her own or among peers. "And I recall that sense of solitude very well, and I was happy with it, and I do not remember that I had been afraid..." Throughout childhood the respondent had been in a very aesthetically organised cultural environment and nature. "Those graves were very beautiful in my childhood, very nice..." She had felt a sense of belonging to them and had been emotionally moved while among them. "I had even been swimming during the lightning and I liked it so much ... I had never been afraid of lightning or thunder... I had never been afraid of any insects, nature, bushes or birds." The child spent much time in the environment of rural homestead and domestic animals, sensing her belonging to it. She performed certain chores. "It was our duty to pick berries. And it had never been hard for me. It did not seem too boring or disgusting. I think such solitary actions when you are alone with your thoughts are very pleasant..." She had grown up with her granny, eating wholesome food, in a free, uninhibited atmosphere. "Nobody took care for us." In very early childhood the respondent had been restful, patient, distanced. "My Mum said that when I was born she could leave me in the pram outside for hours, go to the market, shop and come back after two hours and the neighbours said they had thought the pram had been empty..."

Her life was full of parents' care and love; the respondent often uses diminutive forms when talking about her parents.

The interviewee recalls her school years without pleasure because they did not comply with either the respondent's inner sense of justice or her true desires. She describes herself as conscientious because she had always tried to do things that she did not like. "I did not like to go to school and the older I grew the more I disliked it... I quarrelled with teachers... when some injustice had been done to classmates..." She holds in good memory the teachers of sports and singing whose classes were interesting and in later years - the class tutor who had noticed the respondent's talent and helped realise it by letting her attend extracurricular activities. "...we had a wonderful class tutor who backed up my cutting classes."

The respondent had been aware of her interests quite early. She treated the support she had received from the surrounding environment as justice to herself; people who had supported the respondent remain in her memory as most positive personalities.

In the summary we stated that in the case of respondent A, a values-oriented envi­ronment is characterised as filled with family and parents' caring, love, functionally organised in a particular way, typical of the urban outskirts as well as of a rural home­stead, with industrious and intellectual people, children's games, economically modest, socio-politically unfavourable, aesthetically rich, full of natural objects, facilitating free development, full of certain duties. The respondent had not felt a sense of belonging to her school environment.

The values found in the values-oriented environment of respondent A's childhood and manifested in the child, according to Bala's distinction of general human values, fall into the following categories: the basic value of love matches respect, love for parents, friendliness, kindness, empathy and emotionality; the basic value of truth - openness, honesty, beauty, being true, ability to evaluate, carefulness and watchfulness; that of serv­ing - responsibility, selflessness, wish to help and wish to stand in against injustice; that of peace - reflection, endurance, modesty, forgiveness, patience, independence, reserve, self-awareness, simplicity and shyness; that of non-violence - freedom, braveness, fearless­ness, abstaining from condemning.

The traits that were manifested in the respondent already in early childhood and could have been present in the child are as follows: emotionality, peacefulness, patience, reserve, tending to avoid unpleasant things, bravery.

Respondent A grew up in manifold circumstances of a values-oriented childhood environment that facilitated her personality development. Even the unfavourable socio­political and economic conditions had not left a negative impact on her personal values orientation. Rather, the hardship encouraged a wish to serve, developed a sense of co- responsibility and duty, patience and modesty. Emotional experience, in turn, could have facilitated sensitivity and imagination. Great significance in the formation of the respond­ent's values orientation could have been attributed to aesthetically rich cultural environ­ment surrounding her. It developed the respondent's aesthetic feelings: sense of beauty, striving for order, harmony, ability to wonder and reflect, peacefulness, emotionality as well as ethical traits such as respect, reverence.

No doubt, rich natural environment both in urban outskirts and in the countryside as well as free living therein could not but leave a lasting positive impression on the re­spondent's personal values orientation. Closeness to nature is described by the respond­ent in a particularly emotional language, which may indicate a sense of belonging to it.


Each life story describes a particular person's childhood in the circumstances of specific environment and is hence unique. Even if we find common features, e.g. environment of uninhibited development, it has still been peculiar for everyone and has contributed to each individual gaining therein something of one's own, according to one's interests and psy­cho-physiological peculiarities. In the present study, in all life stories shared, the features of a values-oriented environment were sought (emerging irrespective of the respondents' current sphere of activity, age, birthplace, wealth or other similar factors) which could have been essential in the development of these personalities. It was revealed that all respondents bar one (B) have grown up in a two-parent family environment (5) or even in an extended family (6) with grandparents and other relatives living together while one respondent has grown up in a two-grandparent family. The majority of respondents (9) emphasise the favourable social environment of their family and characterise it as friendly, favourable, caring and secure. Most respondents have perceived the significance of natural environment and describe it in emotional and varied terms, which may sug­gest belonging to it (6). The people in the surrounding environment are characterised as industrious in the life stories by the majority of respondents (11). Rural lifestyle for most respondents (8) has been related to work in early childhood while for the rest - with per­forming certain duties. However, many respondents (9) emphasise that they have always found time for uninhibited development on their own. The majority of respondents (8) have been related to the environment of domestic animals; two respondents describe it so emotionally that it should suggest a sense of belonging. Half of respondents have had their parents or other relatives organise a special environment for upbringing. Six respondents describe their environment as a company of intellectual people who find joy of reading (book as a value), telling fairy tales and cultivating their ethnic culture. Six respondents mention the environment of childhood games. It follows from five respond­ents' replies that they have experienced an unfavourable socio-political environment and poor economic conditions. Other common features of the environment mentioned by the respondents are observing their parents' work (5) as well as the functionally aesthetic organisation of the environment (4).

It is impossible to learn from the life stories what role was played by a certain en­vironment in the interviewees' personal development. The study confirms that the re­spondents' memories are not limited to only emotionally pleasant and carefree moments from their childhood. Quite the contrary, they speak extensively, insightfully and without reproach about duty, child labour, frugality and sometimes downright harsh living condi­tions. Only two respondents describe a distinctly idealistic environment (it is interesting that the same respondents had the environment of humour devotees), also the environ­ment of refugee camps, direct warfare and mutual help of neighbouring homesteads (for one respondent each). Yet the emotional and detailed description of these environments by the interviewees testifies to their great significance.

The respondents' values orientations are characteristic of talented people as perceived by Sternberg (2003). The respondents have ascertained themselves not only as gifted per­sonalities but also as such who are able to fulfil their talents. Application of Sternberg's WICS model for identifying talented people to the data set permits to identify several cor­responding traits in the characteristics of basic values among the respondents. Sternberg's labels are I for intellect, C for creativity, W for wisdom and S for synthesis. The basic value of truth for most respondents is revealed as manifested inquisitiveness (I, C) which is satisfied by watchfulness (W, I, C). The acquired knowledge for discovering the truth is also evalu­ated (I, C). Inquisitiveness is based on certain interests (I). Four respondents exhibit distinct diversity of interest. Part of respondents have searched for truth intentionally, investigating (I, C) things or processes around them and even experimenting (I, C). The majority of the respondents have grown up in an intelligent (I) environment which has provided specific conditions for upbringing or education. It has secured the development of imagination (C) and facilitated a sense of beauty (C, W). Five of the respondents learned to read and write at the age of 4-5 and discovered book as a value (I). They discovered decency (W), ideals (I) and will (I) to live up to them as well as self-criticism (W). The basic value of serving is re­vealed for most respondents in their active position in life (W, I) which is marked by distinct industriousness (I). This may have been facilitated by the early employment environment and assuming co-responsibility (W) for making a living for the family. Industriousness facili­tated acquisition of various work skills (I), developed persistence (I) and determination (I), but in novel situations of independent work - promoted initiative (W, I) and creativity (W, I). The group of respondents is characterised by the wish to help (W) or do something good (W). For two respondents it is manifested in the ability to make sacrifices (W) and in bravery (W). The basic value of peace for most of respondents is manifested in striving for reflection (I), facilitated by the necessity to be independent (I) and an opportunity to be on one's own (I). Childhood environment has sustained conditions for modesty (W), self-development (W, C, I) and self-assurance (I). Five respondents hold security (I) as an important component of life. Some respondents manifest the basic value of peace in an ability to overcome hardship (I), endurance (I) and faith in goodness (W, I). The respondents find important internal balance - calmness (W), order (W, I, C) and discipline (W, I), which may well have been at the basis of their ability to concentrate, persistence (I) and endurance (I). The basic value of non-violence for most of the respondents (10) is revealed through the categories of freedom (W, I) and bravery (I) opposing injustice (W) and defending truth (W). National awareness (W, I) has not facilitated intolerance vis-a-vis other nations in the multicultural society of Latvia; quite the contrary, tolerance (W, I) and sympathy (W) even towards the enemy are revealed. The category of health (W, C) emerges as important (6); some emphasise conditions of physical fitness (W, C). This does not mean, however, that the rest of the respondents consider them insignificant; early employment and living conditions in rural homestead and/or in prox­imity to nature obviously facilitated both physical fitness and healthiness (none of respond­ents mention experiences of illness in their life stories). Some respondents evidence the basic value of non-violence with such categories as respect (W, I), ability for inclusion (I), sense of humour (W). For all respondents, the basic value of love (S) emerges through friendliness, emotionality, sympathy, kindness, readiness to help or care. For some it is more revealed in love for parents and for others such as animals or nature on the whole. Love emerges as a background of synthesis without which self-ascertainment of a talented person is impos­sible in those environments that manifest love.

Analysis of the respondents' values orientations in their early childhood reveals only a few categories which characterise the shared values orientation among all the respond­ents: emotionality and activeness manifested for some in a distinct joy of movement. Several respondents appear to possess independence, watchfulness, imagination, inquisitiveness, ability to evaluate, creativity, cordiality, kindness and sympathy.

Gebserian (Neville, 1999) model of consciousness accounts for the revelation of desired values orientation in early childhood. Archaic consciousness is a state when an individual is not differentiated from the environment. Children in their early childhood probably find this state very active; hence, they easily identify themselves with the environment and its values. This makes it difficult to separate the values characteristic of the child from those generated by the environment. Yet perhaps there is even no point in trying to, because identification means belonging to what one identifies with. Therefore, it is important what the values orientation of the environment is - if the values are positive, the child identifies with them; otherwise environmental (societal) pathology becomes the child's pathology.

Another Gebser's idea is important in this regard. It is crucial that an individual's mean­ing of life be connected to the archaic consciousness. Probably therefore children are better aware of those interests which, in favourable conditions of further development, may form the basis of self-ascertainment. Archaic consciousness is marked by uncertainty, which im­pedes the ability to clearly discern the individual's meaning of life and casts a veil on the memory of early childhood in general. In later stages in life, our rational consciousness often suppresses the uncertainty in the archaic consciousness, and the majority of youth lose the bond with intrinsically motivated interests, perceiving those offered from outside as their own (NVA [Nodarbinatibas valsts agentura (State Employment Agency)], 2005; Pasparne, 2007). These youths no longer match the criteria of Sternberg's model of a talented person or the unproductive orientation discussed by Fromm (OpoMM, 2010).

Going back to early childhood, it must be noted that our research reveals a dominant affection to natural environment. Children's belonging to it lets them feel it as a source of strength and creativity. Therefore, the sense of belonging to the environments identi­fied among the respondents and described above cannot be considered as too daring. Empathy is in fact based on Gebser's sense of the unity of 'all that exists'. Deep affection to family, home, people and natural environment is still a natural phenomenon in the con­temporary world of the dominant mental awareness; the respondents appear to manifest it to such a strong degree that we may actually call it love.

The principle of complementarity of opposites, apart from uncertainty of archaic con­sciousness, makes one look for the manifestations of certainty. Several respondents em­phasise their ability already in their early childhood to clearly distinguish the good from the bad, truth from lie, honesty from dishonesty. The respondents hold in high regard the positive things that they usually actively stood in for.

Archaic consciousness makes one feel deep unity with his or her family members or ethnic community. In his analysis of the Gebserian model of consciousness Neville calls it a primitive urge, most probably devoid of the connotations of scorn and unacceptability, because it exists in the very initial level of consciousness. Self-realisation may take place only under conditions of belonging (Maslow's components of the pyramid of belonging). Those respondents who have experienced belonging to school have found an opportunity to express themselves and recall school years with pleasure. Rather than school uniforms or common school rituals, it is accord between the individual's intrinsically motivated interests and the environment that forms conditions for harmony. In cases when this came true, the respondents felt happy.

In the period of mythical consciousness, the "I" emerges as separated from the envi­ronment. Yet it remains related to family, community and its notions of the world. The time of mythical consciousness does not cease to exist - it functions as the basis of the birth of an unproductive human in the age of mental consciousness because the objects of rational culture still hold a significant place on the scale of human values orientation. Mythical consciousness is in fact sustained by school systems which offer cliches of truth, justice and values generated and sustained by a wider community (they are stated by the scientific thought, accepted by the masses and are thus unquestionable). The respond­ents cannot but let them show - they enter the process of socialisation as the attributes of their cultural environment. However, owing to conditions of uninhibited develop­ment, early practice of independent work which creates conditions for self-development and individual experience, teaches to analyse new situations of work, forces to make independent decisions, i.e. develop attributes of reason. As a result, the above mentioned cliches of 'truth' are not consolidated into one's mental consciousness - the respondents are comparatively free personalities. The research shows that most respondents, despite their early developed intellect, highly value emotions, imagination and reflection - they do not become selfish (or else go through this phase quickly); they seem to be aware of their ego, but they also see its unity with outside objects. That is, they do not fall victims to rational consciousness. Therefore they are referred to as individuals not in the sense of selfish, egocentric beings, but as personalities who are aware of their individual interests and abilities, and try to live accordingly.


The respondents' values orientation is balanced according to Bala's (2006) five basic gen­eral human values and corresponds to Sternberg's (2003) model of talented people.

Values-oriented environments in folk pedagogy previously and nowadays could and still can secure developmental conditions necessary for personal self-ascertainment.

There exists a distinct line of demarcation between pre-school and school childhood.

Folk pedagogy positions, both present and prior, prove their sustainability (Poge, 2012). Therefore, its environments and methods ought to be transferred to the school environment, for instance, natural environment, work environment, opportunity for uninhibited development, recognising children's talents and adjusting learning to their interests, the environment of actual cooperation (possible in the situation of mutual re­spect), etc. Folk pedagogy environments are organically and so powerfully related to the child's personality that the child feels a sense of belonging to them and happiness if the social environment is friendly, benevolent, caring and secure. School environment ought to be the same. In this case, the traits suggested by Sternberg (2003) and identified in the respondents could be methodically developed in learners because they are necessary for an individual's self-realisation, for instance, ability to overcome obstacles, persistence, readiness to withhold enjoyment or readiness for lengthy work, readiness to take risks, ability to admit obscurity and love one's work, bravery, etc.

Sternberg's (2003) WIC synthesis needs the general human category of love described by Bala (2006) with its characteristic manifestations. It is essential to facilitate the develop­ment of a new, still latent integral awareness, which would enable individuals to perceive things in totality rather than dislocated in space or time (Neville, 1999). This will be a step towards a totally new model of education based on the learner's self-activity, constant self-organisation of the school in the diversity of 'all that exists', as described by Gebser.


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