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Three Character Trait Classifications

by Ron Kurtus (revised 2 July 2017)

Character can be divided into three distinct classifications: personal, social, and group-based character traits.

Personal character traits concern attitudes an individual has toward his or her own actions in doing things and achieving goals. Social character traits concern how a person deals with other people. Group-based character traits concern how well a person adheres to or follows the laws, rules, or codes of organizations of which he or she is a member.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.

Personal character traits

The attitudes a person has toward activities make up his or her personal character traits. This often concerns how the person responds to challenges. These traits may be positive or negative or often in-between. Positive or good personal character traits lead to achievement of goals and success. Negative personal character traits can lead to failure or frustration.

Typical traits

Typical positive and negative personal character traits include:

Positive or Good Traits

Negative or Bad traits

Courageous Cowardly
Conscientious Careless
Determined Easily discouraged
Confident Unsure
Hard working Lazy

Due to influence

Although the tendency toward various personal character traits is inborn, these traits are really developed from parental training and influence as a very young child. There are attitudes you are "supposed to have" that are ingrained without any logical reasoning. A mother that prevents her child from doing things will ingrain the attitude of being easily discouraged and unsure of his skills.

Personal character develops somewhat through the influence of peers and school. A teen that starts associates with "go-getters" will herself have the attitudes needed to excel.

Can be changed

Once ingrained, a personal character trait is difficult—but not impossible—to change as an adult.

Social character traits

The attitudes you have toward other people and how you deal with them make up your social character traits. Positive social character traits lead to success in relationships and gaining continued rewards. Negative social character traits can result in being distrusted or even disliked. There also extremes of these traits, as well as those in-between.

Typical traits

Typical positive and negative social character traits include:

Positive or Good Traits

Negative or Bad traits

Honest Dishonest
Kind Cruel
Reliable Unreliable
Fair Biased
Considerate Inconsiderate

Due to influence

The tendency toward various social character traits is only slightly inborn. Most of these traits seem to be developed from parental influence and training as a very young child. Just as with personal traits, there are things that you are "supposed to do" that are ingrained without any logical reasoning. For example, a child who is abused by his parents when young will probably abuse his children because "that is what you are supposed to do."

Social character develops somewhat through the influence of peers and school. But as the saying goes, "birds of a feather flock together." Those that have started with negative social character traits will usually associate with other negative people.

May change

Once ingrained, a social character trait is difficult to change as an adult. But when people see how they lose so much from having these traits, they are often motivated to turn their lives around. A religious awakening is a good example of this.

Group-based character traits

Attitudes toward the cultural laws, rules, and values of the community, organization, and group determine a person's group-based character traits and whether or not he or she adheres to those laws.

Most people are members of community, culture and religions. Those groups have rules and laws that they expect members to follow. A person who follows or obeys the rules is judged as having good group-based character. He or she may be considered an outstanding, law-abiding citizen, a good member of the group or a devout, religious person.

Those who do not follow the rules are considered law-breakers, trouble-makers or sinners. Their character is said to be immoral, unethical, or corrupt. Most laws and rules are stated in the negative sense, telling what you cannot do.

Government laws include:

Those who are caught breaking the laws will suffer the consequences by being fined or incarcerated.

Cultural laws include:

Religious laws include:

Conflict and combination

Sometimes the religious or cultural rules are in conflict of the government rules. Also, some societies have governments that only include their culture and religion, such that government laws are also religious laws.

Good and bad

A law-abiding citizen, a loyal soldier, and a devout religious person all are considered to have positive group-based character. They are often said to have good moral or ethical character to those in their group.

Would you say a person who speeds or gets drunk in public is immoral? He may bother or even hurt others by his action. That would be negative social behavior.

Character can change

If a person moves into an area with different government laws, into a different culture or change religious, he or she will need to obey a different set of rules or laws. Your character—as judged by people in this group—will depend on how well you follow their laws.


Character is the combination of personal, social and group-based character traits. Personal character traits concern attitudes toward achieving goals. Social character traits concern to how a person deals with other people. Group-based character traits concern how well a person follows government, organization and religious laws and rules.

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Resources and references

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