Life Span Development and Personality Essay Questions

Life Span Development and Personality Essay Questions Cathy Perry Psy 300 September 27, 2010 Tara Terry Ph. D. Select a famous individual from the 20th or 21st centuries: Maya Angelou (born as Marguerite Ann Johnson). Conduct research concerning the background of your selected individual to determine what forces have impacted his or her life from the viewpoint of developmental psychology. 1. Discuss the influences of heredity and environment (including family and social support) on your individual’s psychological development. Be sure to describe specific areas of psychological development (moral, emotional, etc. . (300-500 words). Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1928. At the age of three, she and her brother, Bailey, moved to Stamps, Arkansas to live with their paternal grandmother when their parents divorced. Throughout her childhood she struggled with feelings of displacement due to her early separation from her parents (Mongeau-Marshall, 1994). She developed self-esteem problems because of her large frame and nappy hair and was not considered pretty; also, racism’s messages of southern black females being inferior and that they lacked control of their future.
The grandmother raised them in a strict sheltered environment around church, school, and her store. The fear of being terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan was always upon Maya. After five years of minimal contact with either parent, the father returned and took them to their mother in St. Louis. This household consisted of their mother, maternal grandmother, and two uncles, but they rarely saw their mother. Maya disliked the city’s loud noises and constant commotions, so she escaped through reading. Moving back to St. Louis was unsettling to both children.
Maya began having nightmares and Bailey began to stutter (Pettit, 1996). Later that year, their mother moved them in with her and her boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. One night, while their mother was working, Mr. Freeman made Bailey leave the house and he raped Maya; she was only eight years old. He threatened Maya that if she told anyone he would kill Bailey. Maya’s mother thought she was ill but discovered the blood stained underwear when changing sheets. At the hospital Bailey convinced her to tell who had done this. Mr. Freeman was arrested and Maya testified at the trial.

He was released early before finishing out his sentence and was later found beaten to death. Maya stopped speaking to everyone except Bailey, and kept silent for five years. She felt guilty that Mr. Freeman’s death was her fault and she feared if she spoke about anyone else, that they would die too. The children were sent back to Stamps which Maya felt was her fault since the family could not tolerate her silence and slow recovery. One male relative even physically punished her for not speaking. The grandmother in Stamps had a friend of hers, Bertha Flowers, speak to Maya. Ms.
Flowers was instrumental in bringing Maya back from the darkness. She slowly helped Maya transform from the mute with no self-worth to a speaking young woman with self-esteem and academic success (Gillespie, Johnson-Butler, & Long, 2008). After graduating the eighth grade, Maya and Bailey were sent to live with their mother in California. That summer Maya went to visit her father, but left early when his girlfriend began to fight her. Maya had been stabbed and stayed with her father’s friends. When she returned to her mother, she got a job instead of going back to school.
After six months of working, she went back to school, but found that other girls her age were more developed physically and she felt unfeminine. To prove she was normal she decided to have sex, but didn’t prove anything; except she became pregnant. She graduated high school and a month later gave birth to her son Clyde. 2. Select two different theories of personality and apply them to your selected figure, and answer the following question: How does each theory explain the individual’s unique patterns or traits? (500-700 words). The Psychodynamic theory can be applied to Maya Angelou in several areas.
One of these areas was the continuous moves from parents to grandparents throughout her childhood. The consistency she had as a child was her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. Maya and her brother had love, stability and the meaning of family while they lived with her. According to Kowalski and Westen, (2009), Disrupted attachments are associated with severe personality disturbances, depression, antisocial behavior and adjustment problems…, and childhood experiences such as parental neglect or even parental divorce cause more vulnerability to adult nsecurities. Psychodynamic theorists state that depressive behaviors have various causes, one of which would be a parental attachment history influencing problems and fears of rejection and or abandonment. Both Maya and her brother had problems dealing with the thoughts of abandonment. Maya thought it was better to think of them being dead than to imagine having parents that did not want their children (Mongeau-Marshall, 1994). Maya was a rape victim at a very early age that traumatized her into speechlessness for five years.
The fact that she was only eight years old is enough reason for her to have trust issues. According to Mongeau-Marshall, (1994) Maya trusted Mr. Freeman and felt him to be a father figure. After his death, she stopped talking to everyone but her brother, which in a psychodynamic theory viewpoint the psychological thought processes caused her to think that she caused his death. If she spoke about anyone ever again, the same tragic thing would happen. She could not endure the thought of being responsible for that.
According to Kowalski ; Westen, (2009), “Compromise formations is a single behavior or a complex pattern of thought and action, typically reflects compromises among multiple and often conflicting forces” (p. 421). Maya did not talk for five years, but she did talk to her brother and would talk to herself when reading. When Bailey convinced her to tell him who raped her, he had also convinced her that no one could harm him so it would be okay to tell him. Maya compromised her thoughts by the love of her brother.
She needed his companionship and acceptance at this crucial time in her life. She did not want to speak, but found it was necessary to speak to Bailey. In another time of her life, during high school, she believed she was not woman enough because her body was not as sexually developed as her peers. She decided to have sex to prove that she was “woman enough” so she rationalized. Rationalization, according to Kowalski ; Westen, is a defense when a person tries to explain away actions in a seemingly logical way to avoid uncomfortable feelings, especially guilt or shame (p. 26). Maya was ashamed of the fact that she was not as developed as her female classmates and wanted the acceptance that she desired, not just from others, but from herself. The Cognitive-Social theory accentuates the tasks of a person’s thought processes and their social learning in behavior and personality. Maya’s grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas had the most positive role in her life; giving her love, stability, encouragement, and education. She was able to learn from this grandmother that things do exist in life.
She was able to draw personal strength, even at a young age, from the things she learned and observed from this grandmother. Her behavior-outcome expectancies were her beliefs that this way of life would continue if she thought her parents were dead. As long as they were dead, living in Stamps would continue and family turmoil would be no more. Maya’s competences were lacking in self-esteem and admiration of who she was and what she was. She dreamed of being a white blue-eyed girl with long blonde hair having all the beautiful clothes and expensive things that white people had.
She believed that one day she would wake up from her “blackness” and be this person (Mongeau-Marshall, 1994). Self-regulation was apparently nonexistent when she was a young girl, but as she became a young woman, she wasn’t just the first Black woman to be a cable car conductor, she was the first Black person to be cable car conductor in San Francisco. She accomplished this by harrying the Negro support organizations to help her get the job, and waiting for hours to be interviewed at the cable car offices (Pettit, 1996). 3.
Explain which theoretical approach best explains the individual’s behaviors and achievements. Make sure to explain why this is true. (100-200 words). The Psychodynamic theory is probably the best approach that relates to Maya Angelou. Her entire childhood is riddled with abandonment, child abuse, ridicule, and depression. Ms. Angelou had troubled relationships throughout her life, including three failed marriages. She only bore one child, whom she felt she abandoned when she went to Europe on the tour with Porgy and Bess (Gillespie, Johnson-Butler, & Long, 2008). This theoretical approach deals with Ms.
Angelou’s horrendous childhood, adolescent, and young adult life. She dabbled in drugs, prostitution, and rich men. Through her life journeys, however, she has become one of the most prominent Black female poet, author, actress, humanist, and speaker that has walked upon this earth. She was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , Malcolm X, W. E. B. Dubois, among many other famous people. Maya Angelou developed a tough outer character from all the hardships she endured, but she shares with the public in order for them to learn from her past and to think about their future.
References Gillespie, M. A. , Johnson-Butler, R. , & Long, R. A. (2008). Maya Angelou: A glorious celebration. New York, New York: Doubleday. Kowalski, R. , & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed. ). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Mongeau-Marshall, C. (1994). The masks of Maya Angelou: Discovered, discarded, and designed. Retrieved from ProQuest: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses database. Pettit, J. (1996). Maya Angelou: Journey of the heart. New York, New York: Lodestar Books.

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