This was an assignment for my Psychology class. This was a very meaningful and interesting project as I had to reflect on the man I am today and the events that shaped who I have become. However, this is probably more than you ever wanted to know about me, but I figured I would post it as I am attempting to chronicle my general body of collegiate work on this website. Enjoy!
When I look at myself in the mirror today, I see the reflection of a man whom is very different from the person that I envisioned myself to be as I was growing up. I have not become the fireman, police officer, rock star, or any of the other pie-in-the sky visions that I had of myself based solely in childish fantasy. Looking back on the events that have defined my life has been an extremely enlightening experience, but before I discuss what this jaunt into self-reflection has meant to me, let me take you through the journey that I experienced when I was researching and pondering the events of my life that have led me to the place where I currently exist.
My story began twenty-six years ago in a small German hospital in Nuremburg. I was born to a pair of loving parents whom were extremely excited about the new bundle of joy that they had brought into the world. My mother’s pregnancy was mostly uneventful. She received quality prenatal care as my father was a lieutenant in the United States military. Also, it was important to her to give me every advantage possible even during her pregnancy, so she abstained from ingesting any material that could be deemed harmful to me while I was in utero. This included caffeine, which was an admitted struggle for my mother, but the sacrifice was worth it as it was for her baby boy. Although my mother’s pregnancy was fairly typical for a healthy twenty-three year old, my birth presented a severe challenge to the attending physician. As I was descending down the birth canal, it quickly became apparent that there was an issue. My progress gradually slowed until finally coming to a complete halt. This can be a deadly complication during delivery, so the doctors wasted no time and began working diligently to free me from the prison of flesh in which I had become lodged. The doctor grasped my head with a pair of forceps and began to pull me out. Unfortunately, the forceps broke because I was so tightly lodged. The doctor repeated this process twice more, finally extricating an exaggeratedly cone-headed, healthy eight pound nine ounce baby boy.
My first year of life was spent in Germany. My mother did not have the best circumstances in which to begin her adventure in motherhood due to the fact that my father spent many months of the first year of my life in the field training with his unit. One other major obstacle that is completely foreign to many in the world today revolved around the difficulty in which my mother had in communicating with her family in the states. There was no internet, so e-mail and Skype were not in the picture. She had to call the operator to schedule an international call and then sit by the phone for hours and wait for the operator to call back. These phone calls were very expensive which led to a very limited number of calls. This was a trying time for my mother as she had no family and very few friends on whom to depend, but she weathered the storm like a seasoned veteran, providing a wonderful, nurturing start to my life that was full of love and affection. Three days before my first birthday, my father was reassigned to Fort McClellan, Alabama and my family excitedly left Germany to head home to the states. Fort McClellan was more than simply a reprieve from the foreign theater. It was a homecoming as well because this was the area in which both my parents had grown up. Therefore, my mother and father went from having no support as new parents to having overwhelming support from mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.
According to my mother’s records regarding my physical and mental development, I was ahead of schedule on every milestone that a child is supposed to reach during this period. I was sitting by 22 weeks, crawling by 33 weeks, and walking by 39 weeks. I said my first word at four months and my first sentence at 13 months. Apparently, during this period I exhibited a streak of independence that was difficult for my parents to correct. My mother recorded a story of when I was eight months old. She said that I had just gotten in trouble and instead of crying; I stood defiantly and stared at her red-faced with clenched fists. This independent streak was also evidenced in the first sentence that I spoke when I was 13 months old. I boldly stated to my mother one morning “I want to go” as we were preparing to leave for my grandmother’s house. My mother also noted that I would sit around for extended periods of time doodling on paper with a pencil and that I loved books.
I also experienced two physically traumatic events during this period of life. When I was 11 months old on the way back to Alabama from Germany, I fell into a bathtub and chipped my front two teeth. The trauma actually went on to negatively affect the development of my permanent teeth in later years. Also, when I was 15 months old, I stepped on a floor heater and had to be treated in the emergency room for severe burns on my left foot. This injury did not seem to have any lasting effects.
The strong family relationships that were fostered during this period after my family returned from Germany with the members of my extended family still play a role in the decisions that I make in my life now. Although the relationships that I had with the members of my family were strong, my mother cannot remember me experiencing any separation anxiety. I spent several days a week with a babysitter as my mother was finishing college and my mother said that I also socialized well with other children. I believe that trust was established, rooting from these relationships, allowing me to successfully move into the next stage of Erikson’s psychosocial development.
During my early childhood, my mother also has recorded that I was ahead of schedule on many of the expected developmental milestones. I was potty trained by the age of two and had an extensive vocabulary. My mother noted that I understood the meaning of many words and could perceive the meaning of unknown words based on context fairly early in my development. I was talking conversationally in sentences relating to the world that surrounded me and to the adults with whom I spent the majority of my time. One of my favorite activities during this time was riding my big wheel and playing ball with my father in the yard. During the later years of this stage, I participated in organized sports.
I had surgery early on during this stage in my life. My recovery was speedy, but any surgical procedure has the potential to set back the development that a child has accomplished. My first brother was also born during this time. My mother noted no regression in development related to either one of these potential obstacles. My fine motor skills were slightly underdeveloped during this period. This may be due to lack of opportunity to exercise these skills as my parents were extremely conscious about messes inside the house. This lack of early development still plagues me to this day, manifesting itself in my extreme lack of manual dexterity.
My parents fostered an extremely secure environment for me to explore the world around me. My father had a good, secure job in the Army and my mother was able to spend the majority of the day with me, so my physical needs were all met. My emotional needs were also met as there was plenty of love that was lavished on me by family during this time. This fostered autonomy within me by giving me the security to know that I could explore the world confidently. This allowed me to once again progress into the next stage of psychosocial development. The fact that my parents allowed me room to make mistakes and grow also fostered a strong sense of initiative within me, giving me the strength to undertake new tasks and to understand that failure is just a step to a future success.
My middle childhood featured the first move that I can truly remember. We left my hometown in Alabama and moved to Lansing, Kansas. I remember this being one of the toughest things that I had ever experienced because I had to leave behind all of my extended family who had played a very important role in my life to that point. Going from many caregivers to solely my parents was a hard transition to make, but the skills that had been fostered in my earlier stages of development were extremely helpful in dealing with this new challenge.
An additional difficulty that confronted me during this stage of development was rooted in my parents’ desire to better the living situation of our family. Both my mother and father began and finished their master’s degree programs during this period in my life. In addition to my parent’s schooling, my mother returned to work. This meant many nights with babysitters. Some sitters were better than others, but honestly, I believe that my brother and I felt slightly abandoned due to the time that my parents had to spend away from us. Upon review, this could not be farther from the truth, but I do remember feeling as if I had to fend for myself emotionally during this time. I had developed close friendships with several of the children in my neighborhood that also helped to sustain me during this tumultuous time in my life.
Scholastically I did well. However, I did have a strong aversion to homework. There were nights that I would sit at the kitchen table for hours in defiance because I did not want to do my work. My parents were firm and consistent with my discipline and with their expected standards; therefore, I eventually learned that I was not going to get out of homework and it made my life so much easier to just complete it as quickly and accurately as possible. My father also spent a year away from the family in Korea, which added to the stress that pressed in on me during this time of my life. In the middle of the fifth grade, my father returned from Korea and we had to move to Fort Lewis, Washington. This was yet another extreme change during this period of my life causing me to leave the circle of friends that I had developed and moving farther away from my extended family.
Although my scholastic achievement was good during this time, I felt as if I never really fit in socially with my peers other than the close friendships that I had fostered with the other children who lived in my neighborhood. I always felt as if I was not good enough to fit in socially and was afraid of embarrassing myself. This is a fear that I have never truly overcome. I have a strong desire to please people and I believe that much of that desire is rooted in unresolved feelings of social awkwardness and extreme fear of embarrassment that began during this time in my life.
I am fairly certain that all the changes that occurred during this period of my life limited my feelings of industry as I had to learn several new performance standards for different babysitters, teachers, and parental structures throughout this period. I do believe, however, that I did achieve industry and was able to take ownership of my accomplishments and abilities. It was during this period that I also developed a love for music, which has become one of the most important driving forces in my life today.
Moving from my middle childhood and into adolescence was a strange transition; although, I am certain that this is a difficult transition for everyone. Again, at the onset of this time in my life, my family was uprooted and moved first to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for my seventh grade year and then back to Fort McClellan for three following years. This period was marked with extreme physical and mental changes as puberty began to work its awkward magic inside my body.
I was a late bloomer and that caused many confidence issues that took many years to overcome as I was the target of much ridicule regarding my small, underdeveloped stature. During this period, the desire within me to please people became even more important because I desperately wanted to fit in. Erikson’s major milestone for this period has to do with the individual establishing his or her identity. I can honestly say that this was not the primary concern of the beginning of my adolescent period. I just wanted to stay off the radar. I was very small, weighing in at 75 pounds in seventh grade. It was difficult to watch the other boys changing into young men while it seemed that I remained stuck in the trappings of childhood. The others noticed, of course, and pointed this out at every opportunity that was presented to them. Honestly, this was probably the most difficult aspect of my early adolescent years. However, shortly after I turned thirteen, I discovered the most amazing relationship that challenged me to be different. This relationship continues to challenge me even now.
Shortly after moving back to Fort McClellan, I was befriended by a young man who was fairly well known within the small school that I attended. Through this relationship, I was invited to church and eventually to a relationship with Jesus. The moment where I met Christ was the moment that my life was changed forever. This is when I began to understand what my identity was supposed to be based upon what the Bible states about how our individual lives are supposed to look. It was not easy to pursue Christ with reckless abandon as it goes against the social norm and the expected behaviors of society, but I have never made a more important and worthwhile commitment.
My academic achievement was of chief importance to me during this time, but I also wrestled and did fairly well in both. I was consistently on the “A” honor roll and was a state place winner in wrestling. I hung out with the “nerd” group and that suited me just fine as the competition fostered within this group pushed me to greater heights academically. I felt socially awkward and was slightly terrified of girls until puberty really began to take hold of me during my sophomore year in high school. Unfortunately for my burgeoning libido, we again moved in between my sophomore and junior years of high school. This was terribly traumatic as I was involved heavily in my youth group at church and was fairly popular in my high school. I moved from a class of 60 students to a class of 280 students and a high school that was five times bigger than the small school that I had left. Talk about culture shock.
During this time, I sank into a fairly deep depression that colored much of my junior year. I had a difficult time adjusting to the new social network, but my academic achievement did not fall off as this was still of prime importance to me. The second semester of my junior year changed everything. My pursuit of Christ had waned during this time of extreme depression, but, thankfully, His pursuit of me had never changed. I met a young man on the first day of second semester who would help to foster a change my life forever.
Through this young man, I met the first girl that I truly loved. Fortunately, she was the only girl that I would ever have to date and would be blessed to marry in the future. Thanks to the relationship that was fostered with the young man whom became my best friend, I was finally able to find a group in which I fit. This was the local youth group at the church that my friend attended. Through this group, I was able to develop the strongest social network in which I have ever been privileged to take part. This group helped me to find who I really was inside and who I was in Christ. I had several adult mentors that were also extremely vital to my personal development during this time.
I find it a curious task to set goals for my future as I ponder what God has planned, because the only thing that I do know is that I don’t know anything. However, I do feel that it is vital for everyone to establish a strong set of goals that line up with scripture in order to set the direction for their lives, always remaining open to the fact that God has the right to change those goals and the direction in which my life is headed at any moment according to His perfect will. First and foremost, my goal is to look as much like Christ as possible and to do whatever it takes to make my life look like His, experiencing true worship on a daily basis. This encompasses my psychosocial, biological, and cognitive goals as each are an important aspect in truly reconciling myself to the image of Christ. The importance of this goal cannot be understated as it is the driving force behind my very existence. Everything that I do must line up with the purpose for which God has created me. If this does not occur, then I will find myself outside the will of God, and this is not a destination that I am willing to take my life.
Biologically speaking I would like to lose 40 pounds and to get back into shape, so that I can freely participate in the sporting activities that I used to enjoy and once again be happy with my personal body image. Cognitively I have pledged to become a lifelong learner because when we stop using our capacity to learn, we lose much of our ability think and reason. These are two abilities that I hold in extremely high regard, and, due to this, I will always be enrolled in a class of some sort and a Bible study as well in order to continually foster my cognitive and spiritual development. Finally, psychosocially I desire to have a small group of close friends on whom I know that I can depend on no matter what the situation. I have already accomplished this goal to a certain extent, but I am always on the lookout for new relationships.
During the course of writing this assignment, I have had to come face to face with many of the major events in my life that have led to me becoming the man that I am today. This was an extremely enlightening experience. Prior to this assignment, I had never truly taken a comprehensive look at the struggles and triumphs that have shaped my life.
The first thing that really stuck out to me was the fact that all of my early developmental milestones were accomplished ahead of the expected schedule, specifically focusing on my ability to manipulate and understand language. It appears that I have always had a love for words and that I have been blessed with an innate ability to communicate my thoughts. This was the first time that my mother and I had ever deeply discussed my early development. My mother told me that I was always a smart child and that I was truly inquisitive as well, asking many questions to better understand my environment.
Although the study of my early development was enlightening, the study of my middle childhood was truly fascinating. I was able to look back at many of the events that shaped my behavior during that developmental period and understand the lasting effects that those behaviors and personality traits had on my early development and even persisting into who I am today. For example, socially, I never truly felt as if I fit in with my peers. This might have stemmed from the chaotic environment of regular change in which I spent my middle childhood. I still have problems feeling like that to this day; however, I have changed the way in which I cope with this perceived personal stigma. In my middle childhood I retreated into myself and maintained only a few very close friendships as this was where I was comfortable. Now, I am much more extroverted, but the motivations of my behavior have not changed. I still continually seek the approval and praise of other people.
I can most definitely see how the tumult of my middle childhood affected my adolescence. These issues compounded with the fact that I was a late bloomer made the early part of my adolescence extremely awkward socially and even within my own psyche. This was a difficult time, but the lessons that I learned during this time again helped to shape me into the man I am today. Without the early adversity during this time period, I do not know if I would have ever felt the need for Christ, which would have made the rest of my life utterly meaningless.
I believe that God never wastes a hurtful, awkward, or joyous moment. I know everything that happens in this life truly does happen in order to bring us closer to our glorious Creator. Looking back on the entirity of my short life, I am thrilled to see how God has woven all of the events of my experience together to make me the man that I am today. I am thankful for the fact that even in the darkest times in my life, I have always had a loving God looking out for me and shaping me as the potter shapes clay. Understanding the past has given me a better understanding of my present situation and, in turn, has given me a new perspective for my future. I am looking forward to seeing what plans God has on the horizon that He is going to allow me to be a part of and humbled to know that before time began, His plan for me was set into place. Above all else, I am thankful for the obedient sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross that has enabled a wretched sinner like me to find the most amazing love that a person can experience on Earth. Looking back at all the great times, the destitute times, the times spent on the mountain top, and the tough moments spent in the valleys, I can sum up my life in three simple words: God is good.
Developmental Psychology, Vol.45, 2009
Infancy Parenting and Externalizing Psychopathology from Childhood through Adulthood: Developmental Trends
Michael F. Forber and Byron Egeland
This article attempted to answer the question, does poor-quality early parenting have a correlation with externalization of behavior as a child continues to progress developmentally toward adulthood? Previous findings were suggestive that poor-quality early parenting was more strongly associated with externalization or behavior problems in early childhood than in adolescence. The results of this study also suggested a similar result with the added inference that externalization during adulthood is more directly correlated to early parenting. There were two theories offered to explain the lack of exhibition of the behavior during adolescence.
The first theory offered to explain the regression of parental influence on behavior during adolescence is called the developmental period explanation which states that during adolescence, it is normal for the adolescent to exhibit a greater predisposition toward externalization of behavior regardless of parental upbringing. This is thought to be caused by increased pressure by deviant peers. Even children with a history of externalization from late preschool age to preadolescence are exposed to the same deviant peer groups. During this adolescent period, poor-quality early parenting has less of an impact than peer pressure according to the results. Conversely, behavioral externalization is relatively low in the late preschool age to preadolescent group, so incidences may be more heavily related to early parenting.
The second salient theory to explain why externalization associated with early parenting decreases during adolescence is called the decaying relation explanation, which attributes the decrease to a longer interval separating risk and outcome. The keystone of this theory is that successful adaptation in previous encounters serves as a tool to cope with future experiences. This coping ability, however, can be affected by future circumstances. This means that successful adaptation in a given situation does not always lead to better coping skills for future encounters if significant events have altered the adolescent’s coping mechanism. For example, negative experiences outside of the early parent-child relationship may cause the adolescent to exhibit more psychopathology than is proportional to the quality of interaction in early childhood.
The results of the tests−parental surveys for kindergarteners, first-graders, and 16-year-olds, and participant surveys for 16-, 23-, and 26-year-olds−indicated that externalization of behavior related to poor-quality early parenting is more prevalent in preadolescent children and adults. This result is suggestive that in stages where externalization is not normative, as in preadolescence or adulthood, those incidences of the behavior are more directly linked to poor-quality early parenting. In adolescence, the major contributing factor is not early parenting. Rather, it is more based on peer interaction and individual choice. Further, researchers suggest that infancy, characterized by rapid development of the ability to regulate emotion, pattern relational abilities, and other internal representations of relationships, may be a sensitive period for future environmental influence. The authors also introduce the idea of a genetic link regarding externalization between the parent and child due to similar results regarding antisocial behavior. Preadolescent and adult antisocial behaviors show a stronger genetic link than that of adolescent antisocial behavior. It is plausible to suggest that, due to these findings, externalization of behavior may be linked to a genetic liability shared between parent and child.
This was a very interesting article about how early parenting has the potential to lead to externalization of behavior; i.e. hyperactivity, delinquency, and aggression. It is apparent that the parenting style taken in the early formative years has a direct effect on the child for the remainder of his/her life. The effect is most pronounced in preadolescence and adulthood, but it still affects adolescence, albeit a more muted effect within that age range. The most interesting factor of the study was the drop in level for 16-year-olds. In both sets of surveys, the participants and the parents believed that poor-quality early parenting had little to do with the externalization of behavior, but the numbers rebound back to comparable levels between preadolescent parental surveys and adult participant surveys. This could mean that in preadolescence, parents believe that they are responsible for their children’s behavior, but after a certain age of maturity, the parents believe that society, peer influence, and individual choice have more to do with the adolescent’s behavior. Similarly, the surveyed adolescents responded in a way that leads the reader to believe that they agree that their early parental experience has little to do with incidences of externalizing behavior during adolescence, but after a few more years of gained maturity, the adults cite poor-quality parenting as a reason for acting out.
After reading the survey, I was stunned to see the percentage of adults who personally cite early parental influence as the reason behind their externalization of behavior. I believe that adults are completely responsible and accountable for their actions. I understand that nurture during formative years has much to do with the adult that you become, but honestly, I have a strong belief that if a person has the desire to overcome the shortcomings of early life that one cannot control, the shortcomings can and will be overcome. I seriously ask myself, “What happened to personal responsibility? When did it become the normal course of action to blame someone else when something goes wrong?”
The data collected within the survey is good, but further studies are needed to correlate whether there is truth in what the data suggests. If other studies find the same result, then the data might useful as early intervention for preadolescent and adults prone to externalization of behavior. Also, a survey could be useful for school age children to identify which students might need more individual attention based on early parental relationships.