As a counselor, it is imperative for an individual to be conscious of their own life experiences. In this paper I will re-examine my life and include experiences while considering the infancy, childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood stages of my life. I will relate significant events in my life to the developmental theories covered in this life span course. I will demonstrate my understanding and mastery of the major concepts taught in this course. This paper will cover different theorist views on development such as Jean Piaget, and Erik Erikson. These theorist are associated with the author’s personal beliefs of the developing human. The view of development, the author’s understanding of how the theorist relate to the development over the lifespan will be discussed in the paper. These topics will explain the author’s understanding of the different theories of development and how the author can apply them to everyday life experiences.
Infants begin to learn by using their senses to examine the world around them. Newborns generally can focus on and follow objects as they move, and differentiate between the volume and sounds that they hear. They can see colors and differentiate major color groups. Infants can also recognize faces, imitate facial expression, and respond to sounds that are familiar. In infancy I learned by using my sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell to navigate the world. My learning process began by interacting with the environment. As I began to explore the world around me I learned that there are different behavioral responses to stimuli. These experiences were the beginning of my understanding of cause and effect relationships.
Young children are growing physically and mentally during early childhood. According to Gracepoint Wellness: Children of this age continue to advance their skills in observing and interacting with the world around them. They also make tremendous leaps in how they process, store, and use information. According to Piaget, children in the preoperational stage of development build on skills learned and mastered during the sensorimotor stage (Oswald, n.d.).
As a toddler my cognitive abilities involved building onto the skills that I mastered, such as attention, memory, and thinking. I was also able to better understand emotions such as love trust, and fear. In this stage I was able to understand what discipline was and to determine what was appropriate or inappropriate behaviors based on my parents standards. These skills gave me the ability to process information, retain information, and have a better understanding of things.
At this stage children are generally five years old when they start school if they do not attend pre- kindergarten. Although my parents wanted me to start pre-kindergarten I was deemed too advanced at the time to start school. My parents were told there were students who needed help and they were preferred since I knew what they needed to learn. At this stage my vocabulary had increased and I could recite about 2, 000 words. I knew my ABC’s, I could count, and I could spell my entire name. While I was out of school my parents continued to work with me to learn as much as possible. After starting school I began to excel amongst my peers and it was evident that I was advanced. By second grade the staff got together and wanted to promote me to fourth grade, but my parents would not allow me to skip two grades. Especially since that would be me a grade ahead of my older brother. In middle school and high school I exceled in my classes and received awards often for making principal’s honor roll, or honor roll.
Adolescence is the period of growth from childhood to maturity. In adolescence I was able to think in concrete ways, solve problems, sort through things, and have more complex thought processes. I was able to debate ideas or opinions, I could reason with others, and consider others viewpoints even if they differed from my own. At this point in my life I was wondering what do I want to do with my life. Erik Erikson calls this stage identity versus role confusion.
I knew I wanted to go to college, but I did not know what college I wanted to attend. I remember going to a college fair and standing in the middle of my high school gymnasium feeling unprepared and scared about the “unknown”- college. I saw all my friends at the table for Claflin University so I proceeded to that table. I noticed they had biology as a major and I wanted to study pre- medicine so I applied. Without knowing anything about the school besides it was a historical black college, and a few of my friends were applying – I did the same. I applied not knowing that the decision I made would be one of the biggest decisions of my life and would lead me to my destination with a few detours, pain, and devastation along the way.
According to Erik Erikson my psychosocial development at this stage in my life would be intimacy vs isolation. This stage takes place during young adulthood between the ages of eighteen to forty years old. In this stage individuals explore personal relationships. People successful at this stage move on to form relationships that are secure and lasting. At this point in my life I agree with Erikson’s psychosocial development. I am a stage in my life where I want a successful love life and to be married and eventually have my own family. My moral reasoning is the fact that there is no need in being successful in life and have no one to share it with. As the songstress Sisqo stated, “ Even though it seems I have everything I don’t want to be a lonely fool”. Having everything in life, but love is not living a fulfilled life in my opinion. I believe most people in their late twenties early thirties are at a place in their lives where they want to settle down and have someone to share their love with.
Biosocial Theory is a theory in behavioral and social science that describes personality disorders and mental illnesses and disabilities as biologically-determined personality traits reacting to environmental stimuli. In regards to biosocial status, I do not have a personality disorder or a mental illness. To my knowledge I have no family history of a personality disorders or mental illnesses. According to Study :
Biosocial development refers to the physical (biological) and intellectual, social, and emotional (social) development of a person. Such development relies on various biological functions including, genetic, chemical, and nervous system functioning. This development is compounded by the development occurring from the influences of a personal social surroundings and environment. Such factors influence the development of a person’s personality and perspective of society around him or her. In children, biosocial development focuses on attachment. As children grow and become teenagers, they continue to develop biologically but also socially. Such development continues into adulthood (study.com n.d.).
Contributions of Nature and Nurture
Nature refers to a person’s innate qualities. Nature is your genes. It is the physical and personality traits determined by your genes. It always remains the same regardless of where your were reared. Nature is your biological and family factors. Certain physical attributes are biologically determined by genetically. According to Explorable:
The coding of genes in each cell in us humans determine the different traits that we have, more dominantly on the physical attributes like eye color, hair color, ear size, height, and other traits. However, it is still not known whether the more abstract attributes like personality, intelligence, sexual orientation, likes and dislikes are gene-coded in our DNA, too (Sincero, n.d.).
Whether it is the shape of your nose, the texture of your hair, or your skin-color. All of these physical characteristics are all a function of the genes we inherit. Other physical characteristics can also be influenced by the genetic makeup of our biological parents. Interestingly things such as weight, life expectancy and susceptibility to illnesses are also inherited hereditarily.
For example, my genetic makeup is a spitting image of my mother’s genetic makeup; with some influence from my father. I inherited my mother’s eye color, her nose, and her body shape. My genetic makeup is so similar to my mother’s to the point where I can be in public and people will think I am my mother. Or without knowing who I am strangers will walk up to me and say, “You got to be Tan’s daughter”. Even little thinks like my attitude and my ability to hold a grudge is inherited from my mother. Ironically as stated before susceptibility to illnesses are inherited genetically. Often times when my mother states she suffers from certain illnesses or deficiencies as soon as I am tested I suffer from the same things. For instance, my mother is an anemic, she has a vitamin D deficiency, and a folic acid deficiency. I also suffer from the same deficiencies.
Although, I inherited most of my attributes from my mother there are some similarities between my father and I as well. My father is 6’2 inches tall, my mother is 5’2 inches tall, and I am 5’5 inches tall. Therefore, I get my height from my father. My father and I both have the same blood type. My father is a laid back individual and I take after him being very laid back. Unlike my brother and my mother who are the comedians of the family. While getting my first tattoo at the age of eighteen, I also discovered just like my father, my body is prone to keloids.
Nurture refers to personal experiences. Nurture refers to your childhood. Or how you were brought up. Someone could be born with a certain gene, but become malnourish in childhood, and it results in failure to develop as one would expect. Nurture is your social and environmental factors. According to Explorable:
The nurture theory holds that genetic influence over abstract traits may exist; however, the environmental factors are the real origins of our behavior. This includes the use of conditioning in order to induce a new behavior to a child, or alter an unlikely behavior being shown by the child (Sincero, n.d.).
From a young age one is shaped by their environment whether positively or negatively- we all are products of our environments. Individuals are shaped by almost everyone they encounter throughout life. Morals, values, and beliefs play a vital role in the shaping of individuals as well.
I was born Shakeyla Lontae Boulware on May 2, 1990 to James and Tanya Boulware. I was the youngest of two children and my older brother, Akevis Boulware is a year and a half my senior. Growing up in a two parent Christian home came with lots of structure. Often times I would say too much structure. My father was really strict growing up and he made it clear that he made the rules. My mother was somewhat lenient but I knew she was the disciplinarian out of my parents. My dad was not a big disciplinarian, he would spank us sometimes, but most times he did not have to- his presence alone made us get ourselves in order.
Although I grew up in a strict environment my parents had more of an authoritative parenting style. A authoritative parenting style is one of high expectations, clear standards, assertive, flexible, responsive and warm. Although my parents were strict they always had an open door policy where my brother and I could talk to them about anything or call a family meeting whenever we felt like something was bothering us. My parents instilled in my brother and I the importance of hard work and education. My parents set high expectations for me in regards to my grades, my circle of friends, even the guys I decided to date or bring home. Back then I thought my parents were being so hard on me, but looking back I realized they only wanted what was best for me. I did not realize at that time, but that structure, and high would be beneficial to my development. Now I have high expectations for myself and tell myself there are no limits to what I can achieve. I also set high expectations within my group of friends or the people I chose to date. I surround myself with like minded people in all aspects of my life.
The Influence of Learning Theory
In this philosophical tradition, knowledge and skill are thought to accumulate as the result of each person’s individual experiences. The environment gradually leaves its imprint on one’s behavior and mind, a mind that in infancy is like a blank slate (Broderick & Blewitt, 2015, pg. 14). There are three major type of learning theories: Classical conditioning, Operant Conditioning, and Learning through observation. According to the principles of classical conditioning, learning takes place when an association is formed between a previously neutral stimulus and a naturally occurring stimulus (cherry, 2006). Classical conditioning and operant conditioning are much alike as they both depend on forming associations with stimulus. However, in operant conditioning, associations are made between a behavior and the consequences of that behavior. If it is a desirable consequence, it is likely to be repeated. If it is a undesirable outcome, the behavior is less likely to occur (Cherry, 2006). Unlike classical conditioning, and operant conditioning I believe learning is taught by observation. Children observe everything around them, especially the actions of those around them. Usually their caregivers and siblings, and mimic these behaviors. Learning does not automatically result in a change in behavior. Children often learn new things through observation, but might not engage in such behaviors themselves until there is actually a need or motivation to utilize the information that they have acquired (Cherry, 2006).
Significant Events that Shaped my Growth and Development
I’ve had several significant events that shaped my growth and development. I could speak about thinking my father would die when I was in middle school due to him having a tumor in his neck. Imagine after that surgery the doctors tell you your dad will be a human vegetable? He will not walk or talk, and his life expectancy is only five years after the surgery. But God, he’s still here today. I could talk about finding out my maternal grandmother had breast cancer and it all happened around the time that I was supposed to graduate High School. I could speak about almost losing my mother to a chemical burning experience and hearing the doctors tell you that your mother was burned inside out. I could even speak about finding out at just twenty-one years old that I have a lump in my breast and being afraid that I could have breast cancer. I could also speak about almost losing my father again at twenty one due to him having yet another tumor, this time on his spine, and catching meningitis immediately after the surgery. Or even the fact that my maternal grandmother had a stroke within months of my dad’s surgery and her never truly being herself again after that stroke. Of course that stroke happened just weeks prior to my undergraduate graduation. See the coincidences? The past two graduations I’ve had my grandmother had some sort of major illness. Imagine why it took me five years to get back in school? Fear. There is more to everyone than what meets the eye. As the gospel singer Marvin Sapp states, “I am so glad I don’t look like what I have been through”. I have so many life defining moments that I could not speak of just one situation. Each of these situations affected me and shaped me into the woman I am today. The woman who will seize the day and enjoy every moment as if it could be my last. These situations have taught me to give people their roses while they are alive- in other words cherish and appreciate people while they are alive. These moments have also made me the woman who is fearless and wont allow fear to stunt her growth any longer.
My Self Theory
Self- actualization is being able to reach your full potential. According to Simply Psychology: Carl Rogers (1959) believed that humans have one basic motive, that is the tendency to self-actualize – i.e., to fulfill one’s potential and achieve the highest level of ‘human-beingness’ we can. Like a flower that will grow to its full potential if the conditions are right, but which is constrained by its environment, so people will flourish and reach their potential if their environment is good enough. However, unlike a flower, the potential of the individual human is unique, and we are meant to develop in different ways according to our personality. Rogers believed that people are inherently good and creative (McLeod, 2014).
People with self-actualization accept themselves for who they truly are. Not only are they accepting of themselves but of others. No matter the difference of race, age, gender, or sexuality. Other individuals are treated with the same positive regard, genuineness, and acceptance. Self- actualized people have a strong sense of self. Self-actualized people are realistic. Instead of being fearful of the unknows they approach situations head on and let the chips fall where they may. Self-actualized people are very independent. They do not worry about or conform to accommodate others- they dance to their own music. Self- actualized people have a sense of humor and are able to laugh at themselves if necessary. The most important aspect of being a self-actualized person is learning to enjoy the journey not just the destination. I’ve realized the journey is just as important to becoming me than just becoming me.
- Broderick, P. C., & Blewitt, P. (2015). The Life Span: Human Development for Helping Professionals (4th ed.) [South University]. Retrieved from https://digitalbookshelf.southunversity.edu/#/books/9781323585382/
- Cherry, K. (2006, December 12). How Do the Learning Theories in Psychology Compare? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/learning-theories-in-psychology-an-overview-2795082
- Early Childhood Cognitive Development: Introduction – Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gracepointwellness.org/462-child-development-parenting-early-3-7/article/12757-early-childhood-cognitive-development-introduction
- McLeod, S. (2014). Carl Rogers | Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html
- Sincero, S. M. (n.d.). Nature and Nurture Debate – Genes or Environment? Retrieved from https://explorable.com/nature-vs-nurture-debate
- What is biosocial development? | Study.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://study.com/academy/answer/what-is-biosocial-development.html