Lamis came from a family that originated from the country of Pakistan. She has a big family–her mother, father, fiver brothers, and two sisters–and they all give importance to the values, culture and behaviors inculcated into their minds by their parents.
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She likes socializing with people and undertaking activities with them because such experience gives her certain pleasure and enjoyment that she does not find in any other places. Her father, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of her mother. He does not like the idea of being with people.
He is more comfortable being alone in his own place, perhaps because her father is a very private person. He keeps a lot of things in his mind and usually do not share most of those things to her mother. Furthermore, her father is very pragmatic and he is open-minded that he understands the contemporary things they do in their lives even if those are sometimes against his beliefs.
On the contrary, her mother does not want them to do things on their own. She is very strict in terms of the things they undertake. She wants them to always obey her because she believes that she knows what is best for her children.
The contradictions demonstrated by Lamis’ parents made her initially a very confused individual. It affected the development of her morality. She told me she loves both of her parents so she was usually torn between whether to follow her father or her mother.
She eventually learned to balance the characters of her parents and somehow managed to grasp the positivity of their differing individualities and created a whole set of values, behaviors, and beliefs that influenced her moral development.
Lawrence Kohlberg, a theorist who proposed the concept of moral development, conceived that individuals continue through each stage of moral development consecutively without skipping or returning to a previous stage.
According to him, the stages of processing ideas, implying qualitatively, various ways of reasoning, and of problem solving are incorporated in the three levels of pre-conventional, conventional and post conventional development (Hayes, 1994).
The pre-conventional level of Kohlberg’s moral development theory communicated that behavior is motivated by anticipation of pleasure or pain (Hayes, 1994). The child is aware of cultural rules and labels of good or bad and right or wrong.
The subject then interprets the labels in terms of the physical consequence, such as punishment or reward. This was true in Lamis’ family particularly with how her parents raised them. Her mother, in particular, would always want them to help each other and to do things in accordance with her will because she was so strict during those times. She would not allow them to play outside the house if any of them disobey her.
Also, she wanted them to always study hard and incessantly reminded them the importance of education in their life. Hence, she would keep their toys and other sources of entertainment like television if they do not review their lessons at least two hours everyday.
Her father, on the other hand, would reward them for every good things they do like cleaning the house, fixing their bedrooms, and studying their lessons. He would buy them special cookies or their favorite chocolates every good grade they get from school.
Going back to Kohlberg’s moral development theory, the first level, pre-conventional, of moral thinking is generally found at the elementary school level, before the age of nine (Kay, 1982). This level is divided into the following two stages.
The punishment and obedience orientation. This is observed in children ages one to five. The subject is in avoidance of physical punishment and deference to power. The child behaves according to the socially acceptable norms, due to the fear of punishment by an authority figure. The physical aftermaths of an action ascertain its goodness or badness.
“What is right is to avoid breaking rules, to obey for obedience’s sake, and to avoid doing physical damage to people and property” (as cited in Wart, 1998, p. 36). Furthermore, an individual at this stage does not consider the thoughts or feelings of others, nor are they able to relate two points of view. As in Piaget’s framework, ego-centrism and the inability to consider the perspectives of others characterize the reasoning of stage one (Piaget, 2003).
The individual instrumental purpose and exchange orientation. Subjects usually between the ages of 5 to 10 are observed maintaining the attributes of being “self-serving.” This stage is “characterized by a view that right behavior means acting in one’s own best interest and occasionally taking into consideration the needs of others” (Penn State Engineering, 2006).
There is an early emergence of moral reciprocity. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” The individual will do what is necessary to satisfy his own needs not concentrating on loyalty or gratitude. Justice becomes “Do unto others as they do unto you.” What is right is the immediate interest in the form of an equal exchange, deal or agreement.
A subject at this stage of moral development has a basic understanding that norms and conventions are necessary to uphold society. The motto of this stage is “What’s in it for me?” Elements of sharing are present but are interpreted in a physical pragmatic way (Hayes, 1994).
When Lamis was a little kid, she told me she really did not care so much about the feelings of other people like her siblings and playmates. What was important for her was to play and made sure that she did not violate any of her parents’ rules because her strict mother would surely punish her.
Lamis was so young then that she actually did not understand everything her mother told her but she did acknowledge the fact that her mother would not be happy if she does something wrong. Until Lamis learned to care about other people and realize the importance of doing good things to others.
Her father played an important part in making her understand the essentiality of recognizing the welfare of other individuals in order for those people to do the same good things to her.
Lamis’ early learning experiences were fundamentally influenced by her family. She told me during the interview that she did not go to school early, unlike other children, because she had asthma. She only started to go to school when she was eight years old.
Apart from the fact that she had asthma, her parents were scared to leave Lamis in school at a very early age. Such action, according to her, was perhaps due to the conservatism in their culture. Yet, her father never forgot to tell her good things about going to school and learning new things from a teacher.
Lamis’ father would always narrate his positive experiences he acquired from school and things that education allowed him to do. Hence, Lamis became really interested in going to school and in fact, became one of the best students when she started her formal education.
Furthermore, Lamis was very thankful to her mother being extrovert. Although she was not allowed to go to school at an early age, her mother would always bring her whenever her mother would socialize with her friends and this was perhaps where she learned most of her social skills, where, according to Kohlberg and Piaget, most moral development occurs along with aging process (Duska & Whelan, 1975).
When Lamis started her first formal education in Saudi Arabia, she admitted to me that she had complicated experiences the first time basically because she found it very challenging to assimilate to the culture of her school considering that her native culture was very different from the school culture in so many ways.
On top of this, she did not know the English language that made it more difficult for her to interact with and understand her classmates. She shared to me one experience and this happened during the school opening. She came to school with short hair and most of her classmates were making fun of her.
Since she did not understand the language, she did not get affected and instead maintained her good values and behaviors that her parents inculcated into her mind. Lamis further shared to me some of her strengths when she was a student. She told me she was that kind of student who leads and influences other students. She never got intimidated by the presence of her classmates.
In fact, she was the class leader and she was the one assigned to do the morning news and introduction at school. She was capable of handling the entire class and her teacher actually entrusted to her the class whenever the teacher leaves. She took responsibilities very well. Such behaviors gave her good grades in school for 12 years.
During this part of the interview, I was able to trace where these positive and strong attitudes and behaviors came from. I believe her being strong, socially interactive, intelligent, independent, and creative was due to the trainings provided by her parents when she was a little kid.
As mentioned earlier, Lamis was introduced to the notion of reward and punishment system when she was young. Her strict mother would always ask her to study and do things accordingly; otherwise a corresponding punishment would be executed.
The interview moreover reveals that Lamis’ life is heavily influenced by her many personal encounters with an array of people of equally diverging personality types. Which is why, Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory appears to be a very good choice to help further elucidate Lamis’ unique learning tendencies and personality traits.
Erikson’s model, if only to mention, puts higher premium than most on exploring the environmental influences of a person as one grows up. In other words, it “considers the impact of external factors, parents and society on personality development from childhood to adulthood” (Learning Theories, 2007).
According to Erik Erikson, each person needs to undergo eight major life-defining stages over the period of their given life ps. And these stages, on a careful analysis, have two chief characteristics. First, these interrelated life stages – infancy, toddler-hood, school-age, adolescence, early and mid and late-adulthood – are differentiated not by the traditional approach involving the use of chronologically-based age ordering system.
Put in other words, Erikson’s model does not rely on the age of the person in solely evaluating his or her psychological development. Instead, Erikson conceives of these life stages always view of the growth and development of a person achieves relative to his or her age. Critical to his notion of psychosocial theory of personality development is the areas of growth that come with each life stage.
Second, every life stage consists in “a developmental task that confronts individuals with crisis” (Satrock, 2006, p. 71). Erikson’s model maintains that a person needs to find a resourceful way to successfully hurdle the respective crises each life stage brings him or her. If a person resolves a crisis, it serves his growth process well.
If a person is unable figure a resolution for it, chances are, it stalls the development of his or her growth and well being. Crises, in needs to argued, are life-defining moments. And as such, it promises not only an ugly catastrophe for a person, but an “enhanced potential” of a healthy psychological life as well (p. 71).
During infancy, Erikson believes that a person needs to resolve fundamental trusts issues. This is achieved when a child is adequately nurtured; i.e., if the immediate environment – the mother, father and siblings, among others – responds well to his or her needs.
If a child did not establish a basic sense of security from the family, it can result to an unfortunate retardation of his capacity to trust the larger world later on. Stage two meanwhile pertains to the struggle of a toddler to establish his will.
During this stage, a child is able to learn many new things and is beginning to learn what is right from wrong. Depending on the way a person is nurtured at this particular stage, a child can either end up having a strong sense of autonomy or shame.
The next phase is the preschooler stage – a time, as it were, to indulge in childhood curiosity. When properly affirmed, a child can develop a good sense of initiative. When constantly rebuked, a child is expected to develop a gripping sense of guilt.
According to Erikson, the immediate family of a child plays a very crucial role in the development or the retardation of children undergoing these three initial stages. In many ways, the importance Erikson places on the role of the family makes his theory wholly distinct from the more inclination-indulging theory of S. Freud (Erikson, 1964, p. 9)
Stage four meanwhile concerns the school phase of a child. During these years, a child needs to be empowered to develop his or her competence and self-esteem. At this stage too, a child can either develop a sense of industry or inferiority depending on the manner by which he or she successfully handles the pressures of peer and studies.
The next phase is the adolescence stage. At this point, the influence of the family, especially the parents, start to diminish. Everyone’s chief concern at this stage is to establish fidelity in one’s personal affiliation, belongingness, or even relationships. Moreover, a person can either end up establishing a strong sense of who he or she is, or wound up under-developing his or her identity in a crisis marked by severe confusion. Stages six to eight pertains to a person in his or her adulthood.
In particular, stage six, or the early adulthood stage, underscores a person’s struggle for love. Since this is the stage proper to establishing relationships, a person can either nurture intimacy or fall apart because of isolation. Stages seven and eight are phases that involve a person’s quest for generativity and integrity. When undermined, a person can sorely wound up into a stage of extreme wallowing and despair (Learning Theories, 2007; Satrock, 2006, pp 71-72).
Using Erik Erikson’s theory to evaluate Lamis, the following observations can be noted:
First, it can be said that Lamis’ authoritative comportment and unmistakable confidence take root from a successful resolution of her life’s first stage. Lamis’s early life was marked by healthy interaction with her family members.
And because each person takes on the “capital” of gaining something from one’s family of origin (Wartofsky, 1986, p. 113), it can be argued that Lamis’ was able to gain the all important aspect of familial love in her life. Lamis admits belonging to a family that places much regard on care, love and nurturance.
Moreover, her being born into a large family turned out to be an advantage for her as well, since her basic need to be nurtured and taken care of as an infant was addressed. This is perhaps the most fundamental reason why Lamis was to develop a strong sense of security as an adult; as indeed, this factor too may help explain why she looks at the world brimming with confidence, optimism and pride.
Next, one can also note that Lamis’ is herself quite clued-up with the fact that most of what she believes in and holds on in life stem from the unique manner by which she was nurtured. For instance, Lamis claims that early on in life, she already manifested a certain strain of stoicism towards feelings on account of a very strong sense of rules and punishment-reinforcements.
For someone who was just beginning to explore the world, it seems pretty obvious that Lamis developed a sense of autonomy defined by how successful she was able to play by the rules. Her desire to avoid being punished and suffer the shame of being reprimanded by her otherwise rigorous mother was controlling motive for this.
As such, this is a classic case of autonomy vs. shame struggle manifested by toddlers. In the process, what emerged from her struggle to obey was a person who has a specific leaning towards obedience and a knack on leadership that influences other people to obey as well.
Lastly, it has to be mentioned as well that Lamis’ school age is also marked by a successful overcoming of inferiority and low self esteem crises. During the interview, Lamis revealed that her initial contact with the school environment turned out rather unpleasant; as indeed, she had to adjust into the school system rather quickly (since she did not have any schooling prior to her entrance at the age of eight), and put up with incessant teasing of her classmates.
But because she was nurtured by a family that cared and supported her, she was able to overcome her school-age crises. In the process, she developed her sense of initiative and industry. This is perhaps seen most glaringly in the healthy and motivated way by which she views her efforts to succeed well in her studies even until the present.
To briefly conclude, this paper ends with a thought that, indeed, Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory is able to provide a window for us to look at Lamis’ belief system, behavioral uniqueness and personal worldviews within the larger context of her past experiences. Lamis is indeed a person shaped by the interactions she has had in her lifetime.
It is imperative to note that in the years to come, she is to encounter more life defining crises; this time about issues pertinent to adulthood. But what stands out for the meantime is her triumphant emergence from the three identified crises she has thus far encountered.
After using Erikson’s theory, we were able to affirm that Lamis’ being able to establish a healthy sense of confidence as an infant, autonomy as toddler, and initiative and industry as a school-age child, surely did serve her well.
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