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Running head: U07A1 PERSONAL CASE STUDY

u07a1 Personal Case Study Maria Mobasseri Capella University

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u07a1 Personal Case Study

A short case study regarding self will be developed. Furthermore the next developmental stage with respect to work or some other organization for self will be examined. At least two developmental theories will be considered and compared in analysis of the self-development with respect to strengths, weaknesses, observations, and threats. The current research findings on cognitive, social, biological, and emotional developmental theories will be applied to the selfdevelopment challenges. It appears that there are two kinds of developmental theories to consider. There is the structural approach that defines developmental change through alteration of structure such as cognitive, behavior, and many others. Piaget and Levinson theories are considered structural. The non-structural theories focus more on the quantitative measures and outcomes using one or more variables as oppose to the structural theorist’s qualitative approach emphasizing patterns more than single variables. Throughout this paper I will be using Erikson’s developmental theory to explain different stages of my development. I would then use Levinson’s adult development theories to further depict the era of mid adulthood of my life, primarily between the ages of 45-60. I am a 51 year old female born to a Persian family in Iran in 1960. I have lived the first 16 years of my life in Iran. I have then lived and studied for two years in Paris, France. I married a Persian man at the age of 18 and migrated to United States of America at the age of 20. I have two daughters, 17 and 25. I got a divorce after 27 years of marriage to my ex-husband at the age of 46. The only blood related family members I have in the United States are my parents who migrated to US about 15 years ago. My sister is the only sibling I have who has lived all her life in Iran. I have visited my immediate and extended family members three times in the past 30


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years. My three visits were about 7 years apart with each visit being approximately 3-4 weeks. It took me 6 years to get my Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering during which time I also gave birth to my first daughter. At the age of 35 after a miscarriage I decided to go back to graduate school and got my Master’s degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana during which time I gave birth to my second daughter. According to Erikson I have lived the first 4 stages of my life in Iran, the fifth stage in Europe, half of my sixth life stage in Texas and Massachusetts, and the second half of the sixth and most of my seventh stage of life in Illinois. I have worked either part-time or full-time holding variety of positions in all walks of life since I have been 18 years old. I started my permanent full time job at the age of 38 as a teacher at a community college. I started my middle management position as the head of an academic department at the age of 40. That is the job that I am still holding at the age of 51. I would like to use Erikson’s developmental stages to create an overall portrait of the past 50 years of my life. My infancy stage was surrounded by love and caring from family. My parents and grandparents were my primary care givers. I was well fed and taken care of. It was at that time that I developed my basic trust and positive outlook of world in general and life in particular. Two of my most noticeable strengths in life are derive and hope which according to Erikson are by products of the first stage of life. At the age of three I had a near death experience when I almost lost my life getting into a car accident driving to our vacation villa near the Caspian Sea. The feeling of abandonment when I was left to die under the car may have created a sense of vulnerability to being an independent individual. According to Erikson ego development starts at this stage of life and the trauma could have affected my self-esteem at a later life. Basic strengths developed at this stage


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are courage, self-control, and will. While I am a risk taker in life I am not as strong willed in getting what is best for me. A good example of lack of courage in later life is enduring a partnership and staying in a marriage that I knew from day one was not meant to be. My impulsiveness in life is a good example of lack of development of self-control considered as one of the byproducts of this stage as basic strength. At the age of five I was caught role playing mom and dad with my cousin. I was severely punished by my mother that I believe resulted in guilt as the ego development outcome at this stage. Purpose is considered the basic strength developed at this stage. While I set goals at every turn of my life I am always hesitant to admit what my purpose is. My elementary and early middle school experience was that of high academic achievement and strong intelligence and scholarship. My ego development outcome based on Erikson’s development theory was that of industry as oppose to inferiority. Competence was the main strength developed at this fourth stage of my life development. While up to this stage our lives is all about what is done to us, stage five of Erikson’s development theory is about what we as adolescents will do in determining our identity, our social interactions and moral concerns. From the age of 12 to 18, I witnessed my parent’s arguments and fights over variety of matters. It was then that I was put in the position of judging who was right and who was wrong. The ego development outcome for me was that of role confusion and loss of identity playing the role of a parent as oppose that of a child. My significant relationship at this stage was with my peers. Loyalty and devotion to my peers was one of my strengths developed at this stage of development. Taking the role of parent at home made me more mature than my peers that then resulted in the development of caring and commitment to my friends in solving all their problem matters at home or school.


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Stage six of Erikson’s ego development is that of intimacy as oppose to isolation with love and affiliation being the basic strengths. The most significant relationships at this stage are marital partners and friends. While becoming the mother of two beautiful daughters has helped me with strong sense of love and affiliation, staying married to a man whom I did not love for 27 years has resulted in ego development of isolation and maybe even a sense of superiority as oppose to that of intimacy. The above six stages of Erikson applied to my personal life span and development has provided me with enough foundation to focus on what I consider the most important stage of development, the middle adulthood. Erikson and Levinson’s development theory for the middle adulthood will be covered in detail next. Those theories then will be applied to my personal experiences during the middle adulthood. Erikson defines middle adulthood between the age 35 to 55 or 65. This is the stage where our most important relationships are with the workforce, society, and our family. Levinson defines life course as a solid entity of life in its development from beginning to an end. He believes each individual’s life is unique and influenced differently by one’s social character, biological working, and personality. He further claims that life cycle refers to an underlying order to one’s life course. He believes that there are three distinct periods to life cycle. Those are the pre-adulthood, adulthood, and old age. Levinson considers eras are units of measurements for life cycles. Middle adulthood in Levinson’s theory is defined from the age of 45 to 60. During this era one’s biological capacities may not be as strong as early adulthood but one still has high levels of energy and lives a fulfilling socially adequate life. Levinson explains the difference between personality structure and life structure with the former questioning “what kind of a person am I?” and the latter questioning “what is my life like now?” Examples of life structure questioning would be like: Do I like my job? Am I happy with my marriage? Do I want


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to make changes in my job? Am I missing stuff in life that I would like to have? Are my friendships, work relationships, love relationship, and family dynamic meaningful and fulfilling to me? The main question addressed within the life structure is examination of a substantial relationship with significant others where others may be defined as a person, an organization, a group of people, a location, a type of culture, and etc. A substantial relationship is considered one that requires mutual commitment within a given social context holding and influencing the relationship. Over time the life structure changes may cause certain fluctuations of those relationships while keeping other components of it intact. The dynamic of one’s relationship with spouse, lovers, friends, parents and their children, employer and employee will be examined. Similar patterns and their nature among various relationships will be identified. It is the cumulative experience earned from those relationships that may decide the faith of the future decisions. The three main components of life structure are family, marriage, and work. The growth of relationships within those main categories constitutes the shape of one’s life structure. In studying the development of life structure a basic changeless pattern with an alternating sequence between the “structure building” and “structure changing” phases has been identified (Levinson, 1980). The Structure building period is a time of creating life goals and working towards completing them. The structure changing period is a time when one transitions out of the previous life structure and onto the next. At the early phase of middle adulthood at the age 40 I found myself at an extremely fulfilling job being a teacher and an administrator shortly thereafter. That is the time I consider a “structure building” phase when I set my career goals. The first five years of this era I focused on acquiring the necessary knowledge and other resources to practice according to the field’s norms and policies. During this time I had very little time to be innovative and most of my operation was based on a reactive mode. The next five years I was able to be more creative and provided


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better leadership to my faculty and staff. On the tenth year of this structure building period I found myself transitioning into the “structure changing” period. In order to set goals for the next life structure period I posed the following questions: Is my job as exciting today as it was ten years ago? Do I consider my work day as series of mundane tasks? Have I maintained my creativity and ability to look outside of the box? Have I maintained my objectivity in managing and leading my staff? Have I exhausted all the relevant resources I need to learn and apply to my career goals? Am I of considered a valuable asset to the institution due to my middle management experience or am I considered a liability due to length of my experience? Am I able to lead by practicing shared governance despite my experience? Am I able to allow open space for my staff to further develop their minds and be creative? Am I making enough money to maintain my lifestyle? Is this job allowing me the personal and professional growth I desire? Upon close examination of the answers to the above questions it became clear to me that in order for me to grow further as a person I do not need to change my job. Considering that each day is an exciting work day I am fully aware the job itself has never become mundane. However, it appears to me that the tools I have used in my practice have somewhat became dull and at times ineffective.

This awareness has enabled me to open my mind to areas other than

academia to look for tools one can use in such areas as conflict resolution, faculty/staff evaluation, student advising, retention, and many others. In constructing the next level life structure for my career development I would like to use Levinson’s concept of satisfactoriness of the life structure (Levinson, 1978). Within this concept


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there are both internal and external factors to be considered. External factors would involve satisfaction with how well the designed life structure would fit with the world around me. On the internal side however it addresses more of how well the designed life structure fits the self. What are the advantages and disadvantages? Is there mutual investment between the self and the life structure? The decision to study my PhD in “Advanced Studies in Human Behavior” may not bring in much free time and comfort to my everyday life. It however brings much passion and self-indulgence in the world of human psychology and science despite its toll on my time. Levinson’s developmental theory provides an underlying framework for adult development supporting the cyclical nature of engineered life structure preceding each stage of adulthood followed by transitional period. There are research limitations with methodology in developmental field. While cross sectional research are most effective and informative methods they fail to address the process of development that occurs over a life span. The longitudinal research methods on the other hand satisfy the process of development but may become obsolete during the study period prior to completion of the research. Biographical research method may not be recollected and told exactly as it had happened. In addition, it appears that research regarding the human development is done in particular disciplines such as psychology to understand cognitive and behavioral changes, in Sociology where the effects of society and different cultures on human behavior is studied, or in biological/genetic/physiological studies where biological and physiological changes over a life span is studied. There needs to be studies conducted combining all those facets to understand human development and life structure. In fact, Levinson’s developmental theory and construction of life structure is an attempt in that direction.


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References Capps, D. (2004). The Decades of Life: Relocating Erikson’s Stages. Pastoral Psychology, 53, 332. doi:10.1023/B:PASP.0000039322.53775.2b. Levinson, D. J. (1980). Toward a conception of the adult life course. In N. Smelser & E. H. Erikson (Eds.), Themes of love and work in adult-hood (pp. 265-290). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Levinson, D. J. (1986). A conception of adult development. American psychologist, 41(1), 3. http://www.support4change.com/stages/cycles/Erikson.html


Personal Case Study