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Singer Britney Jean Spears was born on December 2nd, 1981, in Kentwood, Louisiana. She was the second of three children with an older brother Bryan and younger sister Jamie all born to Lynne and James Spears (Dennis, 2009). Britney Spears has been one of the most successful artist of this generation and yet one of the most controversial. While her music was centre stage at the beginning of her career her personal life and struggles are what makes the news today.
Born the middle of three children Britney started performing at a very young age, she attended Kentwood high school in her home town of Louisiana, but dropped out to pursue her career in music (Dennis, 2009). Following her dream to sing and perform Britney (eight years old) auditioned and failed for the Disney channel’s The Mickey Mouse Club as a Mouseketeer, deemed too young by the casting director. On Britney’s eleventh birthday she successfully auditioned again for the Disney Club and was cast alongside future stars Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera where she appeared for 2 seasons before it was cancelled (www.imdb.com)
On December 1998 Britney was signed to Jive records and released her first and hit single ” Hit me baby one more time” becoming the first new female artist to have a number one single and album in the same week going which sold more than 22 million copies worldwide (Dennis, 2009). She was later awarded the Female album of the year, female artist of the year and best new artist of the year. Her dream of becoming a successful artist had come true.
Britney was now a permanent fixture in the entertainment world, at that time she was rumoured to be dating fellow Mouseketeer Justin Timberlake. In 2001 in trying to shed her wholesome image she had started her career with Britney released “I’m a Slave 4 U” showcasing a different musical direction and a raunchier image. Controversially on the MTV Video Music Awards 2001, Britney performed live on stage with a seven foot python draped around her neck wearing minimal clothing (Heard, 2010).
2002 was a traumatic year for Britney, she starred in her first feature Film Crossroads which was deemed a flop by critics (Dennis, 2009), she announced her split from Justin Timberlake and her parents announced that they were divorcing.
In 2003 Britney again created headlines performing onstage with her idol Madonna sharing a kiss with her onstage and fellow mouseketeer Christina Aguilera. Again Britney was showcasing her more sexualised persona that she had been trying to shed.
In 2004 following a hectic tour Britney appeared in the news for marrying her childhood friend and annulling the marriage within two days (Heard, 2010). It was also reported that year that her father had entered rehab due to alcoholism. Her turbulent life just got bumpier. She was later involved with backup dancer Kevin Federline whom she married late 2004(Heard, 2010)
In 2005 following rumours that Britney and Kevin’s union was less than perfect, Britney allowed camera’s to follow their lives and showcase it on MTV which drew little audience figures. In April 2005 Spears welcomed their first child Sean Preston. In 2006 Britney was again in the news being caught driving with her child on her lap. Later that year Spears announced they were having a second child Jayden James. But two months later Spears and Federline announced they were divorcing (Heard, 2010)
Britney began to frequent the social club scene with socialite Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and others, For a mother of two her behaviour became more erratic, she was seen leaving various night clubs intoxicated which lead to her reportedly being checked into rehab, she was later caught during her difficult time shaving her head sparking a media frenzy questioning her sanity. She then went on to lose full custody of her children to her ex husband and became estranged from her mother (Heard, 2010). Even with her personal life in disarray Spears found time to continue her music career and release another album. While performing her then new single “Gimme More” Spears seemed lethargic, danced poorly and seen to lip sync her song. Later that month spears was charged in connection with a hit and run. Her album sold a million less copies and her disorganised public appearances led to suggestions she was nearing a breakdown (Dennis, 2009)
In 2008 Britney suffered a breakdown and was entering and re-entering rehab several times. .Her mother admitted publicly in her book Through the Storm that Britney had postpartum depression. Britney’s two sons were still in full custody of her ex husband and controversy started over her manager being claimed to mismanaged Britney by her parents.
Following a short time away in rehabilitation Britney began her comeback, her manager was sacked, her father was now in control of her assets and parents were back together in 2010. Her life seemingly going smoothly, while not in full custody of her children Britney is now supported on tour by her ex husband who tours with her and their two children.
According to Freud personality develops through a person’s attempt to, (1) max their instinct of gratification and (2) minimise punishment and guilt. Freud suggested that there are three main aspects of functioning within the structure of personality; the Id, ego and superego. The id is the “source of all drive energy” (Pervin, Cervone & John, 2005., p. 85). It functions in accordance with the pleasure principle which seeks pleasure at any cost without the consideration of a consequence, and which also avoids pain. The id is “without reason, logic, values, morals, or ethics” (Pervin, Cervone & John, 2005., p. 85). Following from the accounts on the life of Britney Spears, Spears is better known for her personal struggles and her sometimes controversial behaviour, which we can assume is some evidence of the id. According to Freud the id is the unmodified motives and instincts that are usually present in an individual and it contains all the primary processes; impulse, desire and pleasure. It is evident in the accounts of Spears life that she makes numerous attempts to fight against her superego, which Freud suggests is the moral code, “the moral branch of our functioning” (Pervin, Cervone & John, 2005., p. 85). The superego is what can be referred to as conscience; it is the morals, values and ethics enforced on us by society – our parents. Spears can be said to have been fighting against her superego, when she released the video for her hit single “I’m a slave 4u” in 2001, it could be seen that she was fighting so hard to shed her ‘innocent girl’ image. She was trying to go against the laws that had been governing her throughout childhood.
Her upbringing according to Freud plays a huge role in moulding her personality. He suggests that adult personalities can be traced back to handlings of earlier childhood conflicts. Freud suggests that non gratification of early instincts may lead to fixations and psychopathology. Non gratification or love could have then led to a fixation on attention seeking in Britney spears. It seemed like Britney lacked appropriate attention from within her family unit. According to Freud, early events are particularly influential on later behaviour, especially around the age of 5. Although her need for public attention has been evident since childhood, it can be said that, (in relation to her early childhood) she was being pushed by her mother- “ever since I was 7 or 8 years old, my mom would have company over, and I was always performing for everybody in front of the TV…”. This need for attention can also be seen when she allowed the media into her home to document her relationship with then husband, Kevin Federline and also when she shaved her head in 2007. Therefore, it can be assumed that she grew up seeking the attention of others either because of her early exposure to this type of attention or because she lacked appropriate attention from within her family unit. This non gratification within the home could have also led to the fixation, we see later on in her life, when she breaks up with Justin Timberlake in 2002.
In relation to Eysenck’s 2 factor theory, Britney seemed to struggle between traits (Pervin, Cervone & John, 2005., p. 233). She moved from being an emotionally unstable introvert- in 2002 she announced her break up from Justin Timberlake and her featured movie Crossroads, did not sell as much as was expected, she seemed unhappy, worried and anxious. She then started displaying traits of an emotionally stable extrovert, she went binge drinking Las Vegas and married her childhood Friend. This union was annulled two days later. She then got married to one of her backup dancer as stated earlier. All these according to Eysenck’s 1970 2 factor theory suggests, that Britney was (at the time) carefree, outgoing and sociable. As well as these, she has also shown traits of an emotionally stable introvert. This is a very new category within which Britney only entered in the last two years. We can assume that this is the impression she wants to give form the statement she makes in an interview with the Glamour Magazine- “I don’t like going out… I love my home and staying in bed and watching Dancing With the stars or reading a Danielle Steel novel. I’m kind of boring”. An emotionally stable introvert displays traits including; reliability, control, peacefulness, thoughtfulness and passivity.
Adler 1925 on the other hand, believed that “even though children have the same parents and grow up in nearly the same family setting, they do not have identical social environments”. Adler 1925 suggested that the order in which an individual is born contributes to the development of their personality. He referred to this theory as the birth order effect in personality development. In relation to the case of Spears, she was a second child, and as previously stated she had an older brother (Bryan Spears) whom we can only assume she looked up to at some stage during her developmental process. Britney Spears states that he “frequently kept her safe, and out of trouble, when she was growing up as a child”. Adler 1925 advised that the second child competes for attention and affection and finds different ways to earn attention either from parents or others. Spears on the other hand, found attention from the public eye from a very young age, attention we assume, she did not receive at home.
In Adler 1925 suggests that the child develops to be Independent and competitive, especially with the oldest sibling. Sibling rivalry may be initiated by second born as they struggle to identify their role in the family. The second child can be seen as a rebel, especially if they do not feel they are getting equal treatment with that of the first born. A great positive trait is that they can be very expressive and creative, there personality traits can also be different compared to the other children. Adler 1925 advised that Parents are less restrictive, freedom is allowed and the child is able to be more independent and creates own character. The child is able to freely express his/her unique personality and is very adventuresome, fun-loving, gregarious, often creative and artistic. The second child according to Adler tries to surpass the older sibling especially if close in age. They can be rebellious and envious but generally well adjusted. Adler1925 also advised that if different sex than the first born she/he can develop some first-born traits.
According to Ainsworth, from birth, infants are completely dependent on others for care; Ainsworth suggests that a child goes through stages in development of attachment. Having a secure base is very important in the bond the child has with its mother and in forming future relationships. A lack of secure attachments can have a negative consequence in forming a relationship with other in the future. Successful attachment is vital for positive social and emotional development In terms of Spears one can assume, following the information we have in regards to her relationships as an adult. She did not have a very secure base of attachment with her mother. This assumption follows from the breakdown she goes through after her break up with fellow entertainer, Justin Timberlake in 2002 after a 2 year relationship. From this point in her life she began to publicly go on a downward spiral.
In the 1930s Carl Rogers developed an approach to counselling called ‘Client-Centered Therapy’. His Client-Centered Therapy was based around the concept that the client knows best. It is the client who is most aware of his own pain and who will be the one to pave the way forward in his life. Humans are innately good and geared towards self-actualisation.
According to Rogers, an essential element in the creation of a fully functioning person is ‘unconditional positive regard’. This is essential to healthy psychological development.
Unconditional positive regard is something that may have been missing from Britney’s life. As previously stated, Spears was always working hard to gain attention and positive regard, which might have been due to a lack of this from her family. This, according to Rogers, results in a feeling of unworthiness. This could explain her string of unstable relationships and the breakdown in her life following the end of her relationship with Justin Timberlake.
Her life in the 2000s was full of abnormal and maladaptive behaviour, which could be classed as psychopathology. It is possible that the public image she desired was incongruent with her true inner feelings. According to Rogers, the denial of these feelings can result in an exaggerated version of what the person was trying to defend against in their mind. This could explain the bizarre behaviour of Spears. Her non-congruence could also explain her consistent need to impress and get attention.
What was wrong with Britney? As Shildrick notes, “we demand of modern biomedicine that all disruptions to the self’s ‘clean and proper body’ should be dealt with, that the actual vulnerability of the embodied self and its propensity to diverge from the normative structures of health and well-being should be covered over, or managed out of existence, by a technologically driven bioscience (Shildrick, 2008, p. 32). Her management, her friends and especially her family were unable to control her, Britney’s life turned into a mess and the world around her crumbled but luckily for her, and her family’s patience and unconditional support she pulled her life around so it seems.
Whether all that has happened to her is deemed positive or negative, it’s hard to say. The trials and tribulations that a person encounters in there life can either strengthen or weaken a persons resolve. In Britney’s case she seems to be moving onto a more positive route. So what is to become of Britney now?
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