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In the book titled, Social and personality development, David Shaffer conveys that modern researchers view families as a complex social system or network of reciprocal relationships that are constantly evolving (2008, p. 371). Each component of this complex network has direct and indirect effects. In essence, every person and every relationship within a family affects the other people and relationships (Shafffer, 2008, p. 372). I was born and raised in a traditional nuclear family in Lemont, Illinois. We are currently a family of five: my parents, my older brother, my younger sister, and I. My parents, Thomas and Linda Czernobil, were born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. They moved to Burr Ridge, a suburb located south-west of the city, to begin their family. By the time I became 2 years old, my family moved into our home in Lemont. My parents currently live at this same residence. Both of my parents are of Ukrainian and Polish descent. My great-grandparents escaped Eastern Europe to avert Communist persecution. They escaped to freedom by hiking over the Alps into Switzerland, much like the von Trapp family in the Sound of Music. They travelled until they reached Chicago and started a new life in a neighbor in the city called the Ukrainian Village.
When I was born my mother was 30 years old and my father was 34 years old. By this time, my mother had already become a stay-at-home mom to care for my brother and my father was employed at CNH, an agricultural and construction equipment industries firm. He was a mechanical engineer for the company. After the birth of my brother, my parents planned to extend their family. They wanted more children. However, I was a surprise and they were very happy. According to my mother, my brother was disappointed when I was born because he wanted a baby brother. My parents attended Lamaze class to prepare for my birth. However, they failed the class because they could not watch the birthing process movie. Since I was their second child, my parents did not have any worries about parenting and providing proper care for me. They felt competent and financially ready. Lastly, they did receive a tremendous amount of support from family and friends.
Researchers in the field of behavior genetics study how the set of genes one inherits comes to be observable characteristics and behaviors. They believe that there are biological bases for individual difference (Shaffer, 2008). Behavior geneticists define genotype as the set of genes an individual inherits. Ones phenotype is defined as the observable or physical product of genes. In other words, a persons genotype is their genetic blueprint or DNA, while their phenotype is the actual observable physical characteristics (Shaffer, 2008). Keeping this in mind, I believe that my physical characteristics such as eye color, height, gender, hair color, and blood type are solely genetic traits that were determined by the relationship between my genotype and phenotype. Therefore, my physical characteristics were solely influenced by my genes.
On the other hand, I believe that my personality and intelligence characteristics were determined by the interaction between my genes and environment. Behavior geneticists contend that most behavioral attributes are the results of the interaction(s) between hereditary predispositions and environmental influences. In my opinion, my personality and intellect were established by natured but shaped through nurture. In other words, I believe I was born with a genetic predisposition to behave and think a certain way. However, my behavioral and intellectual attributes were cultivated and influenced by my family, peers and life experiences. For example, I believe that I was born with genetic predisposition of a type A personality: competitive, hardworking, achievement-oriented, and ambitious. However, environmental influences were responsible for the expression or observable manifestation of these traits.
Furthermore, I believe the same is true for my intellectual traits. According to Shaffer (2008), the genes individuals inherit influence intellectual performance. He states that these attributes are genetically predetermined. However, they are heavily influenced by an individuals environment. Therefore, my personality and intellect were created by nature but largely determined by my environment.
My caregivers agree that my physical characteristics are purely genetic because everyone in the family shares similar physical attributes even though our environments have changed throughout the years. In other words, the members of our family still resemble each other even though my parents live in Chicago, my sister and I live in Birmingham, and my brother lives in Italy. My caregivers also agree that personality and intellectual attributes are both genetically and environmentally influenced. They also agree that ones personality and intellectual attributes are heavily influenced by environment because of the observable similarities and differences within our own family. My mother, father, sister, brother and I share many personality traits. We are all aggressive, hardworking, and compassionate individuals. However, some of our personality traits differ because of our personal life experiences and different environments. For example, my sister and I place a large value on artistic success over financial success because we spent most of our development years in confined artistic environments. On the other hand, our brother did not have a great deal of exposure to artistic environments. He spent many hours with our father learning about business, ethics, and finances. He places a much larger emphasis on financial success because he was exposed to this environment. All three of us are hardworking, career-oriented people. However, my financial personality as well as my sisters differs a great deal from our brothers because we were exposed to different environmental influences.
Shaffer (2008) defines human development as occurrences or changes in an individual that happen between conception and death. In other words, human development is an ongoing process that begins as soon as a sperm penetrates an ovum. The prenatal period typically lasts for forty weeks or roughly nine months and refers to the time in a pregnancy between conception and birth. There are many changes that occur to both the mother and child during this time and it is very important that the mother provide appropriate care and a healthy environment for her baby to develop properly. During this time, mothers should visit with her doctor regularly, get enough sleep, take prenatal vitamins, eat health foods, and exercise. They should avoid exposure to toxic substances, drugs, alcohol and harmful environments.
A teratogen is an agent, such as a drug or disease that can cause a birth defect. My mother had no exposure to any teratogens during my prenatal development. Since I was the second child, my mother knew what environments to avoid so that I was not exposed to anything dangerous. My mother does not smoke and rarely drinks alcohol. During the pregnancy she did not drink any alcoholic beverages or allow herself to be in environments where smoking was permitted.
During the entire pregnancy and after I was born, my mother exercised at Ballys. She took several fitness classes, including jazzercise. My mother received a great deal of emotional support from her friends and family during the pregnancy. She revealed that my father and grandmother in particular where very supportive and helpful, which helped keep her level of stress low. The pregnancy was nine months and fifteen days long. During the pregnancy, my mother felt great emotionally. She was so excited to have another child and she hoped it would be a girl. Physically, however, my mother did not always feel great during the pregnancy. She experienced throbbing headaches, nausea, back pain, and morning sickness.
Delivery, Early Health, and Milestones
My mother went into labor on January 10th, 1987. I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Illinois during a blizzard. My mother had some concerns since I was approximately two weeks late. My expected due date was December 27th. Nevertheless, the delivery went very smoothly. My mother did not receive any delivery drugs because there was not enough time for them to be administered. I weighed seven pounds and was nineteen inches long. My mother said that I was chubby, with no hair and big brown eyes. She remarked that I had a great smile. According to my mother, I received a perfect Apgar score of ten. I was breastfed for two weeks. My family did not experience any adjustment issues after I was born. On average I slept for two to four hours. As my body weight increased, I began sleeping for four to six hours.
Psychologist, Jean Piaget theorized that children move through a series of four stages of cognitive development. The four stages include the sensorimotor stage, the preoperational stage, the concrete-operational stage, and the formal-operational stage. During the sensorimotor stage, infants begin to coordinate motor responses and sensory input. This stage typically lasts from birth to approximately 2 years of age. In the preoperational stage, children begin to think symbolically. This stage begins at approximately 2 years of age and lasts up to age 7. In the concrete-operational stage that begins at approximately age7 and lasts until11 years old, children begin to think abstractly and logically. In the final stage, the formal-operational stage, children begin to think rationally and systematically. This stage begins at approximately age 11 or 12 and lasts into adulthood. During each of these stages, they are developmental milestones that children encounter (Shaffer, 2008).
According to Piaget, an infants coordination habits, such as grasping and sucking begin to occur around 1 to 4 months of age. Between 4 to 8 months of age, infants recognize that they are separate beings from external objects and begin to retrieve attractive objects that may be hidden or concealed. By ages 8 to 12 months, infants begin to exhibit problem solving skills. Between 12 to 18 months of age, children acquire the ability to solve problems mentally (Shaffer, 2008).
There were no developmental or major health concerns. However, I did have bouts of eczema as an infant. My developmental milestones were generally on time if not slightly early. My mother said I began smiling immediately after birth. I was generally a happy baby. She said that when I was 3 months old I was able to hold my head up, I began paying attention to faces and I began smiling at other people. Shaffer (2008) revealed that babies typically beginning smiling at other people around 3 months of age. I also began making cooing and gurgling noises at this time. By 4 months of age, I began to babble and copy sounds. I could hold my head up unsupported and could push up to my elbows when lying on my stomach. By 7 months of age, I could sit unsupported and bring things to my mouth. I began crawling and saying my first words such as mamma when I was 9 Â½ months old. I began walking and talking around 12 months of age.
According to Shaffer (2008), high-quality child care programs can optimize a childs cognitive, language and social outcomes because they provide an outlet where a child can be intellectually stimulated and participate in new experiences. As a matter of fact, research has show that high-quality care facilities can actually enhance a childs social, intellectual, and emotional development. However, it is important to note that these child care facilities must be high-quality centers. The quality of the day-care facility is a critical factor in determining how well a child will learn to communicate, behave, and think.
My mother and father provided daily care for me during the first 5 years of my life. My mother was a stay-at-home mom and my father cared for me during the evening hours after he arrived home from work. When I became 16 months old, I began attending Montessori preschool 2 mornings a week. As I grew older, my parents increased the time at the preschool. My parents sent me to Montessori preschool because they liked the Montessori method and philosophy. The Montessori philosophy is built upon a belief that children develop through a series of different stages and that children should work towards meeting their own learning individual needs rather than learning something based on age. According to my mother, I also received care from my grandparents.
My parents were happy with the care I received during this time in my life and they would do it all again the exact same way. They felt I received high-quality care from the Montessori school and that the care I received had many beneficial effects on my social and intellectual development. When I have children in the future, I will likely raise my children the same way my parents raised me. I would like for my husband and I to be the primary caregivers for our children with help from our parents. However, I am unsure I would register my children for a Montessori preschool program because I fear these programs focus too much self-directed learning. In these programs, children pick their work for the day and learn at their own pace. I believe that children should learn at their own speed. However, I also believe that there is a correct order and process to learning certain activities. Therefore, I will send my children to a preschool program. However, it will most likely not be a Montessori program.
According to Shaffer (2008), secure attachments between caregivers and infants build gradually from social interactions during the first year of life. Schaffer and Emerson found that infants pass through 3 phases to form affectional ties with caregivers and other people. By third phase, babies establish their first genuine attachments. Mary Ainsworth, a psychologist known for her work in early emotional attachment, emphasizes that these first attachments act as a secure base. This secure base provided emotional support for infants and allows them to venture out and explore new environments (Shaffer, 2008, p. 138).
There are 4 influential theories of attachment: psychoanalytic theory, learning theory, cognitive-developmental theory, and ethological theory. Each theory provides different insight as to how and why infants form attachments. According to the psychoanalytic theory and Freud, infants form attachments with their mother because they provide food. Erik Erikson also expressed that feeding practices influence the strength of attachment. However, he felt that a mothers overall responsiveness is more important than the actual feeding practices. Learning theorists also believe that infants become attached to people who feed them and gratify their needs because it increases the likelihood of a caregivers affection and ability to provide many comforts. Cognitive-development theorists think that the ability to form attachments depends on an infants cognitive development. Lastly, the ethological theory states that human beings are born with innate behaviors specifically designed to create attachments (Shaffer, 2008, p. 139-140). Around the age of 6-8 months, I was most securely attached to my mother. My mother revealed that I did not develop any other attachments during this time period. This attachment developed because my mother was actively involved and interacted with me often. She spent time laughing and playing with me and learned how to meet my physical and emotional needs.
Ainsworths Strange Situation revealed that there are four ways a child can illustrate his or her attachment to their mother or caretaker: secure attachment, resistant attachment, avoidant attachment, disorganized/disoriented attachment (Shaffer, 2008, p 144). Ainsworth describes a securely attached child as one who exhibits stress when separated from their caregiver, but warmly greets this caregiver when he or she returns. Securely attached children are comfortable with exploring new things and environments and are often outgoing with strangers if the caregiver is present Based on what I have learned I would characterize the quality of my attachment with my mother as secure. My mom stated that I always greeted her warmly and with a smile on my face. I also always sought to be near her or by her side. I showed signs of distress if we were separated and she was still in sight. I was always happy to see her when she returned. She said that I was often friendly with strangers and explored my surroundings with her nearby.
My mother revealed that I displayed a secure attachment with my father, but it developed as I became a few months older. She stated that I did not display any secondary attachments during the first year or two of my life. My mother illustrated that I would reach for my dad as soon as he arrived home from work and that I would always greet him with a smile. Even though I would primarily seek comfort from my mother when distressed. At times, I would seek comfort from my dad it these situations. My mother said I was a slightly more playful with my father. According to Shaffer (2008), researchers in Italy, Japan, India, Australia, Israel, and the United States found that mothers and fathers tend to play different roles in a babys life. They found that fathers are often the preferred playmate and mothers more often provide emotional support (p. 153).
My mother describes me as a happy and content baby. She said that I rarely cried except when I needed a new diaper or was hungry. She mentioned that I was very curious and always observing my surroundings. I liked meeting new people and my mother remarked that people really enjoyed my company as well. I showed regular eating habits and smiled often. According to Shaffer (2008), Thomas and Chess believe that the majority of infants can be placed into 3 temperamental categories: easy temperament, difficult temperament, and slow-to-warm up temperament. They describe infants in the easy temperament category as children who are even-tempered, open, adaptable, and predictable (p. 129).
Based on how Thomas and Chess define each category and how my mother described my temperament, I believe the easy temperament category best describes my temperament. Thomas and Chess found that ones early temperament characteristics sometimes can and sometimes cannot carry over into adulthood. Thomas and Chess felt that the relationship between a childs temperamental style and the child-rearing practices used determines the stability of early temperament characteristics. They call this notion the goodness of fit. A goodness of fit occurs when a childs temperament is compatible with their environment (Shaffer, 2008, p.129).
I believe that my early temperament has remained stable into adulthood because my early temperament style correlates with my current basic personality characteristics. I feel that I currently exhibit many positive personality traits. I am typically in a positive mood. I prefer to follow a regular routine and am open to experiencing new things. I am optimistic, observant, and happy. My early temperament style has remained stable because my parents recognized and were sensitive to my temperament style. They created an environment compatible with my temperament style.
Siblings and Birth Order
I grew up with two siblings: an older brother and a younger sister. My older brother and I are 2 years apart, while my younger sister and I are 6 years apart. Both of my siblings played positive roles in my development. There are many advantages and disadvantages of growing up with siblings. Anyone who has siblings has had their fair share of sibling rivalries and disputes. However, I believe that the advantages of growing up with siblings far outweigh the disadvantages.
To begin, my siblings provided companionship and friendship. I always had a playmate and I enjoyed their company. I was rarely lonely. Moreover, they provided emotional support when needed and they always made me laugh. They helped me develop the sense of humor I have today. While growing up, my older brother offered guidance on how to achieve new skills and tasks.
My younger sister and I shared many similar interests growing up. We both studied ballet seriously at a young age and the healthy competition between us is responsible for our success in the art form. We are both currently dancing professionally with the Alabama Ballet. Moreover, we developed a bond and support system that is like no other because we share love for the art form and have many common goals. Furthermore, having a younger sister allowed me to improve my interpersonal skills even further because just like my brother I became a model and teacher. I believe that I became a more sensitive, humble individual when my sister was born.
There are some disadvantages of growing up with siblings. At times, my siblings and I would get into arguments and we did not get along. There were instances of power struggles and we would often compete for our parents attention. At times, we all felt left out. My brother would feel especially left out when my sister and I discussed ballet. There were also instances of jealousy and unhealthy sibling rivalry. We all felt pressure to be the best and could not help but feel the pressure of being compared to one another.
According to Shaffer (2008), siblings play vital roles in one anothers lives. They provide care for one another and provide a great deal of emotional support. Through communication and interactions, they often teach each other important interpersonal skills, social skills, an understanding of other peoples perspectives and emotions, and a capacity for compromise and negotiation. Simply, siblings foster the growth of many social-cognitive skills (p. 390-392). I believe my birth order heavily influenced and shaped my development. In many ways, being the middle child was very difficult. However, it also had many perks because I was both an older and younger sister. I believe it taught me to become a great negotiator and mediator. It allowed me to gain a great understanding of others perspectives and in turn become an effective team player. However, one negative impression of my birth order on my development is my need to keep people happy at my own expense.
Psychologist, Urie Bronfenbrenner felt that a childs environment plays a vital role in their social, emotional, and cognitive development. He developed an ecological system model to illustrate how ones environment influences a childs development. He believed that 5 environmental factors impact a childs growth and development. These 5 factors include the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem, and the chronosystem. Bronfenbrenner believes that a childs microsystem has a significant impact on their cognitive, physical and socialization skills because in this system children are affected directly. Children influence their surroundings and in return are influenced by interactions with others, activities, lessons, and much more (Shaffer, 2008).
During my early childhood, I was exposed to numerous environments and activities. I was immersed in several lessons, clubs, and religious activities. My parents exposed me to several different types of environments and activities because they felt, much like Bronfenbrenner, that these activities would have a positive impact on my social, emotional, and cognitive development. I was primarily exposed to artistic activities because my parents felt they were beneficial and I expressed interest in these activities. At the age of 3, I was registered for ballet and piano lessons. By the age of 11, I began taking flute lessons as well. My mother signed me up for ballet lessons because she absolutely loves the arts and she always wanted to take ballet lessons when she was little. Furthermore, I was very clumsy and my mother believed ballet would provide me with some grace. My mother signed me up for piano lessons because of the intellectual benefits associated with exposure to musical training. In addition, my mother and father both played instruments during their childhood. My mother played the organ and my father played the trumpet.
My parents also exposed me to religious activities during my early childhood.
My family regularly attended church every Saturday where I attended mass and Ukrainian school. Moreover, we would attend church functions regularly. My parents felt it was important to instill faith and religion in my upbringing at a young age. Furthermore, they felt it was very important that I learn about Ukrainian culture and Ukrainian traditions.
Lastly, I was exposed to sport lessons and activities. When I was 5 years old, my mother registered me for gymnastics and tennis lessons. I only took gymnastic lessons for a year. However, I took tennis lessons every summer at the local park district up until the age of 9. My parents signed me up for these lessons because they felt it was important to expose me to several different activities so that I could become a well-rounded individual.
By the age of 12, I began choosing my own environments and activities. My choices were very similar to what my parents chose for me during my early childhood. However, I did eliminate every activity I was exposed to except ballet because I did not have the proper time to devote to several activities at one time. Throughout my childhood, I became very passionate about ballet. It was my dream to become a professional ballet dancer and I was willing to sacrifice all my spare time to make my dreams of becoming a ballet dancer come true.
According to Shaffer (2008), Erik Erikson and others believe there are 2 dimensions of parenting that are especially important throughout childhood and adolescence. These 2 dimensions are parental acceptance/responsiveness and parental demandingness/control. The acceptance/responsiveness describes that amount of support and affection a parent displays. The demandingness/control dimension refers to the amount of supervision or regulation a parent places on their child. Parents often differ along these broad childrearing dimensions. Maccoby and Martin found that these major two parenting dimensions yield 4 parenting styles when crossed: accepting/controlling or authoritative, accepting and uncontrolling or permissive, aloof /controlling or authoritarian, and aloof/uncontrolling or uninvolved. Psychologists, Diana Baumrind conducted research on these 4 parenting styles. After administering a study on more than 100 preschool-age children she found that the majority of parents displayed 1 of the 3 parenting styles: authoritative, authoritarian, or permissive. None of the parents in the study could be classified as uninvolved (Shaffer, 2008, p. 376-377).
Throughout childhood and adolescence, I believe my parents generally used 2 different parenting styles. I feel my parents personalities, parental backgrounds, and upbringings contribute to their different parenting styles. My mother offered a more democratic approach to parenting. For example, she was more willing to allow me to attend a performing arts high school out of state because she knew it was something I really wanted to pursue. She was warm and nurturing. For instance, she told me she loved me frequently and often. She established rules and guidelines that we were expected to follow. She was assertive but reasonable. For example, if I behaved poorly or did something wrong she would discuss my wrongdoings with me instead of immediately punishing me and sending me to my room. When I was 5 years old, I told my mother I finished my dinner when in actuality I threw the dinner away. When she saw the dinner in the garbage can, she had me sit at the dinner table and discuss the consequences of lying. She was assertive with her words, but not domineering or harsh. My mother was a good listener and often inquired about my needs and desires. She knew of my desires to pursue a professional ballet career and made sure I had all the resources to achieve my dream. Therefore, her parenting style was authoritative.
My father on the hand was more restrictive than my mother. He placed a large emphasis on academic success. Anything below an A was unacceptable. My father established strict rules and we were punished if we failed to follow these rules. For instance, if we behaved poorly or did something wrong we were immediately sent to our rooms and we were grounded until further notice. Furthermore, my father expected us to obey the rules without explanation. When my father was asked to explain the reasoning behind something whether we were arguing or discussing something he would simply respond with because I said so, or because I am your father. For example, when I would ask him if we could get a dog he would say no. When I would I ask him why he would respond with because I said so. At that point the discussion would be over. Therefore, his parenting style was authoritarian.
As I became an adult, I believe their parenting styles became more cohesive. My father transitioned to a more authoritative parenting style while my mother maintained an authoritative parenting style. I believe my fathers parenting style changed because he began to recognize and accept my independence and maturity. I feel that my father felt that I needed strict parenting and guidance as a child. He was legally responsible for my behavior and he worked to instill respectable values in me while I was young. He felt that the values he instilled in me while I was young would prepare me for adulthood. As I became an adult, he began to respect my opinions because he felt that I had the proper upbringing to make the right decisions. He felt that I was prepared to make mature decisions and take responsibility for my own choices.
No two families are alike and every family has its own unique dynamic. Therefore, there is no family dynamic that can be deemed as standard or normal. I believe it is normal for parents to disagree and argue at times. Misunderstandings and arguments are common in every relationship and quite frankly inevitable. My parents will be married 31 years in May. My parents have always had a loving relationship. However, they have experienced many relationship ups and downs.
During my early childhood and elementary years, my parents rarely fought. If they did fight, they took their arguments into a different room away from us. However, when I entered middle school my parents relationship experienced some turmoil. This turmoil lasted for several years. Only after I graduated high school did my parents relationship begin to recover. During this time, my family encountered some financial difficulties. There was a great deal of stress surrounding my family and my parents relationship. They argued constantly and frequently. Their arguments were heated and loud and often in front of us. At times they would encourage us to take sides and not speak for days. My parents relationship has recovered. If they do argue now, these arguments tend to be trivial and short-lived. They admit now that financial difficulties were the main culprit for the marital discord. Nevertheless, this was a very troubling time in our lives.
This rough period in my parents marriage had many negative effects on my development. To begin, I was often very frightened when my parents argued. I began to worry constantly and often feared they would file for divorce. I would become very upset and sad and I often felt unsettled, anxious and uneasy. At times, I felt that I was walking on egg shells around my parents and was very unsure when they next argument would transpire.
My parents troubled relationship did have a few positive effects on my development. These positive effects include a closer relationship with my siblings, greater academic success and greater artistic success. As my parents continued to argue, my siblings and I sought support from one another. We would comfort and listen to each other when other was upset. This created a closer bond. In addition, I found that they more my parents argued, the more I immersed myself in my art form. In essence, I used ballet classes as an escape where I could express myself and my emotions freely. The more my parents argued, the harder I worked. During this time, I gained a greater understanding and knowledge of my art form and became one step closer to achieving my dream.
Shaffer (2008) states that children exposed to marital conflict often suffer physically and emotionally. Marital conflict has direct and indirect effects on children and adolescents. Children become extremely distressed, anxious, and depressed. As marital discord persists, the chances of hostile and aggressive interactions between siblings and peers and adjustment problems increase. Shaffer acknowledges that children with secure attachments tend to cope better with marital conflict than those with insecure attachments because they are less likely to feel responsible and or concerned about their parents love for them (Shaffer, 2008). Even though I experienced many negative effects from being exposed to marital discord, overall I feel that I coped better than others undergoing the same situation. I accredit my secure attachments with both my mother and father for helping me cope in a better way and these secure attachments have allowed to me maintain a healthy relationship with both them. I will always remember the arguments they had, but I no longer have any ill feelings or lingering effects towards my parents and their relationship.
According to Shaffer (2008), there are 3 forms of discipline parents may use as disciplinary techniques. These 3 forms are love withdrawal, power assertion, and induction. When parents use love withdrawal as a disciplinary technique they typically withhold attention, affection, and approval in hopes of improving a childs behavior. When using power assertion, parents rely on their superior power to control a childs behavior. In other words, they may withhold privileges or administer spankings. Lastly, when parents use the disciplinary technique, induction, they explain why a childs behavior is wrong and how their wrongdoings affect others.
Generally speaking, when I misbehaved and acted inappropriately my parents used a combination of love withdrawal, power assertion, and induction. They were consistent in their approach to discipline and would approach each wrongdoing in a similar fashion. They would typically express their disappointment and reveal a form of punishment. These forms of punishment typically involved grounding, an increase in chores, and the withholding of privileges. During my childhood years, my parents would make me sit in timeout or send me to my room. After I completed the form of punishment(s) they administered, my parents would offer an explanation as to why my behavior was undesirable and wrong.
For example, when I was 5 years old I lied to my parents about finishing my dinner. I was told that I could not leave the dinner table until I finished my chicken. When my mother and father left the room, I placed the chicken in the garbage and brought my empty plate back to the dinner table. When my parents returned, I expressed that I finished my dinner and showed my empty plate. I was allowed to leave the dinner table at that time. Several minutes later my parents discovered that I lied because they found the uneaten chicken in the trash. My parents were furious that I lied. I was grounded for 2 weeks. My parents did not allow me to watch television for several days and I had to take on my brothers chores as well as mine for a week. My parents and I also had a long discussion where the expressed their disappointment and why lying was inappropriate. They said things like we are so disappointed in you, we never thought you would behave this way, and you know better.Their expressions of extreme disappointment were very disheartening and I felt very guilt and ashamed about my inappropriate behavior.
In addition, my parents would often send me to my room when I acted inappropriately. At a family gathering over the Christmas holidays, my fathers cousin, Melanie, offered to sing some holiday songs. At the time, my fathers cousin was in the process on making a holiday album where she sang traditional Ukrainian songs mixed with classic American holiday songs. I thought she was absolutely awful. I covered my ears and made terrible faces the whole time Melanie sang. As soon as Melanie finished singing, my parents pulled me aside and sent me to my room for the rest of the evening. I was not allowed to participate in the rest of the evenings events.
Furthermore, when my brother and I would get into arguments my parents would place us in timeout where we had to sit in silence for an allotted period of time. There were specific chairs, the blue chair and the gold chair, that we were required to sit in when we acted inappropriately and fought with one another. These chairs were quite uncomfortable.
I believe that most of the forms of discipline and punishments my parents administered were effective because I generally did not repeat the inappropriate behaviors I was disciplined for. To this day, I do not lie and I am sensitive when others lie or I think they are lying to me. The forms that were effective were the withdrawal of privileges, the increase of chores, and the grounding. However, I believe that the most effective form of punishment was the expression of disappointment because I never wanted to earn my parents disapproval. I wanted them to proud of my actions, not embarrassed. The most ineffective form of punishment was sending me to my room because I could play with my toys or read books.
Social-learning theorist, Albert Bandura, states that children acquire their gender identities and gender-role preferences through direct tuition or reinforcement and observational learning. Therefore, children adopt appropriate gender specific behaviors through reinforcement and by observing these behaviors in same-sex models. A research study conducted by Beverly Fagot and Mary Leinbach found that parents encourage gender-appropriate behaviors and activities by age 2. Therefore, parents play a vital role in learning stereotypical and non-stereoptypical gender-role behaviors (Shaffer, 2008).
I believe that my parents and older brother were my main educators on stereotypical and non-stereotypical gender-role behaviors. My parents modeled gender appropriate attitudes and behaviors daily. Both of my parents consistently reinforced feminine behaviors throughout my childhood. However, they also allowed me to participate in masculine activities and play with masculine items. Generally speaking, I played with girly toys. I enjoyed playing house and dress up. I had an extensive Barbie collection and loved playing with dolls. On the other hand, I also enjoyed masculine activities. My parents never placed extreme pressures on my siblings and I to act feminine or masculine. Nevertheless, they did teach and reinforce gender appropriate behaviors. My mother said I was a tomboy in many ways because I liked to climb trees and play in the mud. In addition, I would often play basketball and hockey with the neighborhood children. Ironically, I insisted on wearing a dress no matter what activity I participated in, whether it was masculine or feminine. I believe that I enjoyed participating in masculine activities because they allowed me to spend time with my brother.
As children develop, they construct and evaluate their perceived abilities. In other words, they begin to evaluate their worth based on the assessment of their perception of self, their attributes, and their abilities. This is defined as ones self-esteem. Self-esteem is a multi-faceted concept. Susan Harter proposed that children and adults evaluate their competencies in many different areas. According to Harter, ones self-esteem develops from the exploration of an individuals strengths and weaknesses in these different life domains (Shaffer, 2008).
Shaffer (2008) conveys that children with high self-esteem generally recognize their strengths and weakness and often feel positive and confident with who they are and their abilities. On the contrary, children with low self-esteem generally have more negative opinions about themselves and often focus on their downfalls rather than their strengths. Many adults and children have positive opinions about one aspect of themselves and negative aspects about another. During my childhood, I generally displayed high levels of self-esteem. However, I did not display high level of self-esteem in every arena. There were certain aspects that I felt better about than others. For example, I had high artistic self-esteem, high scholastic achievement self-esteem, high behavioral conduct self-esteem, high physical appearance self-esteem and high social acceptance self-esteem. However, I had very low athletic competence self-esteem.
At a very young age, children begin to evaluate a sense of self. Their sense of self or self-concept is formed primarily through communication and experiences with others. It is believed that a persons self-concept is not an innate construct. In other words, babies are born without a self-concept. Rather, it develops over time and in a series of stages. Ones self-esteem also begins to take shape during infancy. John Bowlbys working model theory illustrates how children establish their sense of self-worth. According to Bowlbys theory, children who form secure attachments have a more positive sense of self-worth and have a more favorably view of their abilities than children who form insecure attachments (Shaffer, 2008). I believe I primarily had a positive sense of self-worth during my childhood because I formed a secure attachment with my mother during infancy.
Erik Erikson claimed that young adolescents often become confused and show changes in their self-esteem levels as they undergo puberty (Shaffer, 2008). My sense of self-worth was not stable over time. As I grew older, my levels of self-esteem fluctuated. During middle school, my physical appearance self-esteem decreased. I experienced low levels of physical appearance self-esteem as I began to compare my body with others. I did not physically develop at the same rate as my friends. I was skinny and developed at a much slower rate. However, as I reached my teenage years my levels of physical appearance self-esteem increased. I attended a conservatory for the arts in North Carolina where everyone was accepted and praised for their unique qualities. Comparisons were highly discouraged. During this time my physical self-esteem increased dramatically.
Peers are important agents of socialization who promote the development of many personal and social competencies. Harry Harlow, an American psychologist, conducted an experiment to illustrate the importance of companionship in cognitive and social development. Harlow and his associates raised rhesus monkeys with the mothers. However, they denied them any opportunity to play with their fellow peers. They found that these mother-only monkeys failed to develop normal social behavioral patterns. Moreover, peer-only monkeys who were separated from their mothers also exhibited atypical development patterns. This experiment illustrated the significance of peer contact on social development (Shaffer, 2008, p. 452-455).
According to Shaffer (2008), peers have a profound effect on each other because the amount of time they spend we each other increases dramatically with age. Children spend at least as much of their leisure time with peer as with adults when they reach preschool or early elementary age (p.488). Peer acceptance and popularity is important to ones emotional and social development. During my elementary school years, I was popular or liked by many members of my peer group and disliked by very few members.
Many factors affect an individuals social standing, peer acceptance, and popularity. These factors include ones culture, the type of parenting styles received, and patterns of social behavior. Shaffer states that children who receive authoritative care and are securely attached are liked by both adults and peers. I believe that I was accepted by my peers because exhibited secure attachments and received authoritative care from my mother. Furthermore, I believe that my cognitive and social-cognitive skills contributed to my popularity level. Researchers believe that it is highly likely that peer acceptance and academic performance are reciprocally related. I achieved high academic success in elementary school. I consistently received straight As on my report cards and was moved into an accelerated program in second grade for academically talented students. Lastly, popular children are generally described as warm and compassionate children. According to my mother, I was a cooperative and compassionate child who was rarely disruptive or aggressive (Shaffer, 2008).
I believe my peer acceptance status had a positive and significant impact on my development because it allowed me to create close friendships and interact with many of my peers. There are many advantages to having peer groups and friends. Friends play an important role in a childs life because they can provide social support and security, provide affection and encouragement, and promote the growth of social problem-solving skills. Peer groups and friends are important contributors to a childs development because they serve as social models by reinforcing and discouraging certain behavior patterns (Shaffer, 2008).
Shaffer (2008) states that several factors affect human intelligence. Psychologists today recognize that both genetic and environment factors play a large role in determining a childs intellectual strengths and weaknesses. Behavioral geneticists believe that ones hereditary factors, nonshared environmental influences and shared environmental influences contribute to his or her intellectual performance. Twin and family studies have been conducted to investigate the relationship between intelligence, genes, and environment. They found that intelligence is indeed influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.
During my elementary school years my intellectual strengths included math, writing, critical thinking, reasoning, comprehension, and art. These strengths were often recognized by my parents and my teachers at school. In second grade, my teacher recommended that I be placed in an accelerated math and literature program. My teacher made this recommendation based off the scores I received on a standardized statewide test. My parents agreed that I should be placed in this accelerated program. My intellectual weakness included science, history, and phonetics. My parents took several steps to improve these weaknesses. I attended weekly tutoring sessions a center called Sylvan Learning Center. At this center, I received personal instruction where they assessed my weaknesses and formulated a plan to improve them. Furthermore, my parents allotted time at home to work on my weaknesses. They purchased products such as hooked on phonics and dedicated time to work with my individually at home.
Personally, I did not experience any subtle or blatant acts of prejudice during my childhood. However, I did witness my peers act prejudicially towards a disabled child and a specific group of children. During my early childhood years, many of my peers would ridicule and tease a disabled girl with dwarfism. They made fun of her looks, called her derogatory nicknames, and placed her items at unreachable levels. I did not partake in these acts of prejudice because this girl was one of my good friends throughout elementary schools. Throughout elementary and middle school I also witnessed my peers act prejudicially towards children that were not Polish or Ukrainian children. I was raised in a community that mainly consisted of Polish and Ukrainian immigrants. I began witnessing ethnic prejudice at school when Lithuanian immigrants moved into our community. Again, I did not participate in these acts of prejudice. However, many of my peers displayed negative beliefs and judgments toward the Lithuanian children that moved into our community. These children were teased, called derogatory names, and not socially accepted.
Shaffer (2008) states that even though most children tend to define others by physical characteristics, they are principally oblivious to prejudicial attitudes and ethnic diversity. He illustrates that children act prejudicially because they witness and learn these behaviors from their parents and surroundings. I believe that my peers acted prejudicially towards the Lithuanian children and the girl with dwarfism in my community because they were modeling their parents attitudes and behaviors. Considering that children are essentially oblivious to prejudicial attitudes, my peers must have acquired these negative opinions and behaviors from their parents at home. Prejudice was modeled by my peers, but never modeled by my family. My parents taught my siblings and I to never judge and treat everyone equally.
Television, Video Games, and Computer time
According to Shaffer (2008), there are 4 extrafamilial influences that shape a childs development. These 4 influences are: television, computers, schools, and society. These 4 influences can have positive and negative effects on a childs development. To begin, Shaffer states that moderate doses of television watching neither reduces or impairs a childs development. However, it does have the potential to do harm or good depending on what is being watched and a childs ability to interpret and understanding what he or she is watching (Shaffer, 2008).
During my early childhood and elementary years, I was allowed to watch television. However, my parents put limits on what programming I could watch and how much time I could spend watching TV. My parents would only allow me to watch programming they approved of and would only allow me to watch these programs after my homework and chores were completed. During my early childhood and elementary years, my parents did not purchase cable television. The only television stations we had were the basic major network channels. My favorite television shows to watch during my early childhood years were Sesame Street, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, and Barney and Friends. As I became older, I rarely watched these programs and I began watching Full House, Saved By the Bell, Step By Step, and the Babysitters Club.
Television has the capacity of being a great educational tool. However, it all depends on what the child is watching. Shaffer acknowledges that educational shows, such as Sesame Street, have positive effects on a childs development because they convey the benefits of prosocial activities such as sharing, and cooperation. As a matter of fact, researchers have found that young children, who often watch prosocial programming such as Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, are more prosocially inclined. Furthermore, these types of television series have a positive effect on a childs development because they are significant contributors to early learning and cognitive development. A research study, conducted by the Educational Testing Service, was designed to find the relationship between the amount of viewing Sesame Street and childrens abilities. This study revealed that children benefited from watching educational TV program such as Sesame Street. They found that children, ages 3 to 5, who watched Sesame Street 4 or more times a week showed the biggest improvement in their total test scores, alphabet tests, and their ability to write their names (Shaffer, 2008).
Keeping this all in mind, I feel that the programming I watched during my early childhood years had a positive impact on my social and cognitive development. While watching these programs, I learned about numbers, the alphabet, and the benefits of prosocial activities such as sharing and cooperation. I learned about the arts, science, history, and math. These programs encouraged me to ask questions and find answers. In essence, they made me curious. Most of all, these programs helped prepare me for the educational and social aspects of school.
My parents bought my older brother a Nintendo system. However, I spent very little time playing these games. I was simply not interested in this epidemic. I was more interested in reading books and making crafts. I do not feel that the Nintendo system was neither beneficial nor detrimental. My parents bought their first computer when I was 5 years old. From that point on, my parents always had a computer in the house. According to my father, I did not begin using the computer at home until I was in 5th or 6th grade. However, I did use a computer at school to complete assignments. As a matter of fact, I had computer classes in elementary school. My father stated that I mainly used the computer at home for educational purpose to complete assignments. I was registered in many after school programs and had very little time to spend on the computer for social reasons. Most of my evenings were filled with piano and ballet lessons. However, if I did use the computer for social reasons I would use the computer roughly for 30 minutes every couple of days. During this time period, I would use AOL instant messenger to interact and chat with my friends.
I believe I benefited both socially and intellectually from the usage of a computer at home because I used this learning tool in the correct ways. Researchers have indicated that computer usage can yield some benefits in cognitive skills and academic achievement (Shaffer, 2008). By having access to a computer at home, I was able to complete school projects and research nearly every topic I found fascinating. This had a positive impact on my academic goals and achievements. Shaffer illustrates that online communication with peers is an important aspect in social development because it helps adolescents explore and refine their emerging sexual identities and promotes closer friendships (2008). Furthermore, I benefited socially from my computer usage at home because it provided me with an outlet to foster my friendships, and to improve my communication skills.
Beliefs, Customs, and Values
Culture is defined as a set of beliefs, traditions, skills and customs that are specific to a particular group of people. Ones culture defines ones beliefs and values. It also dictates how a person will interact and communicate with others. Lev Vygotsky believed that social and culture influences play a vital role in human development. He theorized that an individuals social, emotional and cognitive development is the result of his or her culture. He argued that infants are born with limited elementary functions that are transformed by culture into higher mental functions (Shaffer, 2008).
I was raised in a Ukrainian, Polish-American household. I believe that my cultural beliefs as an American with a Ukrainian, Polish ethnic background had a significant impact on my social, emotional, and cognitive development. My caregivers taught and modeled traditional American cultural beliefs and values mixed with Ukrainian and Polish customs. The most important traditional American values that my caregivers taught and modeled included honesty, respect, hard work, equality and independence. They also encouraged direct and open speech. They often repeated sayings such as treat people as you want to be treated, work hard and you will get far, and honesty is the best policy.
My caregivers also taught and modeled many important Ukrainian and Polish customs. These customs included many religious and holiday rituals that were especially meaningful in my early development. Religious beliefs and family life are central to Ukrainian and Polish culture. My caregivers always preached the importance of family and religion. My family celebrated many religious holidays. These holidays typically began with attending a religious ceremony. The ceremony was then followed by an extravagant dinner and dancing. During these dinners, my grandparents would tell us stories about the old country and taught us how to speak their native language. Unfortunately, I have lost my ability to speak Ukrainian as I have been out of practice. In addition, my grandmother often taught my sister and I traditional Ukrainian folklore dances and songs.
Celebrating religious customs and beliefs were especially meaningful because they brought the family together to celebrate. For example, it is a Ukrainian custom to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. I have many found memories of sharing this holiday with my family. On this day, December 6th, special performances on religious topics such as saints and demons are performed. During my early childhood years, I performed in these productions at the church every year. Dinner and dancing followed the performance. Celebrating this holiday was always a wonderful experience because I was able to celebrate, dance, and eat with my family. Another meaningful holiday tradition was celebrating Christmas Eve with my family. My family would get together to prepare a 12 course meatless meal that represented the 12 Apostles. After finishing our meal, we would attend midnight mass at our church. I believe that these sharing these experiences with my family played a large role in my early development.
My body and mind have changed in several ways since I was younger. Both my mind and body have matured with age. Although my body has matured, I am often told that I appear young. However, people may view my physical maturity; I believe that I am mature mentally for my age given my responsibilities and life experiences. I expect my mind and body to continue to mature with age. However, I do not view this as a negative experience because with this aging I believe I will gain an even better understanding of myself.
My decision to attend college had a significant impact on my development. I believe that a college education prepares people for entry into the real world upon graduation. Attending college allowed me to mature and grow into the adult I want to be in the future. It allowed me to reflect on who I am and explore who I want to become. There are several benefits to receiving a college education. These benefits include higher income upon graduation, financial success, a great commitment to ones goal and values, knowledge, an increase in confidence, and an increase in critical-thinking skills. I believe that attending college will have a positive impact on my future because it has helped me become a better-rounded individual.
If I could pass on any piece of wisdom to children in my life, I would encourage them to make mistakes and to learn from these mistakes. Mistakes may cause turmoil and disruption in ones life. However, they are vital in human development because they allow for growth. Furthermore, I would express to these children that ones personal development is a continuous, dynamic process. I would advise them to not become stagnant and encourage them to become active participants in their own personal development. In other words, there is always from for improvement. This assignment was quite beneficial because it forced me to acquire a greater level of self awareness and offered insight on my individual identity, philosophies, and values. I gained a better understanding of my past, my strengths, and my weaknesses.