Lifespan Development and Personality
Life Span Development and Personality
A person’s characteristic ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving across particular environmental circumstances, or one’s personality, defines how others view him or her and dictates the qualities they speak of when discussing the person with others. From childhood to adolescence, our personality is the authority of our parental figures until we are able to independently support ourselves later as a young adult. However, this does not mean that every child develops healthy psychological functioning to allow them to become independent adults. The success of this psychological development consists of a complex interaction of heredity and environment during particular stages throughout childhood which lay the foundation for effective or ineffective development. For example, a child born into a dysfunctional family with sexual, verbal, and physical abuse is not likely to have a solid foundation for the type of thinking needed to develop healthy psychological functioning. As is the case for Corey Haim, an actor in the 1980’s starring in films like “The Lost Boys” and “License to Drive.”
From the perspectives of psychodynamic, trait, and humanistic theory, we will discuss how these schools of thought would explain Haims’ turbulent life from childhood on by looking at his emotional, behavioral, and motivational developmental changes or lack of, that may have influenced the situations that characterized his personality and life.
Inferring Haims’ Childhood Experience
Since “critics charge that psychodynamic theory pays too much attention to childhood experiences” (Kowalski & Westen, 2009, p. 429), this view seems to be the most effective approach to infer explanations of Haims’ childhood. As Corey landed his first major role, he struggled with the emotional difficulty of his parents’ divorce, upon which he clung to his career as an escape to avoid the emotional pain (Corey Haim, 2010).
From the view of psychodynamic theory, Kowalski and Westen (2009) reveal that Haim may have lacked the opportunity to resolve the Oedipus complex, the process in which a little boy desires an exclusive relationship with his mother but due to the fear that his father will emasculate him, the boy later comes to identify with the father. The unresolved conflict is an influence that could have manifested maladaptive patterns of thinking as an adult, such as how Corey Feldman, co-star and long-time best friend of Haim, stated that “[Haim] was 38-years old and living with his mom, and never even thought about not living with his mom … They shared a bond like no other I had ever seen” (Tauber, Triggs, Benet, Breuer, Clark, Lee, et al., 2010, para. 5); evidence that may suggest a faulty resolution of the Oedipus complex.
Trait Theory of Haim
According to Kowalski and Westen (2009), the “emotional, cognitive, and behavioral tendencies that constitute underlying personality dimensions on which individuals vary” (p. 440) are called traits. Two factors strongly influence the development of people’s traits: one’s genetics and their environment. One’s genetics produce behavioral predispositions passed down from his or her parents, upon which environmental experience determines whether or not certain behaviors become activated. Haims’ best friend, Feldman explains that he was insecure and had poor confidence that led him to nervously vomit before getting in front of the camera, and he was rarely in a happy mood (Tauber, Triggs, Benet, Breuer, Clark, Lee, et al., 2010).
Neuroticism, which is characterized by depression, self-consciousness, and anxiety, appears to be Haims’ most prominent trait that produced a majority of his behavioral tendencies, helping manifest drug addictions to marijuana, cocaine, and eventually crack beginning at the age of 15 (Corey Haim, 2010). Corey Haim (2010) later developed a serious addiction to valium, taking up to 85 pills a day. Both genetic and environmental factors influenced the production of his neurotic behavior; Feldman reveals that Haims’ mother was codependent in his drug addictions by encouraging him to keep activated charcoal to absorb substances in his stomach if needed and when she came to the hospital following Haim overdosing, she had stated, “It’s not that bad … He’ll get over it” (Tauber, Triggs, Benet, Breuer, Clark, Lee, et al., 2010, para. 6).
For Haims’ mother to remain so calm when seeing her son near death, drug overdose may be an experience she is familiar with and did not take seriously. Considering his mother’s carefree attitude toward drug overdosing, her helping make sure he could pass a drug test, and her constant environmental influence, it is likely that she allowed him to display this kind of addictive behavior because she exhibits similar neurotic behavior, considering that heritability of neurotic behavior would increase when environmentally influenced consistently by those genes as well.
Humanistic on Haim
Although it does not offer a comprehensive theory of personality like psychodynamics, humanistic concepts derived by Carl Rogers’s person-centered approach can be found within Haims’ personality characteristics. Considering Haims’ profession in acting, we can find the common pressure on actors and actresses of conditions of worth, internalized standards of what others want them to be to gain their approval. Actors and Actresses ultimately seek the approval of the public in trying to get them to like their movies, thereby increasing movie sales and their income. Corey Haim claimed repeatedly that he was a changed man that did not need drugs anymore, meanwhile he continued to persistently use, albeit at lower doses.
Haims’ reported insecurity, lack of confidence, and false public personality changes strongly support that he likely displayed a false self while trying to meet the standards of our culture, but there was a point at which Haims could not shake off the bad reputation and his best friend Corey “Feldman publicly severed ties with Haim, [stating] ‘I am not going to watch him destroy himself.’” Kowalski and Westen (2009) assert that “people’s internalized expectations of what others want them to be may lead them to abandon their own talents or inclinations and ignore their own needs and feelings” (p. 445). In early March of 2010, Corey Haim (2010) was forced to abandon his talents after being found dead in his apartment in California of a supposed drug overdose while his mother was present and he died at the age of 38.
Haim-Centered Approach’s Preeminent
Whereas psychodynamic theory explains an initial process between developing the first relationship conceptions of proper interaction through observing parents’ behavior, it does not provide adequate explanations on the effect of an unresolved Oedipus complex, although the unusually strong bond that Haim and his mother exhibited does appear to be a likely result of the unresolved complex.
However, Carl Rogers’s Humanistic Person-Centered Approach seems to most clearly and accurately explain the internal struggle Corey Haim battled until the day he died; similar to psychodynamic theory, Rogers did believe that childhood experiences were especially influential in developing distorted personalities (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Haims’ self-concept, his attentive thought structures that are conscious of the ways in which he really was, was distorted by his desire to be what the public wanted him to be through internalized conditions of worth, thereby manifesting internal conflict as his self-concept strayed too far from his ideal self which automatically produced his continuous false self in the public eye that became apparent and ruined his reputation and, ultimately, his life (Kowalski & Westen, 2009).
Corey Haim. (2010). Biography.com. Retrieved 03:44, Sept. 6, 2010, from http://www.biography.com/articles/Corey-Haim-547970
Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.).Hoboken,NJ: Wiley.
Rottenberg, J., Bierly, M., Pastorek, W., Smith, S., Snierson, D., Svetkey, B., et al. (2010). The Lost Boy. Entertainment Weekly, (1095), 28. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.
Tauber, M., Triggs, C., Benet, L., Breuer, H., Clark, C., Lee, K., et al. (2010). THE LOST BOY. People, 73(12), 56. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.