This paper describes the life of a retired engineer, Keens Brown. He is 64 years old and lives in Hawaii. This essay describes his personal development story, with the goal of comprehending his different life stages and the influences that define his social and psychological reality. Using a systems perspective, this paper concentrates on highlighting Brown’s biological nature, psychological profile, and social and cultural upbringing.
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These assessments are integral to the development of specific recommendations to improve his welfare. Proposals to enhance his life are based on different psychological and social theories that appear in the last section of this paper. The first area of analysis is the subject’s biological nature, described below.
Mr. Brown’s parents lived in America but were originally from East Africa. They immigrated to the US in 1950. In 1953 Mr. Brown was born. He grew up in a nuclear family and was the last-born in a family of seven children. The retired engineer had two elder brothers and three sisters. Three of his siblings passed on. Two of them were his brothers, while one was a sister. Today, he is the only surviving male in his family. His dad died of a heart attack at 70 years old, and his mother passed on from cancer complications when she was 83 years old. Mr. Brown does not suffer any known illnesses and has never been diagnosed with any life-threatening condition. However, in 2016, his doctor diagnosed him with arthritis.
At 64 years old, Mr. Brown weighs 200lbs and is 5 feet 9 inches in height. As a young man, he often participated in different kinds of sports, but football was his main passion. He maintained his athleticism even in old age because he used to run for about three miles every day before his doctor advised him not to do so because of the arthritis diagnosis. Today, he prefers to walk a couple of miles a day to keep fit. Usually, he does so when going to buy groceries or when attending local town hall meetings.
Social and Cultural Development
Despite being the youngest child in his home, Keens often felt the pressure of being a leader of his sisters and their families because he was brought up in a patriarchal setting where sons often have such responsibility and are mandated to take care of their younger siblings. He finds this responsibility taxing to his psychological well-being because few family members seem to be “cooperating” with him. For example, his eldest brother died two years ago, and his sons have been fighting over his property. Mr. Brown has been unable to solve the issue because the feuding children perceive him as an “old person” who cannot tell them what they should do.
Mr. Brown is twice divorced and has eight children. He currently stays with his wife in a rural location off the shores of Hawaii. In 2009, he lost one of his sons in an armed robbery incident. The murder took a mental toll on him because he always says that he never thought he would lose one of his sons in such a manner. In fact, in frequent discussions with his friends, he often says that he never wanted to die before anyone of his children.
Although the incident made him concerned about the safety of his family, he does not enjoy a good relationship with any of his children because of strained marital relationships between him and their mothers (his ex-wives). Often, he engages in family tussles with his former partners about different social and family issues – a process that has cost him his relationship with his children because they commonly side with their mothers. Mr. Brown has often attempted to circumnavigate the issue by trying to forge a relationship with his children, but rarely does he get the reciprocity of concern he yearns for.
On a typical day, Mr. Brown does not engage in many activities. He often likes to socialize with his age mates in small social groups, discussing politics and policy issues affecting the society. Sometimes, he likes to visit local schools and volunteer to help with building and construction activities at an advisory level. He finds these social events good for his mental health because they give him something to look forward to doing each day.
Mr. Brown was born in a low-income family in Harlem, New York. His father was a plumber, and his mother worked as a secretary for a local school. Part of his social life was in India, where he studied his Diploma in engineering. He stayed in the Asian country for three years before he flew back to the US to pursue a degree in the same field. Growing up in America during the 1950s and 1960s, he experienced racism from his schoolmates and friends. The situation was compounded by the fact that he schooled in a predominantly white institution. His colleagues often made fun of his nose and color of skin.
Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman (2013) say people who experience such kinds of racism are often vulnerable to serious psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Nonetheless, Mr. Brown was resilient in his push to make a fruitful life for his family because he did not allow such negative experiences to affect his adult years. He has been able to forge unique friendships with people of all races and even married one woman who was half-Asian and half-white.
His ability to transcend years of abuse and mistreatment from racist people in his early childhood days manifests as a case of tenacity on his part because he could have allowed these experiences to affect how he developed future relationships. However, this did not happen. Nonetheless, his resilience in his adult years masks the effects that such acts of racism had on his self-esteem as a child because, on numerous occasions, he often asked his parents if there was “something wrong” with his appearance. Instead of his parents consoling him, they were unsympathetic to his plight and told him to “man up” because the world was an unfair place. This treatment affected how Mr. Brown socialized as a teenager because he was often shy and coy around his peers.
Several researchers have highlighted the relationship between parental behavior and psychological development. For example, Iram and Najam (2014) say the two elements share a close relationship with negative psychological outcomes such as poor social development and emotional unresponsiveness. At the same time, studies have shown that parental abuses are associated with negative developmental outcomes (Iram & Najam, 2014).
Such was the case of Mr. Brown because, during his adolescent days, he was a juvenile after being convicted of three incidences of arson. He was also a troublesome student at school after the administration suspended him two times for selling marijuana. In fact, on one occasion, the disciplinary board expelled him from school, forcing his parents to look for another institution when he was in junior high school. Collectively, he studied in three different high schools because of disciplinary issues at various institutions. As an adult, Mr. Brown has been unwilling to trust strangers and often keeps to himself. He only has a few friends who have been a constant figure in his life. Similarly, he likes to hang around two of his grandchildren, who enjoy his company over the summer holidays.
Recent research studies have established a link between the lack of trust and parental abuse (Iram & Najam, 2014). They demonstrate that children who were abused by their parents often tend to develop trust issues, especially when interacting with strangers. Mr. Brown suffers from this problem. Therefore, using Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman’s (2013) analogy, his childhood could have had a significant implication on his adult behavior.
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Mr. Brown’s trust problems also fit into Erickson’s first stage of psychosocial development, which is the trust vs. mistrust stage. Within this segment of growth, psychologists assume that children depend entirely on their parent’s protection and guidance (Scheck, 2014). At this stage, children look up to their parents for food, warmth, and comfort. If the parents can provide such needs adequately, proponents of this view say children develop an attachment to them and thrive on a sense of security provided by their caregivers (Scheck, 2014). However, if the parents fail to provide this protection, the children become detached and develop a sense of mistrust and insecurity (Scheck, 2014).
Mr. Brown’s trust issues could have developed this way. Additionally, if his behaviors are analyzed within the context of Erickson’s theory, his early childhood days seem to have had a significant impact on his psychosocial development (Scheck, 2014). Besides the mistrust vs. trust dichotomy espoused in this review, other stages of Erikson’s theory include autonomy vs. shame and doubt, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generosity vs. self-absorption, and integrity vs. despair (Scheck, 2014).
The above analysis shares close dynamics with Freud’s theory of personality development, which presupposes that a person’s childhood is the most important aspect of their development (Kline, 2013). Notably, Freud emphasized the need to focus on early childhood as an integral part of human psychology and social development (Kline, 2013). His theory postulates that people start developing a personality when they are about five years old (Kline, 2013). At this age, Mr. Brown had started to develop emotional scars of bullying and parental abuse both at home and at school.
Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development also shares the same idea of psychological growth as Freud’s theory does because it argues that a person’s childhood experience is the most important one in understanding people’s personalities (Scheck, 2014). The theory also argues that each stage of a person’s development often brings new challenges and, depending on how people react to them, such events would easily shape their character (Scheck, 2014).
Recommendations For Improving The Overall Developmental Well-Being Of The Subject
Since Mr. Brown lives with his wife in Florida and is estranged from his children, more effort needs to be made to strengthen his social support network. Doing so should primarily involve rekindling his relationship with his children. It would improve his mental health because he often gets depressed about his inability to forge a good relationship with his family members. As mentioned in this paper, part of the problem has been his inability to develop cordial relationships with his two ex-wives.
Rebuilding a close association with his children could mean that he also mends his relationships with both of them. This approach would help him solve the animosity that exists between his children and him. Additionally, having strong social support through his children would improve Mr. Brown’s happiness because it would eliminate any regrets about not having a good relationship with his kin later in his elderly years. Furthermore, having the support of his children would provide him with additional care at an advanced age.
Different theories have established the link between a strong social support system and good health. For example, the stress and coping support theory stipulate that people who have a strong family support system are able to cope better with their life stresses (Lakey & Orehek, 2012). These benefits are realizable because the support system would allow the beneficiaries to develop adaptive appraisal and coping techniques.
The relation regulation theory also supports the recommendation proposed in this paper because researchers have extensively applied it in numerous works of literature to explain the importance of the elderly to have strong and supportive social systems (Lakey & Orehek, 2012). The theory presupposes that beneficiaries of the strong social support system would benefit from it because it would allow them to regulate their emotions well.
Such outcomes are best achieved through ordinary conversations and shared activities between the elderly and their family members (Lakey & Orehek, 2012). As the theory’s name indicates, these interactions are relational in the sense that the contents of the interactions are purely based on personal preference. Based on the merits of this theory, developing close family connections between Mr. Brown and his children would improve his mental health and ultimately enhance his well-being.
Mr. Brown also needs to take care of his physical health by eating a balanced diet and maintaining his minimal exercise regimen. This part of his development plan would play a crucial role in helping him to live a longer and more fulfilling life. It is pertinent to emphasize this fact because he has already started showing signs of aging, as seen from the arthritis diagnosis. Therefore, he needs to take care of his body to improve his physical well-being the same way as he should improve his social networks to enhance his mental health.
Based on the life story of Mr. Brown, resilience emerges as a key theme in the analysis because the retired engineer is able to transcend different types of problems that have characterized his personal growth to live a promising life. Indeed, his upbringing is dotted with several cases of abuse and mistreatment from his parents and schoolmates, but he was able to transcend all these issues and build an illustrious career in engineering.
Concisely, although these experiences made him vulnerable to different mental and psychological problems, he did not allow them to affect him. This is why he lives a relatively normal life in his elderly years in Hawaii. However, he has made a mistake in alienating himself from his children and needs to work on it. The relation regulatory theory and the stress and coping support theory support this recommendation.
Iram, S. F., & Najam, N. (2014). Parental psychological abuse toward children and mental health problems in adolescence. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 30(2), 256–260.
Kline, P. (2013). Fact and fantasy in Freudian theory (RLE: Freud). London, UK: Routledge.
Lakey, B., & Orehek, E. (2012). Relational regulation theory: A new approach to explain the link between perceived support and mental health. Psychological Review, 118(1), 482–495.
Scheck, S. (2014). The stages of psychosocial development according to Erik H. Erikson. New York, NY: GRIN Publishing.
Zastrow, C., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (Eds.). (2013). Understand human behavior in the social environment (10th ed.). London, UK: Cengage Learning.