The study of human personality development constitutes one of the primary areas of interest in psychology. Different theories have been proposed to explain human personality and its formation throughout an individual’s lifespan. These theories offer varying perspectives on differences in character among people. This essay adopts Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and Bandura’s social learning theory to explain the development of Harry Potter’s resilient personality.
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Harry Potter, the fictional protagonist in Joanne K. Rowling’s bestseller Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, demonstrates marked resilience throughout his adventures in the wizarding world. A resilient person is cognitively flexible and can face challenges and ambiguous situations without fear (Roth & Herzberg, 2017). Resilient people do not allow adversity to define them or see every hardship as a threat; instead, they perceive themselves as capable and consider difficult times as a temporary state of affairs. As a master of resilience, Potter tends to be skilled in preparing for and handling emotional emergencies and remains adept at accepting whatever he faces with flexibility rather than rigidity.
Potter had a traumatic childhood after the untimely demise of his parents. This tragic event resulted in him being sent to his Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon, where he was subjected to constant physical, psychological, and emotional abuse and neglect. For example, Potter faced physical violence daily as he was even referred to as “Dudley’s favorite punching bag” (Rowling, 1997, p. 20). When living with the Dursleys, Potter stayed in a cupboard under the stairs. Whenever the Dursleys went out, they often left the young boy with a physically incapacitated neighbor who could not provide him with adequate and safe care. He also experienced different kinds of severe punishments, including being locked in his cupboard room for a week, receiving inadequate food, and being denied meals (Rowling, 1997, p.29). His uncle ill-treated him on suspicion that he had practiced magic. Vernon chased him away despite the fact that he had saved the life of his cousin (Dudley) from dementors while his own life was in clear danger. The abuse and neglect persisted throughout his childhood as he continued being mistreated by his cousin and other people at school. For instance, Dudley and his friends had their favorite sport, which they referred to as “Harry Hunting” (Rowling, 1997, p.31). Despite agonizing throughout his early years, Potter managed to navigate through his childhood successfully and become a tough character.
Eriksson’s eight-stage model of personality development offers useful insights into Potter becoming resilient. Most importantly, his secure attachment to his parent during infancy contributed significantly to his ability to withstand the severe maltreatment he faced in the foster home. According to this theory, early childhood experiences play an integral role in personality development, and they continue to have a significant influence on behavior later in life (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). Successful resolution of the conflict at each stage promotes healthy growth. In light of this theory, the love and nurture which Potter received from his parents enabled him to develop a secure attachment and trust. Creating such a strong bond with parents is critical to the infant’s development, especially the resilient personality formation. Roth and Herzberg (2017) argue that the child needs to develop a secure attachment to establish and maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. The strong connection goes beyond the early years into school and throughout other stages of human development.
Potter’s ability to tolerate the constant abuse and mistreatment during his childhood and adolescence is linked directly to a sense of trust, will, purpose, competency, and fidelity. These virtues, which are nurtured throughout the first five stages of Erikson’s theory, evidence Potter’s resilient character. For example, Potter developed a sense of trust when he was an infant, an attribute which he transferred to other relationships at school and foster home. It can be assumed that when he was a toddler, he received consistent, predictable, and reliable care and support from his primary caregivers (parents), which made him feel secure even when he encountered threats and adversity. Those misfortunes strengthened his personal beliefs and confidence, which characterize resilience.
Additionally, Potter demonstrates a strong sense of independence and personal control over physical skills, especially in the wizarding world. Success in the second stage of Erikson’s model results in the virtue of will (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). His loner tendencies and high confidence can be attributed to a caring and supporting background, which helped him to become secure in his ability to assert himself and survive in the world. He deepened his persistence by developing a sense of competence in his intelligence, initiative, confidence to achieve goals, and ability to lead others and make decisions. For example, at school, he learned to cope with new demands such as academic tasks. Children who manage to complete this stage, especially the related conflict (industry versus inferiority) successfully become more proud of their accomplishments (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). Potter is always described as competent, skilled, bright, and capable, which makes him more resilient at school and in his social life. He is confident enough to venture into an unfamiliar world and face and overcome unprecedented difficulties.
Consistently, Bandura’s social learning theory can provide a reliable explanation of Potter’s resilient personality. According to this framework, people learn through observation, modeling, and imitating other people’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). This approach emphasizes that both cognitive and environmental factors impact human learning and behavior. Potter was surrounded by many influential people who provided examples of actions to note and copy their conduct. Professor Lupin is one of the best examples of Potter’s models throughout the series. For instance, he impressed the Gryffindor students by successfully repelling the dementors away from their trains by distributing an antidote. This event demonstrates to the students and his colleagues that he is a resilient and skilled educator.
Several factors determine the child’s possibility to enact the observed behavior: identical people, reinforcement, and consequences of similar actions (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). Potter imitates Lupin’s resilience because his model is of the same gender, and his efforts are positively reinforced. For example, Lupin encourages students who exhibit low self-confidence and reward those with vast knowledge, such as Neville and Hermione. Observing his peers who experienced similar traumatic experiences being approved and rewarded for certain conduct behaviors is rewarding for Potter and increases the likelihood of repeating such behavior. Positive reinforcement of practices such as fighting dementors plays a pivotal role in building and improving his resilience.
In conclusion, Potter exhibited remarkable resilience throughout his childhood and adolescence. He overcame numerous forms of abuse and neglect from the Dursleys and other people in his life. Nevertheless, these misfortunes transformed him into a resilient young man who was able to overcome multiple adversities. Different theories of personality offer varying perspectives on this trend and associated outcomes.
Roth, M., & Herzberg, P. Y. (2017). The resilient personality prototype. Journal of Individual Differences, 38(1), 1 – 11.
Rowling, J. K. (1997). Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone. Bloomsbury Pub.
Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2016). Theories of personality. Cengage Learning.