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The Movie “Mean Girls”: Psychosocial Analysis Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jul 12th, 2022


Mean Girls is a teen comedy film released in 2004 and is based on Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 non-fiction self-help book, Queen Bees and Wannabes. Many people experience challenges in the community due to racism, stereotyping, and being misunderstood. Mean Girls is one of the movies that has focused on how teenagers are affected by peer pressure and bullying. The film was directed by Mark Waters and starred characters such as Lindsay Lohan, Jonathan Bennett, and Rachel McAdams. Waters uses different character development techniques, themes, and moral lessons to ensure the film is educative and more fascinating. Social cliques in high school are common and impact the development of the students and their behaviors. Thus, this report analyzes Candy using Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory and Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory to determine how her behaviors were influenced by different aspects such as dating and relationships, and bullying.

The Character Candy Heron

Candy Heron is one of the main characters in the film Mean Girls. Her experiences have largely impacted her behaviors in school. She first tries to make new friends on her first day at North Shore High School, common in many new students. However, Candy learns that there are different cliques in the school. Moreover, she is warned about a group known as Plastics led by Regina, which takes an interest in her after protecting her against her classmate. Candy had previously befriended Janis Ian and Damian Leigh, who informed her about the Plastics and their behaviors. Surprisingly, Candy is attracted to Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aron. Her attraction forces her to purposely fail her math test to ensure that she has a chance to talk to Aron. However, Regina learns about the on-going issue regarding Candy and Aron. Hence, she enviously steals him back at a Halloween party by kissing him in front of Cady. Regina’s controversial issues lead Candy to trick her and ensure that she eats nutritional bars to gain more weight.

Using Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory and Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory to Analyze Candy

Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory is one of the theories that have analyzed the behaviors of individuals. The concept shows that people experience different life stages that can involve trust and mistrust and shame and doubt (Berger, 2018). Moreover, the model also shows that people experience conflict at every stage, which is a turning point in development. Additionally, the theory reveals that if people manage to deal with the conflicts, they emerge from the stage with psychological strengths. Hence, these phases can be used to analyze Candy in the film.

The changes of behaviors that Candy has experienced involve trust and mistrust. In the first stages of the film, Candy does not know who to trust. For instance, she thinks that the Plastics are good people before learning more about them and their Bum Book, which has awful rumors about other girls and some teachers at school. Moreover, she is urged by Janis to avoid the relationship with the group, which leads to her mistrust toward the Plastics. Her experiences with Regina also increase her negative attitudes toward the members of Regina’s clique. The audience can also learn that her behavior change is steered by the conflicts and her attempts to overcome them. After she successfully manages the disputes, Candy develops a positive attitude, and her actions reveal that she gains psychological strength that helps her interact with other individuals with ease.

Autonomy versus shame and doubt is another stage analyzed by Erikson. The idea in this step involves developing a sense of personal control over a sense of dependency (Berger, 2018). In this case, Candy experiences shame and doubt due to the experiences in her new school. She has difficulties controlling herself, such as being attracted to Aron despite learning about their past relationship with Regina. To avoid shame, Candy focuses on competing with Regina, where she tricks her into ensuring that she wins Aron. Moreover, she fails her math subject deliberately to guarantee that they converse with Aron.

Doubt is another issue that people can learn from Candy’s behaviors. For instance, she declares that all her classmates are excellent in their ways to avoid being judged by other people for tricking Regina. She also answers the math question correctly in their Mathletes championship finals to clear the uncertainty regarding her previously failed math test. Erikson states that success at this stage leads to autonomy, and failure gives rise to feelings of shame and doubt (Berger, 2018). Thus, the changes in Candy’s behaviors are influenced by her struggle to develop personal control and limit shame and doubt in the school.

Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory is another theory that can be used to analyze Candy’s actions. The theory is based on different levels of moral development. One of the stages is the pre-conventional level, whereby an individual’s sense of morality is externally controlled (Berger, 2018). In this case, Candy’s actions were controlled by the people she encounters in school. Moreover, she has no friends in school and has limited information about other students. Nonetheless, she is informed about the characters, which influences how she behaves and relates with them.

The conventional level has been analyzed in the model, whereby it involves an individual’s sense of morality being tied to personal and societal relationships. According to Hansen and Jessop (2017), many people experience behavioral changes due to their surroundings. In this case, Candy’s actions can be analyzed by focusing on how societal relationships influenced them. Her relationships with the new friends led to her changes in conduct. For instance, her peers reject her for causing Regina to be struck by her school bus. Furthermore, Candy is grounded by her parents, which forces her to change the behaviors and make amends with Regina. She also reconciles with other people such as Janis, Aaron, and members of the Plastics.

The post-conventional level is another stage discussed in Kohlberg’s model, which reveals that a person’s sense of morality is defined based on their values. In this case, one can learn that Candy has developed a sense of morality after learning about the significance of valuing and appreciating all individuals. For instance, she is elected the Queen at the Spring Fling dance after changing her behaviors and becoming an active member of the school.

Comparing Erikson’s Psychosocial Development Theory and Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory

Both theories have various similarities and differences regarding developmental issues. One of the similarities is that both concepts show that the surrounding of individuals can impact their development. For instance, Erikson revealed that people engage in different acts due to the forces they experience from others (Berger, 2018). On the other hand, Kohlberg states that people’s sense of morality is tied to their personal and societal relationships, as revealed in Candy’s characters. Another connection is that both theories focus on how people change their behaviors to fit in the community. In this case, Candy has to ensure that she engages in different acts to attract Aron. One of the differences between the two theories is that Erikson focuses on moral judgments and their impacts, unlike Kohlberg. Moreover, Kohlberg’s model discloses that women seem to be deficient in their moral reasoning abilities compared to men. On the extreme, Erikson focuses on all individuals regardless of gender or race.

One Critical Issue Related to Childhood or Adolescence that Candy Faced

Children and adolescents primarily experience social problems in the community and at school. One of the issues experienced by Candy involved dating and relationships. In most cases, students encounter difficulties in school since they want to have their own identity and engage in affairs. The film shows how Candy was attracted to the opposite sex and ensures that she talks to Aron. Many teenagers have engaged in conflicts regarding relationships, whereby some deaths have been reported. In this case, Candy is affected by Regina’s acts when she kisses Aron. The incidence leads to escalating issues that force Candy to create enmity towards Regina. Moreover, Candy ensures that she interferes with Regina and Aron’s relationship by misleading her to eat foodstuffs to increase her body size. Therefore, relationship issues are one of the aspects that Candy experienced.

The issue was resolved since the two engaged in different immoral behaviors. For instance, Candy was involved in an incident where Regina broke her spine. On the other hand, Regina inserted a fake libel of herself and spread the Bum Book contents placing the blame on Candy. Consequently, these scenes force Ms. Norbory, the maths teacher, to meet the girls and urge them to apologize to each other. Additionally, she encourages them to face the manners they treat one another and ensure that they learn about their immoral deeds. Therefore, their friendship is rekindled, and their relationship issues are solved. Candy’s parents are also involved in solving the conflicts, whereby she is grounded, and she takes the blame for the Bum book. These acts lead to Regina joining a team to deal with anger, while Candy becomes a member of the dance group and resolves their issues with other students, including Aron.


To conclude, the film Mean Girls is one of the movies that reveals how students experience school challenges. The film shows that the environment can impact the behaviors of the children. For instance, Candy’s actions are impacted by what she encounters in school. Erikson’s Developmental Theory has also focused on various factors that affect how people behave. For instance, the theory reveals that trust and mistrust can force people to engage in different acts. The concepts can be used to analyze Candy in the film and show how her environment influenced her relationships with other students. Kohlberg’s Developmental Theory is another theory that has been used to show how multiple aspects can affect children’s development. The three levels discussed in Kohlberg’s model show that Candy’s behaviors were influenced by issues such as her external controls and societal relationships. For instance, she changes her attitude towards Regina after seeing her kissing Aron. In essence, the two theories can be used by individuals to analyze various aspects influencing the way people behave.


Berger, K. S. (2018). Developing person through childhood and adolescence. (11th edition). Worth Publishers.

Hansen, D. M., & Jessop, N. (2017). . In Wehmeyer M.L, Shogren K., Little T.D, Lopez S.J (Eds). Development of self-determination through the life-course (pp. 27-46). Springer.

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