Human Development Theories

After interviewing two female individuals, one 86 and the other 61 years old, much information was left for analysis.  Two human developmental theories applied to the interviews.  Erik Eriksons theory of Integrity versus Despair and Elisabeth Kubler-Rosss theory of Death and Dying were the two theories chosen.   Each woman interviewed had a different viewpoint and outlook on life despite the fact that they were a mother and daughter.  The older woman seemed to be more content with life and her achievements, but the daughter seemed to be more overwhelmed with health problems and latter life changes.  It had been assumed that the result would be the opposite, however the strained relationship between the mother and daughter could have some bearing on the disturbing analysis and end results.

No one ever thinks about being old.  As children, people often think of growing up and the wonderful new privileges that come with age like voting and driving.  Some individuals focus on the more adulterated privileges that come with age such as being able to legally purchase alcohol and go to a bar.  Whatever a persons goal in life is has no relevance on the fact that everyone will get old at some point, and with it comes the knowledge of knowing that death and dying are right around the corner.  Growing older brings about the subconscious reality that time is of the essence, and the wisdom of knowing that there is not much time to summarize the purpose of ones life.

Interview I  Marlene
Marlene is a vibrant, cheerful, 86 year old woman.  Marlene married when she was nineteen, and was married to the same man for 61 years before he passed away from complications associated with Alzheimers.  They had only one child, a daughter named Iris.  Marlene was born with a congenital heart condition called pulmonary Stenosis, meaning that she was born with one of her heart valves partially closed.  She remembers being a child and not being able to run and play with the other kids because the doctor would not allow it.  When she became pregnant, her family doctor insisted that she end the pregnancy.  This was amazing to learn of since abortion was illegal back in the 1940s.  She refused to listen and gave birth to a baby girl.  Marlene was employed for 38 years as a bookkeeper for a local hardware store.  She retired because her husband needed her to care for him.
Marlene speaks of her marriage tearfully.  She indicated that her husband was very unfaithful during their marriage, and during the last thirty years of their marriage they had separate bedrooms.  When asked why she continued to allow herself to be treated with such disrespect, she only replied that women from her era did not get divorced.  She says that once you are married it is for life, for better or for worse.  Through tears and a smile, she stated that she lived up to all of her vows and kept her end of the bargain.  She credits this to her upbringing.

Since her husbands death, she speaks of enjoying life.  Her typical days include eating breakfast early, shopping and running errands, talking with friends from church, going out to lunch or dinner with friends, and watching television before falling to sleep.  She has joined the local Civic League and goes to monthly luncheons, and keeps her weekly appointments at the beauty salon.  Marlene claims to be more active than most women her age.  She attributes this to her shopping and walking around the mall and climbing up and down the basement stairs to do laundry.  She says she would have the perfect house if it were all on one floor. She keeps contact with her family via telephone and states that everyone has their own life including her.  Marlene now lives on her social security and a pension check.  She says that she and her husband did plan for this stage in life my making sound investments into a retirement fund.  She vows to live life to the fullest, and she says that she would not change a thing past or present.  Ultimately, she is very happy and content.  Her advice to anyone willing to listen is to live life to the fullest.

Interview II  Iris
Iris is a 61 year old woman who has been battling numerous health problems for the past two years.  She has high blood pressure and diabetes.  She developed pneumonia a year ago that got worse and she developed pulmonary empyiena.  This condition involved the sack around her lungs filling with fluid and hardening.  She spoke of spending a very long time in the hospital before being allowed to come home with chest tubes still in and an I.V. or the administration of antibiotics.  To this day, she is still not fully recovered.
Iris married two days after turning eighteen.  She and her husband eloped and later had three children.  Iris worked off and on after her children were old enough to go to school. She returned to college later in life and received an Associates Degree in Accounting.  She continued working off and on.  Her husband retired a year ago and they now live in their first home.  He retired shortly after learning that he had diabetes.
Iris speaks of a typical day involving three square meals, two snacks, and multiple sugar tests to monitor her diabetes.  She describes her social activities as spending time with another couple that reside within the same neighborhood.  As for exercise, Iris says has a treadmill but her doctor has not given her the okay to begin using it due to her lungs.  She says she has a give and take relationship with her family, and recalls speaking with them several times during the week via telephone or the internet.  As for life events that she reminisces about, she wishes she could have had a closer relationship with her father.  Her goals in life now are centered on recovering from the lung infection so that she and her husband can travel like they had once planned.  She says her health and diabetes have taken over her life and prevent her from living like a normal person.  She says she is not happy at this juncture of her life due to the multiple and repeated health problems.  Her advice for anyone willing to listen is to remember not to take anything for granted.

These two women are very different despite the fact that they are mother and daughter. Marlene is living her life out much like Erikson described in his eight psychosocial theories of living.  Marlene is obviously in the last stage known as Integrity vs. Despair.  This theory is applied to individuals who are in their older years or over sixty (Chapman, 2010).  Iriss situation is more paralleled to Kubler-Rosss theory of the five stages of Death and Dying (Kubler-Ross, 1969).  In lieu of their ages, it could easily be assumed that the theories would have been applied oppositely.  Unfortunately, it seems as though Iriss quality of life is limited and through her depression emerges an internal argument over living.
Marlene defines Eriksons theory.  Erikson theorized that all adults in their latter years came to a state of Integrity versus Despair, also known as the closing stage theory (Boeree, 2006).  Through this theory one comes to look at wisdom and renunciation otherwise known as presumption and disdain.  There is a tolerance and appropriate calmness associated with an understanding of the future detachment created by death (Boeree, 2006).  Marlene has already lived through her despair portion of the theory which emphasizes wasted opportunities and regrets. It is a powerful stage that is often contemplated upon well before old age is even reached. Marlenes marriage was one of despair whereby she felt trapped with nowhere to turn because of how she was raised.  Wives from her generation were taught to be submissive and endure whatever the husband handed down.  As a result, Marlene has embraced her old age with Integrity (Chapman, 2010).  She is at peace and has no regrets.  Her penance in life has been paid while still much younger.
Iris is better associated with Elisabeth Kubler-Rosss theory of Death and Dying.  While she is 61 years old, she is now struggling with getting older.  Kubler-Rosss five stages of death and dying indicate that Iris is in the denial stage, which is the very beginning.  The five stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance (Cavanaugh  Kail, 2007).

It could also be said that Iris is scratching the surface of many different stages at once.  She is unhappy and depressed with her life due to her health complications and angry at the world.  This overlap of reason is common as Iris does not have any real developed coping skills.  She still views herself as a child instead of the old woman she has become.  Iriss close encounter with death while in the hospital with pulmonary empyerina has jolted her entire being into the reality of knowing that death is closer than she once thought (Kubler-Ross, 1969).  As time moves on, Iris will eventually move more steadily through the stages of death and dying.  She many never truly accept the fact that she is dying, but she already knows that death is inevitable.

Both the theory of Integrity and Despair and the theory of Death and Dying make one stop and take an immediate self-inventory of their life.  No one likes to think about death or dying, but each person is dying from the moment of birth.  Death is inevitable.  It is how each individual deals with death that makes it a unique experience.  Some have written in journals over the last weeks or months of their existence on the planet, but words do not encompass a true understanding of how it really feels.
Scholars, philosophers, doctors, and psychologists have tried to define the death experience and label it in some logical fashion.  This is a most impossible endeavor.   No one really knows what it will be like until it happens.  Is there really an afterlife or is reincarnation real  Human beings in the latter years of their life contemplate the meaning of life and the purpose of ones personal life.  Erikson states in the eight psychosocial theories that through the basic virtue of wisdom comes a second strength of renunciation.  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross theorized that through a five stage process one comes to terms with their own mortality.
No matter how each individual deals with the subject of death or dying, each person knows that it will happen.  Preparations are made as a means of alleviating any undue stress on those left behind.  Some people begin giving their prized and sentimental possessions away while still alive because of possible squabbles over them after death.  This practice does not indicate dementia or senility, but rather it expresses a true love and affection towards people, family, and those held dear to the one anticipating death.  Death and dying are tricky subjects, but they must be dealt with.  Ultimately, they will be dealt with by each and every person who is living and breathing.


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