Life Span Development and Personality
Human beings begin to develop personality during the early course of their lifespan, and continue to modify its fundamental characteristics throughout the course of their lives. According to Gregory Feist (2006), there are numerous influences from the early home environment that have substantial effects on a child, including birth-order, gender, and parental modeling. Hillary Clinton was born and bred into her position of authority and refined political prowess, the breeding of hereditary factors, environmental experiences and exposures that guided and strengthened her intrinsic need for meaning and the desire for self-actualization. The intersection of these factors created a personality in Clinton that enabled her to fulfill the finely tailored political position with which she captivated the entire American public.
Heredity versus Environment
Hillary Rodham Clinton grew up in an average middle-class family that had a powerful influence on her personality and psychological development. Genetically, her father contributed his strong work ethic, diligence, and intelligent decision-making in business ventures and in personal matters ("Hillary Clinton Biography," 2010). These inherited traits endowed Clinton to develop high moral standards, solid core values and an ability to position herself in a myriad of difficult personal, political, and social situations. Clinton's mother contributed a genetic disposition and extraordinary emotional inner strength and authentic concern for issues of social justice (Clinton, 1996). This inner strength became an intrinsic mechanism that directed many of Clinton's social undertakings and created and sustained many of her fundamental values regarding political agendas ("Clinton, Hillary Rodham orig. Hillary Diane Rodham," 2006).
Clinton inherited a strong physical constitution from her parents, which enabled her to be physically active and productive throughout the course of her life as she continues to maintain an active and productive agenda as a model of health to all women (Watson, 2001). Additionally influential in Clinton's early family environment was her status as first-born, which endows a child (at least initially) with all the parental resources of attention and care (Feist, 2006). This propels the first-born into a position of responsibility and power when siblings arrive (Feist, 2006). This position is often a lifelong station of first-borns (Feist, 2006).
Both parents sought to create an early family environment rich with praise, support and encouragement, which allowed Clinton to develop high self-esteem and an innate desire for goal- setting and high standards. By their example, through work ethic and genuine concern for others, they instilled in Clinton, moral values and guidelines for ethical behavior (Watson, 2001). Her mother's strong moral conviction and even-keeled demeanor was an exceptionally good model for Clinton's emotional development (Clinton, 1996). Later in her early life, a minister at Clinton's church significantly influenced her through the introduction of local urban and social issues. This exposure further contributed to the development of Clinton's sense of morals, values, a realistic view of social dilemma, and a desire to find solutions.
Family Issues and Early Support Systems
In her early scholarly environment she learned that civic and political involvement and community responsibility excited and satisfied her and her involvement in contributions to society prompted her to seek similar goals and endeavors ("Clinton, Hillary Rodham orig. Hillary Diane Rodham," 2006). She organized food drives, worked on the school newspaper, and served on the student government. Although she set high goals for herself, even at a young age, she received the continual support and encouragement of her parents, teachers, and peers (Watson, 2001). Clinton continued to maintain an active schedule of civic undertakings and societal contributions through elementary and high school ("Clinton, Hillary Rodham orig. Hillary Diane Rodham," 2006).
Her mother encouraged her to be independent, and encouraged her to prepare for a professional career (Watson, 2001). Though her father's values were traditional and conservative, he knew his daughter's abilities should not be limited by gender and encouraged her towards high aspirations (Watson, 2001). According to R. P. Watson in The First Ladies of the United States (2001), Clinton once dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but after writing to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, she discovered they did not accept women. Although this incident was disappointing, she recognized how much harder she had to work to accomplish her goals (Watson, 2001).
Another early environmental influence came through membership in her church youth group in which the pastor exposed the group to a variety of urban and social problems ("Hillary Clinton Biography," 2010). Clinton's association in this group enabled her to meet and listen to civil rights activist Martin Luther King (Clinton, 1996). This experience left an indelible mark on her young mind regarding the need to address social injustice and other pressing political issues (Clinton, 1996). At age 13, Clinton helped canvass Chicago neighborhoods in which she found evidence of electoral fraud against Richard Nixon ("Hillary Clinton Biography," 2010). This exposure prompted her to campaign for Barry Goldwater's presidential election ("Hillary Clinton Biography," 2010). Further shaping her interest in political notions was Clinton's high school history teacher who was an ardent anticommunist and prompted her to read Barry Goldwater's classic The Conscience of a Conservative. This prompted further investigation of her own political standing ("Clinton, Hillary Rodham orig. Hillary Diane Rodham," 2006).
Humanistic Theory versus Cognitive Social Theory
Whereas according to the humanistic theory, Clinton was compelled to find meaning in her life and endeavors to satisfy an intrinsic need, and consistent with social cognitive theory, she was compelled to react and encode meaning to her external environment (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). According to the humanistic theory of personality which embraces and explores a primal human need to find meaning in life and yet be true to oneself, Hillary Clinton developed an understanding of the requirements necessary for human accomplishment and found meaning in her undertakings (Carter, 2008). Simultaneously, her early family environment allowed her to internalize a powerful sense of self worth with which she sought to engage in finding ways to accomplish endeavors of social justice, and public service (Clinton, 1996). Clinton found a sense of purpose and meaning at a young age in social undertakings that sought to reduce injustice and she continually immersed herself in situations that afforded her the opportunity to indulge in what fulfilled her sense of purpose ("Hillary Clinton Biography," 2010).
Alternately, according to the cognitive-social theory, personality is a constant relational exchange between demands of the environment and the individual's response according to thought processes and previous experiences (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). From her early family environment, Hillary encoded meaning into hard work, social conscience, diligence and other ideals that her parents and other influential models presented ("Clinton, Hillary Rodham orig. Hillary Diane Rodham," 2006). She placed personal value on these ideals, and implemented plans of action that accommodated and maintained these values according to her sense of self. Throughout her life Clinton sought to incorporate the same encoded value systems, and assigned meaning to similar ideals and behavior, thus maintaining a constant public image and personality.
Humanism and Clinton's Personality
The humanistic theory of personality best explains Clinton's behavior and achievements because it encompasses an element more human than the other personality theories and reflects dimensional attributes that include how people understand themselves, and how they "experience themselves in the world" (Kowalski & Westen, 2009, p. 445). Humanism approaches personality from the perspective that people have an innate drive to find meaning in their environment and in themselves while accommodating situations, people, and pressures that exist in their environment (Carter, 2008). Humanism understands that people choose the level at which they accommodate others simultaneously maintaining an equilibrium of staying true to themselves. The humanistic theory attaches worth to people as individuals who seek meaning rather than observable objects who fit into trait categories and various predeterminations (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). According to the humanistic theory, Clinton's primary motivation came from an intrinsic desire aided by her psychological development in childhood to find meaning in her life and she was compelled to lead, accomplish, and assist in social and political endeavors to actualize her true self.
It is worthwhile to study the elements of various personality systems, such as learned responses to the environment in cognitive social personality theory or the intrinsic need to find meaning in life for self-actualization in the humanistic personality theory. However, it will always remain an important goal to survey each part in its own right, but only in an effort to provide a comprehensive framework for understanding the whole person (Bleidorn et al., 2010). To understand the function of personality associated with life span development requires consideration of the numerous components and myriad contributions to the composite of the whole that is personality (Bleidorn et al, 2010).
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