Psychological development of any child will be affected by a number of social issues that one is exposed to, as early as when the brain is fully developed. My childhood experiences were bitter, having suffered from disease at an early age and being that my mother was a single parent after divorce. A child’s life is defined by the age of 7, according to Erikson, however I feel mine began when I was only 6 years old. That is when self-concept and defining what their world is going to be and in turn this is ultimately what shapes their thoughts and behavior. Study by Gobbo and Raccanello, (2011) show that the way an individual narrates past events is associated with the manner in which one copes with negative events in life. Negative events affect the psychological wellbeing and as such, it would be significant to devise ways to positively influence children’s perception, (93).
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When I was 6 year old, I was diagnosed with a debilitating, enigmatic disease. I was in the first grade when my grandmother took over the role as caretaker while my mother went off to work. My grandma would get me out of bed, get me dressed, prepare breakfast and send me to school. However, I sincerely believe that handling my situation was not an easy task. Conceptualization of life events in the development of a child can take two divergent courses depending on experiences of wellbeing or suffering. According to Morris as quoted by Gobbo and Raccanello, (2011), “Convergent results supported validity of data indicating that narratives ecologically capture some aspects of children’s perception and provide some hints on the way they give meaning to their experiences,” (392). I was a stubborn child and to be honest, I believe I was affected by the divorce of my parents. In some aspects, there was a regression in some stages of my development in what Mcleod, (2007) calls ideal self not being compatible with real self.
I had to deal with neuroticism also due with the fact that I had lost my sense of autonomy and no longer had control of my life. This seemed to have affected my psychological and physical development. It was early in the morning on a school day and I remember sitting at my desk coloring and then without warning, I felt an unspeakable rash that spread over my body like a wild fire. I went to the teacher and she was not sure what to think and sent me straight to the school nurse. I became feverish, chilled and very lethargic. My body looked as though I was rolled in a bowl of poison oak.
I remembered next that my mother came back early from job and took me home. The following day I was awakened by horrific pain, only to find that I was in hospital bed. My mother and grandparents were aghast by the suffering I went through. I was quickly taken to the emergency room and was admitted in the hospital. Years later, later I finally diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Not many had heard of the disease and frankly for the most part doctors did not know how to treat the disease because it was an unknown medical condition. I was in and out of hospital for quite some time and as such, my education was compromised. Attempts by my educator to give me home-based schooling bore no fruit, as I could not retain anything. Research by development psychologists show that body conditions like effects of diseases is more related to suffering whereas wellbeing of is determined by emotional events. Gobbo and Raccanello, (2011) Children aged 9 year and above normally narrate psychological aspects of their suffering rather than physical events, (392). This is a true definition of what I encountered that stuck to my mind until today.
I went back to school when I was in 4th grade and in a bid to make a comeback education pursuit and to develop a sense of self-control and self worth. In addition, due to my hospital isolation, I had missed the social cohort that forms early on in a social institution such as school. I was also struggling with Erikson’s stage of industry vs. inferiority because I was not receiving the proper education that would make me feel accepted in society (Berger, 2011, 273). Isolation and discrimination in both curricula and extra curricula activities affect children’s psychological wellbeing. This is because social skills are vital components in the development of a child’s behavior.
As noted by Walthall Konold, and Pianta, (2005), “Poor social skills have been found to be associated with unsuccessful peer play, feelings of sadness, and externalizing behavior problems,” (211). Due to this, assessing a child’s social skills is a significant step in psych education or in developing what is known as psychological services. The instrument used in the assessment of psychological services is the Social Skill Rating System, (SSRS), which measures all domains f social functioning. These are ability to cooperate, self-assertion, and self-control. The values that children see in their inner state are difficult to observe by others and this is what informs the relevance of self-reports in assessing children’s own and peculiar perspectives.
At this stage of development, I wanted a friend more than anything because my social life was lonely since I was diagnosed with arthritis. My sister told me about some rumors that were spreading that my disease wan contagious and that I would infect others. This was unnecessary; as they never knew, what my condition was all about. I never knew what to expect with my health from day to day. I was still in and out of the hospital on monthly basis. Doctors would try to put me on some form of medication only to find I would have allergic reaction or more flare-ups. One day I would be in class trying to be a student and make new friends and the next day I would rush right back to the hospital. These were the years I should be outside playing with friends and enjoying life, yet, my condition allowed none of it. This hurt my self-efficacy in that my motivation to do well in school and form social connections was being blocked not only by what people perceived me to be, but also on how I regarded myself. Psychological control affects children’s reflections and determines a child’s self-worth whereas behavior control determines a child’s interaction with the physical world and mannerism.
I was young and developed Juvenile Rheumetoid Arthritis. I spent so many years in and out of the hospital and was not able to make friends. When the doctors finally found a medication (prednisone) that quelled my pain I was then able to go back to school. (7th grade) I became popular and had boys fawn over me but as soon as I got it, it was taken away. The doctors took me off that medication because it was not good to be on long term. When they took me off it my pain came right back and I was right back into the hospital. All the friends I made left me. When I was able to go back to school none recognized me and if they did they avoided me. My sense of self worth was all gone. These moments made things a little easier and I looked forward to going to school. I remember being popular during those time. Boys despised me but they now started sensing my attraction despite me adding weight. Life could not be better. This result of a high level of self-esteem and motivation resulted from overcoming my inferiority complex and offer more to society. The gap that existed between my ideals and real self was narrowing and this reduced my neuroticism.
Psychological development recognizes channels of value transmission and studies have shown that children have ability to act as intuitive moralists, who try to shape their own understanding and core values. This however depends on the moral guidance of adult who in most cases, are their mentors. In line with this thought, Doring (2011) obverses that, “In line with this conception, recent findings from the field of cognitive-developmental psychology indicated that even elementary-school-aged children hold a conception of their values,” (564). Values in this case implies what one desires and sees as important guiding principles towards turning situations into actions. I capitalized on these ideals and my life was joyous once again.
My joy was short lived. The doctors did not want me to stay on prednisone anymore because of long-term effects it would have on me. I thought in a way that if they took me off it I would be okay. I believed that my malady had gone. It was not long after I was taken off prednisone that my body started to fight against itself once again. Both boys and girls shied away from my company because of my physical condition. According to study among American children, Wang, Pometantz, and Chen, (2007) observe that asserting authority over children make them rebellious and causes heightened negative self-esteem. “Notably, psychological autonomy support benefits children’s functioning in both the emotional and academic arenas, whereas psychological control mainly hurts children’s emotional functioning,” (Wang, Pometantz, and Chen, 2007 1593).
My life took several twists and turns. I am now in my 30’s and have evaluated why and how I did certain things. I realized that because of developing such a bad disease at a young age and losing all sense of what it was like to be a normal child was crucial in determining my course of action and decisions in the later days of my life. At this time in my life, I still find myself trying to push away friends. My social spectrum was narrowed by lack of adequate interaction. It is therefore justified that childhood development determines behaviors of a person in later stages in life.