There are many factors that affect us when we are children, which determine how we turn out as adults. Some of those factors can include how we are brought up by our parents, where we live, how we live, wealth and so on. Another important factor that also affects us as adults is how well our development is promoted as children. A lack in different developmental stages can affect a child for the remainder of their life.
In this assignment, I will give a detailed description of David’s story from the video I watched and reflect on it. I will discuss the events of his life, using different theory relevant to events during his infancy, childhood and early adulthood. A life-cycle perspective will be more relevant for the purposes of this assignment as development is seen to be continuous and changes should not be seen in isolation. A number of different theories have been put forward to explain development and in order to begin to examine the impact of life events on David’s development, theories such as: attachment, psychosocial, and ecology have been considered. I acknowledge that in drawing patterns from observations to explain phenomena, different persons may explain the same events with a range of theories.
Born in 1965, David grew up in care as he was abandoned at birth by his white mother because during those times inter-racial relationships were unacceptable. His father, a black man, remained involved in his life till he was nine, then he went back to his native home in Nigeria. David was sexually abused at the age of eight by older boys and by his father. At the age of eleven, he had his first consensual sexual relationship with a boy. At twenty-six years he met his birth mother and at thirty-five he managed to forgive his father. At the time of making the video, he is forty and has realised that he is not happy with his gay life-style as he says that he wants a nuclear family; wife and children of his own, something he has always dreamt of having to compensate his lack of it as a child.
In the video David expresses emotions of sadness and pain as he tries to deal with his past. David is sure that he was not born gay but became gay because of the environment and he would like to change that. David takes Jean, a friend to the children’s home where he was first abused. He even expresses how much he idolised and trusted his father, ” I over idolised my father and every weekend I sat at those steps waiting for him to take me”, somebody he looked up to ended abusing him. He sought male affection and could get this from the boys in the house since the Social workers were all women.
Until 1967, being gay was an imprisonable offence in the UK. During the 1970s, there were assumptions that homosexuality was a mental illness that could be treated by using a version therapy similar to the Pavlov experiment- classical conditioning, with rewards and punishments. A man was given an electric shock after seeing pictures of men he found attractive and nothing for pictures of women, thereby associating women fantasies with “relief from tension” and pictures of men with “pain and anxiety”. David speaks to Jeremy to find out if the version therapy helped him “go straight”. Jeremy says that it caused him to remain celibate for years because the shocks he used to give himself made him scared of having any contact with people so he kept away from people, this had a negative impact on him.
David is in search of something that can help him “go straight”, he looks at the internet and finds x-gay courses most of them being religious with slogans such as “Jesus will set you free” and the costs start from ï¿½700per week. He enrolls with Love In Action based in Memphis; it is one of the 120 Ex-gay ministries in America.
Even though he makes it clear that he is not religious at all and might find this difficult he keeps an open mind. In order to change, David has to deal with the past and this proves a very painful experience for him and he says that “talking about my pain isn’t changing my sexuality”. David struggles with the fact that Jesus will set him free as he is non believer and says “perhaps if I felt closer to God, the course might help”. While he is trying to reconcile his feelings, this is made worse when he sees that the preacher was on charges for child molestation, “he already had God when he committed the crime” and he says that if it means sitting and listening to a paedophile, then he does not want this religion as he believes that he is not doing anything wrong by being gay.
Gay activist Wayne Besen gives David a point of view, regarding the christian fundamentalists, using John who had said he was now straight, as an example. He was caught in a gay bar “acting out” on one of the man. The converts get the spiritual zeal while they are within a group and temporarily forget about their being gay, but once that is finished and they are alone, they revert to their old habits, with some of them leading double lives. Ex-gay movements believe that “every child is born normal but are made gay because of the damaged relationships or childhoods”. This confirms what David has been saying that the environment he was in made him gay.
Even though David walks out of the course, he admits that it has not been a total waste of his time. He has learnt that the rejection he suffered from his father made him look for love in other man, and he has the power to control that instead of being used. He mistook sex for love which was inappropriate. David says that the past two months have made him think deeply and he is giving himself time to think about the future as he realises that his dream for a normal family will not be attained. For a person who could not see himself without having sex, I wonder how he has managed to survive two months.
I will now attempt to discuss David’s life events using different theories. David was abandoned at birth and was cared for by different workers. In the video he states that often people comment that “you have done very well for somebody who grew up in care” and he continues to say that he has been through a lot and all those experiences have made him stronger. He managed to develop relationships with other people around him including his father. Bowlby argued that six months to three years constitutes a critical period in the formation of attachment. He believed that “During that time the child needs continuous love and care” (Cowie, 1994 p6).
His colleague Mary Ainsworth devised a way of measuring the quality of infants’ attachment to their caregivers, known as the “Strange situation” (Crawford ; Walker, 2003 p45). From using this method, Ainsworth concluded that if their caregivers were emotionally available, sensitive and supportive during the first year, children developed a secure attachment as in David’s case. Bowlby believed that prolonged separation of the child from the mother (Maternal Deprivation) was a major cause of ‘delinquent’ behaviour and mental health issues (Crawford & Walker, 2003 p44), however, in David’s case there is no evidence suggesting that.
The life-span perspective has its basis in developmental psychology which can be considered as “the study of social, cognitive, affective and behavioural changes that occur over time through maturation and learning” (Davies, 2000 p60). An assumption is made that there are common developmental tasks or stages, which are experienced in order to move through life and that through looking at these it is possible to consider where a person is in terms of their life-span development. Furthermore, this can then be compared to the expectations of their chronological age in the different theories and if they are not meeting these why this is so.
Erikson proposed a model in which the individual passes through eight psychosocial stages during which he said we strive for intimacy and parenting. The sixth and seventh stages are especially concerned with these issues and it is to these that we look with reference to David’s place in the life cycle. During the sixth stage – Intimacy vs. Isolation, Erikson postulated that the young adult would seek to form an intimate relationship with another and commit to “…concrete affiliations and partnerships and to develop the ethical strength to abide by such commitments, even though they may call for significant sacrifices and compromises” Erikson (1950). In David’s case he has failed to resolve this stage as he struggles with his sexuality, he now feels, as never before, the absence of a sweetheart, or a wife and children and he will strive with great intensity to achieve this goal. In the video he says “a family, child and wife are yours, there is no us in gay relationships”. He says that he is not the typical gay man, going to clubs and having one-night stands.
The seventh stage – Generativity vs. Stagnation “extends beyond parenthood, to include productivity and developments for future generations” (Crawford ; Walker, 2003 p95). During middle adulthood, we establish our careers, settle down within a relationship, begin our own families and develop a sense of being a part of the bigger picture. We give back to society through raising our children, being productive at work, and becoming involved in community activities and organizations. By failing to achieve these objectives, we become stagnant and feel unproductive. David feels unproductive at this time as he seeks to have a family, at the end he feels that he will focus on his god children while he tries to resolve this life stage.
According to Levinson’s model, Daniel is seen as entering middle adulthood. Levinson called this “mid life crisis…linked to some of the challenges and responses apparent in the middle years of adulthood”. (Crawford &Walker, 2003 p96). It is a period marked by stress for some, by constraints for others, and by freedom for others. It is a time to place greater emphasis on socializing, or interaction with other people as persons and less emphasis on seeing a sexual opportunity in every encounter with a person. (www.midlife-passages.com). For David it is a struggle between new challenges and old issues of guilt, ambivalence, old anger, and grief by talking about his past experiences, as he embarks on a journey to rid himself of the behaviour he learnt as a boy. Having a family has always been a dream for him, but at the end of the video, he says that he realises that his dream for a normal family will not be attained. According to Levinson letting go of old dreams can be a “release from pressure” (Beckett, 2002 p47).
The ecological theory looks at a child’s development within the context of the system of relationships that form his or her environment. Bronfenbrenner’s theory defines complex layers of environment: micro-system, exo-system and macro-system. He says that “there is a reciprocal process of interaction, in that the child is both influenced by and influences its environment” (Crawford &Walker, 2003 p9). The micro-system encompasses the relationships and interactions a child has within immediate surroundings including people and events at home. “These have the greatest impact on the child because the child experiences them directly and concretely” (Crawford & Walker, 2003 p19).
David grew up in a children’s home with nine other boys and female social workers looked after them. At the age of eight he was sexually abused by older boys. He had contact with his father until the age of nine when his father went to live in Nigeria, this made him seek for attention in other boys and at the age of 11, he had his first consensual sexual relationship with a boy. David says that these early childhood experiences made him gay; he learnt this behaviour as he believes that he was not born gay. David does not give us information regarding issues of being mixed race.
The macro-system may be considered the outermost layer in the child’s environment. While not being a specific framework, this layer is comprised of cultural values,
customs, and laws (Crawford &Walker, 2003 p19).Considering David’s life within the wider macro-system, he grew up during the times of “protest and transformation”, freedom to sexuality and Conservatives were in power then, policies were changing recognising homosexuality as no longer an imprisonable offence and he says that “by the time I thought I was gay most people were coming out and the Gay rights movement was set up”. Even though the wider society’s response was negative to homosexuality because heterosexuality had been the norm, the media played a part in making sure that gay was seen as right. In terms of exo-systems we are not given any information.
In summary this assignment has attempted to look at David’s developmental stages in life using different theories. However, this has not been a simple process as it has been hindered by little or no information in some aspects of his life. I am aware that individuals move through life at different rates and according to unique factors making it difficult to generalise from one individual or family to another. When all factors are taken into consideration and a non-linear approach is adopted it would seem that David’s development is relatively normative in spite of the difficulties he has encountered along the way. He is constructively addressing developmental issues and seeking to resolve them.
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Crawford, K. & Walker, J. (2003) Social Work and Human Development. Exeter, Learning Matters Ltd.
Davies, M (ed.). (2000) The Blackwell Encyclopaedia of Social Work. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.
Erikson, E. (1995) Childhood and Society (first published 1951). London,
(19/12/2005) The Season’s of a Man’s Life. www.midlife-passages.com.