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Lifespan Personality Development Paper

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Lifespan Development and Personality

Jorge Delgadillo

PSY/300

February 13, 2014

Professor Melanie Afshar

There are many debates regarding nature vs. nurture starting with Plato and John Locke. Some such as Plato believe behavior and personality traits stem from ones genetics which are inherited from parents. Others such as John Locke believe one is born with a “blank slate” which means ones behavior and personality develops based on ones environment. Through examining the life of Justin Beiber, many influences of nature vs. nurture can be found; in addition the behaviorism theory can be applied to his life.

Justin Beiber was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of being famous. For him it was not so much being at the right place at the right time, his loving mother put her son out there to be recognized and he sure was. After being signed by Usher as a solo artist his first record was released in November of 2009 and that’s when his life began to make a turn. As a new artist he believed in himself and having a positive image, “All our decisions are based on long-term decisions. I don't want to grow up and lose my young fans, singing inappropriate music” (Beiber). The more famous he became the more money he received and one could see he was becoming star-struck. He always wanted to send out a “positive message” to his fans so that they had someone to look up to since his fans were adolescents.

Starting two years after his fame began to raise a scandal broke of Beiber possibly being a father. That quickly ended with a DNA test which came back negative. Shortly after, he began to spiral down from egging his neighbor’s house to drag racing under the influence. His behavior has had nothing but a negative impact on his life and his career. Reviewing his career and what he originally stood for one could see that his morals quickly changed especially the end of his relationship with Selena Gomez. For Beiber nature and nurture play a significant role in his life in many ways.

Examining Beiber’s behaviors one could blame everything on his environment and although this is partially true, his genetics play an important role as well. Not much is known about his father, Jeremy Beiber, but his mother Pattie Mallette has a disturbing past. In an autobiography Beiber’s mom Pattie describes her life in detail before the birth of her son. She was a substance abuser from alcohol to drugs and suffered from depression and anxiety. She constantly thought about committing suicide and at the age of 17 she tried and ended up in a mental ward. Anxiety and depression are chemical imbalances in the brain which could be passed on to the offspring. Anxiety is from having a low dose of GABA which is a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits relaxation but without the proper levels it can cause stress. Depression is from a low level of serotonin which controls mood, behavior and thought process and it also could cause over reaction in people. It would only make sense if Beiber was currently suffering from low levels in his neurotransmitters. He has shown signs of overreaction as well as high levels of stress. Because he smokes marijuana it lowers his anxiety and tends to keep him calm which could be a factor in him constantly being under the influence.

Although these genes may have been passed down, his environment or nurture plays an even bigger role than genetics. At the age of 12 his mother Pattie admits to telling Beiber about her sexual abuse as a child, her alcohol and drug abuse, and her attempt to commit suicide. Even though she raised Beiber as a good child, telling her son this could have really had an impact on him whether she believes it did or not. When he became famous he entered a new world. He was no longer living the normal life where he could do what he wanted and no one would find out. Now he is in the public eye where all of his actions are out in the open. With the fame comes the fans and with the fans comes the money and money opens a lot of doors. His environment went from being sheltered by his mother to being free to do as he pleases. Being famous is not as easy as people may think surprisingly it outs a lot of stress on an individual. Beiber needed to maintain his image or keep up with what is new and exciting. Since he began as a young star growing up and being an adult was going to be a hard image to develop. He began hanging out with the wrong crowd trying to change his once baby image to a mature young adult. This is when the trouble began for him and since there were no negative punishments the bad behavior was continuing. This displays a type of behaviorism called operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning theory is when a behavior is reinforced and becomes extinct using positive reinforcements (rewards) or negative reinforcement (punishment). As a star getting and doing whatever one wants is normal. If a star is to do something bad, they wouldn’t get a negative punishment but they would get more publicity which leads to more fame and money. In Beiber’s case, all the negative behavior he has been displaying over the past year has had no punishment but instead has made him more famous. His fans are supporting him even more trying to justify his negative behavior as if to show dissonance for another person’s behavior. Even driving under the influence and being arrested has had no negative punishment just because of his fame and money. Not only has this been seen in Beiber, but instead all young stars growing up in the limelight from Britney Spears to Miley Cyrus. Alfred Adler’s Theory can also explain the behaviors of Beiber.

Adler’s theory of personality explains how the goal of people is the desire to belong and feel important. When Beiber first began his career he was focused on sending out the right message to his fans. He wanted to be looked at in a positive light and wanted people to look up to him. His morals were on the right path as well which could have been from his mother and the way she raised him or maybe other stars he wanted to be like. Once the fame his career took off and now he had to compete with other stars to be on top. Being in the “positive light” didn’t have much fame because there was not much to report about but being in the negative light did. Right before he took a turn there was Lindsey Lohan and Chris Brown in the spot light from DUIs to Domestic Violence. Either way, Lindsey Lohan ended up on a TV show and Chris Brown released music based on his experiences; they brought fame. Beiber was not only trying to outgrow his child like fame he was also trying to increase his fame. If they were all doing this and he wanted to fit in he too had to join in the negative behavior. Also, the more he was discouraged the more he acted out. Alder believes that if one has no encouragement one will act out in bad, unhealthy was to seek attention and find that encouragement. This could in fact be a way to try to get someone to reach out and help me, a type of cry for help. All his behaviors make him a danger to himself and to others and since no one is reaching out it is only a matter of time before it is too late.

Looking at both theories, behaviorism or operant conditioning best fits Beiber and his actions. His whole environment is based on doing what one needs to do to become or stay famous. Even though his fame is in a negative light it is still fame. Everything he does has yet to have a negative response to it so his behaviors are being positively reinforced. Going into this career his environment (nurture) has caused him to act out and do what he needs to do to stay famous and even though his actions are bad, he still gets what he wants at the end of the day; fame.

Nature vs. Nurture will always be up for debate because there will always be evidence to support both sides equally. It is clear that nature plays a role especially in mental disorders but nurture always plays a role because one could be raised with morals, or not. Beiber sadly has both nature and nurture guiding leading him to a negative life and if there is no negative reinforcement he will continue to go down the wrong path.

Reference List
(2012, September 24). Justin Bieber's mom, Pattie Mallette, lays bare her painful past and turns to God in new book. . Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/09/24/justin- bieber-mom-pattie-mallette-lays-bare-her-painful-past-and-turn-to-god-in/
Alfred Adler: Theory and Application. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.alfredadler.edu/about/theory
Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th ed.). Retrieved from The University of Phoenix eBook Collection database.
Nydaily news. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/topics/Justin%20Bieber

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