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The Psycho-Social Characteristics

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The purpose of this paper is to provide informative information on the lifestyle stages and developmental process within adolescence, early and middle adulthood. These stages within an individual’s life are extremely pivotal. Understanding the psychosocial crisis, developmental task, and cultural influences among these populations will be explored. In addition, a discussion on existing interrelationships between work, family, and life roles will be included. Investigated life span theories and multiple transitions which occur in these stages will also be addressed. In closing, evaluating significant challenges related to wellness and resilience from both community and cultural perspectives will be explored. The Psychosocial Crisis

Within middle adulthood (34-60 years) the psychosocial crisis is generativity versus stagnation. Client Bonnie Grape is suffering from the psychosocial crisis of stagnation. Stagnation is defined as the lack of psychosocial growth or movement (Newman & Newman, 2013). While feelings of stagnation surge temporarily, both success and failures force people to redefine their goals (Brim, 1992). The crisis of stagnation can either entangle adults in a process of withdrawal or force continued growth, expanding generativity. One of the critical periods of transition within the early adolescence stage is group identity versus alienation. During this stage adolescences commonly endure rapid physical changes, significant cognitive and emotional maturity, new sexual interest, and sensitivity to peer relationships (Newman & Newman, 2012). Client Arnie Grape is a 17 year old boy, who is experiencing characteristics within the psychosocial crisis of both group identity and alienation.

According to Lowe (2003) many adolescent men struggle with interpersonal skills due to a lack of traditional authoritarian from parents. In later adolescence, the psychosocial crisis of individual identity versus identity confusion is formed. This crisis is defined as the ability to take key components of ones’ self and shift them in a direction which formulates positive, attainable goals (Newman & Newman, 2013). Client Gilbert Grape is experiencing signs of struggle in both his individual identity as well as identity confusion within the psychosocial crisis. Psychosocial Developmental Theory

Mrs. Grape is an obese woman, in her thirties who shows characteristics of a person closed off to experiences with others. She is also lacking experiences which promote self-development (Newman & Newman, 2012). For example, Bonnie sits on the couch flicking through channels and smoking cigarettes, while her children struggle working minimum wage jobs to feed her. She has not been out the house in seven years, since her husband’s suicide. Bonnie states that her children move the kitchen table in front of the living room couch. This is due to Bonnie never leaving the couch. Her obesity is now a health issues which concerns the therapist. Client Bonnie shows some signs of generativity within the parenting role, which has been displayed by her nurturing her mentally disabled son on occasions.

However, improving the physical and social environment for her and the children has not yet been observed. During several individual sessions, Bonnie has stated to the therapist that she has not always been like this (referring to her obesity). These strong emotional feelings of guilt and worthlessness convey to the therapist, underlying issues or recent traumatic events have occurred. Client Arnie Grape who suffers from a mental disability displays signs of group identity by maintaining a willingness to participate in and contribute to society (Newman & Newman, 2013). An example of Arnie’s willingness to participate was displayed by his closeness with family and establishing a new bond with a stranger of the opposite sex. However, Arnie also displays characteristics within the alienation stage of the psychosocial crisis. This stage refers to a sense of social estrangement, lacking the social support one needs to make a connection.

Given Arnie’s mental disability, expectations and social engagement with others outside his family environment have not been fostered. The disassociation observed in Arnie, conveys the inability to experience the bond of mutual commitment, which is necessary for further development in the next stage of Arnie’s life. Since Gilbert is faced with the overall nurture of his mentally disabled sibling, his identity role has transitioned into parent. While Gilbert recognizes his public self through roles and expectations, his private self is lacking subjective experiences from self-reflection (Newman & Newman, 2013). Identity formation is developed when later adolescence assess their competences and aspirations. Gilbert has not yet made this critical transition because his aspirations are solely based on what other individuals need. For example, when Gilbert was asked what he wants in life, his immediate answer was a need for a family member.

His response further displays no aspirations for self. Conceptualizing developmental tasks within Marriage and Family Therapy As the counselor treating Bonnie Grape, it’s important to focus on both her emotional and physiological needs, while focusing on her strengths. Conducting individual and family therapeutic interventions will serve great significance in this case. As Bonnie’s therapist, providing psychoeducation to her will implement effective coping strategies for both her depression and obesity (Campbell, 1995). Furthermore, providing referrals and resources for support programs and weight reduction/nutrition programs will promote optimal health and wellness. These programs commonly provide informational, instrumental, and emotional support for individuals as well as their families (Campbell, 1995).

Behavioral management of children with severe disabilities involving the neurologic system (such as autism, neuromuscular disorders, and mental retardation) is often a major challenge for parents (Cole & Reiss, 1993). Arnie Grape will benefit from cognitive behavioral strategies such as thought records, which test the validity of one’s thoughts. In addition, introducing Arnie to imagery based exposure will also minimize his strong negative emotions. Since several disorders are present within the Grape family, teaching them how to put these illnesses in the appropriate place within their family dynamic is a key element (Campbell, 1995). As the counselor working with Gilbert Grape, many forms of treatment can be implemented.

Some examples of effective treatment modalities are cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic therapy and family systems therapy (Probst, 2008). According to Probst (2008) cognitive behavioral therapy has been the most effective in its practices, making this the first choice in treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) generally helps with identifying irrational, distorted maladaptive patterns of cognition, belief, and realistic thoughts (Probst, 2008). In addition, introducing Gilbert to interpersonal therapy, will further improve his problematic interpersonal relationships. This approach is designed to help him self-identify with his own self-images. Both treatments have been examined in well-designed research studies, with results superior to both family therapy and supportive counseling (Weersing et al. 2006). Existing Interrelationships

The interrelationship between Gilbert and Arnie is a significant element within the Grape’s family dynamic. While Gilbert takes on the role of big brother, father, and parent to his younger siblings his personal identity becomes lost. Gilbert has become the sole protector of his mentally disabled brother Arnie. However, he begins to get frustrated with Arnie, when Arnie’s wants to be free and continues to disappear when no one is watching. Bonnie, Gilbert’s mom has been in a state of depression for the last seven years, due to losing her husband. Gilbert has grown frustrated and angry with his mother’s lack of parenting, shame, and obesity. He further encourages the town children to sneak a peek at the fat lady, by lifting them up to the window to get a few laughs and giggles. In addition, the entire family sneaks around the house trying to do repairs, without Bonnie even knowing.

The entire family is aware of how dangerous obesity is, but has no knowledge on how to resolve or encourage their mother. Through the observation of these clients many life span theories can be recognized. Given Gilbert’s multiple roles in his life span, the psychosocial theory has been formed. According to Erikson, the psychosocial theory provides a framework for tracing the process through which self-concept, self-esteem, and self-other boundaries integrate into a positive, socially engaged person (Newman & Newman, 2012).

Although Arnie struggled with mental inabilities all his life, Rodgers theory of personality development is displayed through him. Arnie displayed essential components of growth through his life experiences and further accepted his authentic self. Through the life span of middle adulthood, many factors such as family, social units, work, and community contribute to the enhancement of self-worth. Bonnie Grape lost her ability to balance a career, family, and new social demands which can be defined as generativity. When Bonnie finally regained a little sense of self-worth, she died from her obesity. The Clinical Perspective

Bonnie functions within the family unit by being the helpless mother suffering from obesity and depression. She relies on her children to maintain the household while she makes no efforts to work, parent, nurture, or survive within their poverty stricken community. Gilbert plays multiple roles within the Grape’s overall family dynamic. He works, attempts to make repairs around the home, and keeps his mentally challenged brother close to him. Arnie and Gilbert have a special peer relationship, but as Arnie begins to explore life on his own their relationship is compromised. As Bonnie transitions into later adulthood (60-75years) she will likely accept her life as an obese woman with no means of new physical, social, emotional, or intellectual development occurring (Newman & Newman, 2012).

While the psychosocial theory assumes new opportunities for growth emerge in this stage, Bonnie’s lack of generativity assumes she will not transition successfully. Arnie has already surpassed many stigmas in his life in regards to his mental disabilities. While recognizable characteristics display Arnie developing into later adolescence, his ability to be open minded about new social and physical changes determines room for transition within his lifespan. Given Gilbert’s ability to develop and grow in social roles, personal achievements, and life’s course his development into later adulthood should be a smooth transition (Newman & Newman, 2012). Wellness and Resilience

Challenges related to wellness and resilience stems from large populations being uneducated on the implications of diseases and behavioral disorders (Jason, 1998). Within low minority communities the awareness of wellness and resilience is seemingly non-existent. However, within the recent decades, many forms of interventions and attention have been placed toward this population. Since the mass media is ideal for conveying positive messages, much of the advertisements for health promotions were interpreted through this method (Jason, 1998).

Community based interventions have become one of the most commonly used models for resilience within family therapy. Another effective approach used is, media intervention, which develops their attention toward our youth. This approach is most significant during excessive television watching time. According to Jason (1998) media interventions encouraged adolescents of the African American population to stop smoking by the multiple advertisements seen on television.

In conclusion, psychosocial development is pivotal throughout an individual’s lifespan. While many factors contribute to the overall development of a person, it is the individual who needs to grow, develop, and make strong choices within their life’s journey. While the case analysis displayed changes in three characters from the movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. The reality was in theory, “What Wasn’t Eating Gilbert Grape”.


Jason, L. A. (1998). Tobacco, drug, and HIV preventive media interventions. American Journal of Community Psychology, 26(2), 151-87.

Campbell, T. L., & Patterson, J. M. (1995). The effectiveness of family interventions in the treatment of physical illness.Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 21(4), 545.

Cole, R. E., & Reiss, D. (Eds.). (1993). How do families cope with chronic illness. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Probst, B. (2008). Issues in portability of evidence-based treatment for adolescent depression. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 25(2), 111-123. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10560-008-0115-3 Weersing, V. R., Iyengar, S., Kolko, D. J., Birmaher, B., & Brent, D. A. (2006). Effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy for adolescent depression: A benchmarking investigation. Behavior Therapy, 37, 36–48.

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