Social Relationships

Traditionally, a case study serves as the foundation for a critical investigation of a person and specific challenges or problems. A study of this type provides a writer's account of an individual situation with a clear evidence of the change and growth of a problem over time, as well as solutions figured to fix or minimize the problem. The case study in this paper recounts my encounter with Linnet, who had gone through several psychiatric crises over her growth and development years and had come to better understand herself, her new self and identity.  I stood at the front of the pavement set along lecture hall 10 in campus, Linnet, a Black American girl passed by and waved at me, joy written all over her face. Her entire demeanor had so much changed that I could hardly recognize her. It is at that moment that I called her and we sat on the pavement when she began telling me a story. It was a story that had transformed her into another more refined being.

When at her early years as a child, Linnet had little confidence and communication had been her biggest challenge. This problem had seen her undergo worst moments in kindergarten and primary education. The problem had persisted and proceeded to haunt her at the secondary school level. She was often overwhelmed by fear that diminished her beliefs that she had rights or even rights of existence. Her misfortunes were compounded by her obese nature, race, gender, and poverty, which had made her the topic of her schoolmates. The situation caused in her a feeling of peer rejection, isolation and meaningless in the world. Consequently, she would later turn into drugs and alcohol in her early teenage years, where she felt relieved from the reality. Linnet’s parents were alcoholics, and her other relatives were scattered all over the United States, and the majority had no well-established families where she could seek care. Therefore, no one was there for her when she needed counseling and guidance. In some instances, even smaller children would bully her, and she was powerless. However, when she started using drugs, she became violent and began to respond at whoever provoked her. This new self in her made her even more desperate as others began keeping a distance from her.

After Linnet had finished secondary school education, she joined college, which would see her transform into an entirely different being. It is in college that the idea of worthlessness, physical appearance, identity, and inspiration surfaced and created a new pathway for Linnet. It all started in the cognitive therapy class. Our counselor had requested us to do a case study of ourselves, and each one of us was to give an account of their experiences since childhood. As a class representative, I was interested in understanding what had transpired in Linnet's story as I noted a difference between her first days in college and days after we were asked to write a case study of ourselves. Surprisingly, I also found the experience of taking cognitive therapy lesson very liberating as I discovered a set of new skills that defined new ways of being in the world. This signed the onset of new Linnet, who would consistently visit the office of the cognitive therapy counselor. It is this counseling that changed Linnets life, and now she is a happy girl. She had managed to shed most of her weight and embraced an entirely new outlook and attitude on life. She gained confidence, became more eloquent and engaged in discussions devoid of feelings of being Black-American. Understanding Linnet’s and my transformative experience and presuppositions from the case study, I have become more aware of self and identity as critical components in determining what I think of others and myself in the world. Through Linnet’s story, I have come to realize how family statuses, systems at school and the environment determines the self in people and their perception of the world.

The case study indicates a situation where self and identity are critical in determining how we perceive the world. However, the development of self and identity undergo what Erikson’s theory describes as psychological development stages (David David Reed Shaffer, 2010). The emergence of childhood is perceived as a new conception of development that extends to teenage years and early twenties. In his work, Erik (1950) describes development in adolescence and early adulthood. He asserts that young people often tend to find a niche in their society through self-experimentation. This applies to the case study above when Linnet started experimenting with drugs and alcohol in a bid to feel at peace with the community that appeared repulsive to her. The nature of systems at home, school, and circles of friends have determined how one perceives of themselves and their identity in the public domain. According to the Journal of American Psychological Association (Arnett, 2015), the years of evolving adulthood are characterized by the high levels of demographic instability and diversity, which reflects the emphasis on explorations and change. Therefore, it is only during the transition from the emerging adulthood to young adulthood in the late twenties that this instability eases and the diversity narrows as young individuals come up with more enduring choices in what they do.

The unstable confidence and feelings of dejection, rejection, and isolation had eased as Linnet entered adulthood. About this, Erikson Theory traces the ego’s progressive integration of psychological experiences of an individual and the social world. Here, the development of personality, self, and identity are hierarchically ordered sequences of stages that are in the progression from the initial narcissistic engagement with one self, through the stages of socialization and identification to the increase in individuation and the beginning of individual identity. Whereas Erikson emphasizes that such a development takes place in an expanding network of outstanding people, there is the belief that the theory fails to adequately account for the development of particular kinds of interpersonal attachments or connectedness (Carol & Kathleen, 2006). At an early age, Linnet felt less confident, unable to communicate, inability to deal with bullying or relate well with others due to self-incriminating thoughts that were grounded on her racial identity, gender, physical appearance and socio-economic status. This state is described in Carol’s and Kathleen’s (2006) work where they introduce Erikson’s conceptualization of psychosocial development as a total and coherent perception of development that relies on gender. This is further elaborated in Erikson’s psychoanalytic and psychological concepts that provide the basis for the discussion on development.

The psychoanalytic and psychosocial development theory constitutes of eight stages between infancy and adulthood. In each stage, an individual goes through psychosocial crisis that may have negative or positive implications to personality development. Most of the ideas that Erikson utilized came from Freud (1923) theory that comprised of the topography and structure of personality. However, much as Erikson was an ego psychologist, Freud was more an id psychologist. Erikson majorly emphasized the role of society and culture and conflicts, which transpires within the ego itself while Freud emphasizes conflicts between the superego and the id. Concerning Erikson, ego develops during its successful resolving of crises, which are explicitly social. It involves the establishment of the senses of trust in others, the development of feelings of identity in the society and assisting the next generation to be ready for the future. Just like Freud (Freud, 1923) and other previous researchers, Erikson Theory (Erik, 1950) upheld that personality develops in a pre-determined order, which then builds on the previous stage. Such a process is described as the epigenic principle. The outcomes of such a maturation timetable comprise integrated sets of abilities and skills, which function together inside an autonomous individual. Conversely, rather than focusing on sexual development, Erikson interests relied on the socialization of children and the impacts of this to their sense of self. The eight stages of psychological development include; trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, ego identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, and ego integrity vs. despair. The fundamental virtues for each of these are hope, will, purpose, competence, fidelity, love, care, and wisdom respectively. A significant strength of Erikson’s theory is its ability to bring together important psychological development across the entire lifespan of an individual.


Arnett, J. J. (2015). Emerging Adulthood: A Theory of Development From the Late Teens Through the Twenties. American Psychological Associatio, 55(5), 469-480. doi:10.1037//0003-066X.55.5.469

Carol, E. F., & Kathleen, M. W. (2006). Individuation and attachment in personality development: Extending Erikson's theory. Journal of Personality, 53(2), 224-254.

David David Reed Shaffer, K. K. (2010). Developmental Psychology: Childhood & Adolescence: Childhood and Adolescence. Boston, Massachusetts, United States: Cengage Learning.

Erik, E. H. (1950). Childhood and society. New York: Norton.

Freud, S. (1923). The ego and the id. SE, 19(1), 1-166.

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