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Developmental Assessment of Childhood

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Developmental Assessment of Childhood: PRECIOUS

The film Precious is an emotional movie that deals with the unfortunate realities of everyday life for some individuals. The film that stares Gabourey Sidibe who plays the main character Clarice “Precious” Jones is based out of Harlem in the year of 1987. Precious is a sixteen year-old obese and uneducated teenager whom has had to grow up in a severely dysfunctional family environment. Her mother verbally and physically abuses her, often times using her as a personal servant. Her father has been sexually abusing her since childhood, and has impregnated her twice. Precious has lived with the ugly truth that because of her weight, skin color, and sexual abuse, she does not fit in with the standards of society in the eyes of some. After the school finds out about Precious’ second pregnancy, she is suspended from school. She is then referred to an alternative school, “Each one Teach one” in hopes of changing the road in which her life is heading. Precious finds ways to deal with her painful realities through imagination and fantasy. Encouraged by her new teacher at “Each one Teach one”, precious begins learning to read and write. Towards the middle of the film, Precious begins to meet with Social Worker, Miss Weiss, who eventually becomes aware of the incest in the household when Precious accidentally tells her. Precious’ mother informs her that her father has passed away due to AIDS, and soon after Precious discovers that she too is HIV positive. Despite the extreme depression that she is going through, she is still determined to make a better life for her and her children. She does not want her mother involved her in or her children’s lives and plans to complete her GED to receive a high school diploma.

Everything Precious has experienced has had a dramatic effect on how she views herself and the world There are many crises that she faces in the movie such as low self-esteem, sexual abuse, mental abuse, teen pregnancy, social dysfunction, and HIV. According to______, “Children who have been maltreated or abused are at risk for experiencing a host of mental health problems, including disassociate identity disorder. “Dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder) is an effect of severe trauma during early childhood, usually extreme, repetitive physical, sexual, or emotional abuse” ( mark, 2013). “…The person literally dissociates himself from a situation or experience that's too violent, traumatic, or painful to assimilate with his conscious self” (blah blah, 2918). Many times through out the movie, Precious frees herself from trauma by fantasizing. An example of this in the film would be when her father is sexually abusing her, and she starts to imagine herself as a movie star on the red carpet. There was also a scene in the movie where Precious was looking at an old photo of her mother Mary. She imagined the picture coming to life where her mom spoke encouraging and loving words to her. “Disassociation comes as a survival skill of great value in response to trauma and abuse in a human’s mind” (blank, 2013).

When taking a look at Precious’ situation from a Bio-psycho-social standpoint, there are various things to look at including biological status, social status, and psychological status. In the movie, the main biological issue with Precious is her weight. Many times in the movie she has turned to food for comfort and relief. There is a scene in the movie where Precious steals and then consumes a whole bucket of fried chicken, and later vomits her food up. It is said that “Certain circumstances relating to sexual trauma have been associated with heightened eating disorder symptoms in particular, including if the sexual trauma involved parents or if it occurred more than once” (Murray and Waller, 2002). In the film, it is also obvious that Precious is not happy with her physical looks. At one point in the movie, Precious looks in the mirror, and sees a slim, blue-eyed blonde. This evidently shows that she sees herself as she wants to be, rather than what she really is.

The next assessment is the Psychological assessment. Precious has experienced Sexual abuse from her father and physical abuse from her mother since she was a baby. Precious has flashbacks, low self-esteem, socialization problems, and depression. These are all signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to Merriam Webster online dictionary, PTSD is “ a psychological reaction that occurs after experiencing a highly stressing event (as wartime combat, physical violence, or a natural disaster) outside the range of normal human experience and that is usually characterized by depression, anxiety, flashbacks, recurrent nightmares, and avoidance of reminders of the event” (citation). Despite the traumatic issues she was dealing with, she managed to show resilience in some ways. “I'm gonna break through or somebody gonna break through to me” (movie quote). Although she easily could have, Precious did not allow herself to remain a victim. She learns to turn negatives into positives with help from her teacher and Social Worker.

From a social standpoint, Precious is a 16-year-old girl who lives in Harlem with her mother. Her mother Mary does not have a job to provide for Precious, which is why she scheme’s the social welfare workers to provide for her. This puts a strain on Precious, as she is not allowed to reveal to the social worker the truth about what’s really going on in the household due to fear that her mother will retaliate. Precious also struggles in school and is suspended after the school found out she was pregnant with her second child. Another issue that Precious deals with frequently throughout the film is bullying, which is most likely why she shows a lack of self-worth and has very little social skills. Cultural background and environments play a significantly large role in the shaping of an individuals development. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological system approach using Microsystems, exosystems, macrosystems, and mesosystems can better explain how cultural factors have influenced Precious’ development. The microsystem seems to be the most critical in my personal opinion. Precious’ immediate family including her mother, father, and grandmother has had more of a negative impact on her than positive. Precious is physically and sexually abused by both her mother and father, leaving her emotionally damaged. Although her grandmother does not abuse her in any way, she does not help either. Out of fear that Precious’ mother will retaliate, the grandmother does not help, leaving Precious alone to fight her own battles. The next system illustrated in this Bronfenbrenner’s model is called the exosystem, which include “external networks such as community, mass media, school/educational settings, and medical institutions that influence the inner circle of the microsystem” (citation). In Precious’ case, education plays a significant part in her life. Although she was suspended from her school, she was referred to an alternative program, which in return sets the stage for a chance at a better future for her and her children. Not only does Precious learn to read and write at her alternative school, she also gains a close relationship with her teacher, Ms. Rain. The next system is the Macrosystem, which influences all of the other systems and includes cultural values, political philosophies, economic patterns, and social conditions. Being socially aware and socially open to meeting new people and being able to learn new ways to engage others is critical for one’s development. Sometimes an individual’s social foundation is already established from growing up in an environment where they feel comfortable and established self-confidence and self-worth at a young age. It was obvious that Precious severely lacked social skills. The film shows many examples of this. One example in the movie was when her neighbor approached her to talk, and Precious pushed her yelling “Leave me alone”. Using a developmental framework is imperative in order to Analyze and understand how physical and sexual abuse has affected Precious’s psychological development. Erick Erickson’s psychosocial developmental theory is significant because it explains development that occurs throughout the lifespan using 8 stages of psychosocial development. In relation to the movie, Precious is struggling with Erickson’s 5th stage, Identity vs. Role Confusion. This stage happens in the adolescence period of a person, from 12 to 18 years old. Individuals at this stage will start thinking more about their future and start identifying who they are, or still be confused in making choices and are uncertain of where their future is heading. Wounds, trauma, and abuse can also severely affect this stage. In the beginning of the movie, it is clear that Precious is struggling with her identity, and there were many factors contributing to that including her history of sexual abuse, the way she was treated by her mother as well as her peers. “Child maltreatment in its various forms seriously disrupts the development of these psychological stages; when abuse and neglect occur during a stage, that building block is likely to be derailed” (w. Mitchell). Not only was Precious sexually abused by her father, she was being controlled and both verbally and physically abused by her mother. All throughout the film, there were many times when Precious’ mother would call her awful names, and tell her that she would never amount to nothing. This severely affected Precious and the way she identified herself. On a much more positive note, at the end of the movie, Precious was able to achieve self-Identity. Despite all that she went through, she was able to free herself from the control and abuse, and decided to gain control of her life. She was able to get her newest born back, and the movie ended with her saying she was going to try and get her first –born child back as well. Precious also made friends at her alternative school, and decided she was going to work on finishing her GED. Another important framework to use o

Prior to writing this paper, I have watched the movie precious many times before. I have always found it to be emotionally draining and heartbreaking, but it wasn’t until I became educated with different theories in my Social Work program that I really had a much clearer perception of what was going on in the movie and why.

Childhood and Society by Erick eriskson 270-74

Murray, C. & Waller, G. (2002). Reported sexual abuse and bulimic psychopathology among nonclinical women: The mediating role of shame. International Journal of Eating Disorers, 32, 186-191.

http://www.wmitchell.edu/lawreview/volume32/issue3/11mitnick.pdf…...

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