This paper is an analysis of the life of a woman whose experiences allowed her to form a strong sense of self with a well-integrated, positive self-concept and identity. It uses a variety of theories about the formation of personality and the concept of the self to look at the ways in which this individual was able to grow up, deal with a series of psychological crises, and construct a relatively healthy, positive perception of herself and her environment. Starting with Sigmund Freud's theories of identity formation and psychosexual stages of development, many theorists have speculated on the ways in which personality is constructed successfully. This paper looks at many of these different approaches through the detailed analysis of one particular case.
Maggie K. was born in Bismark, Illinois, a small town just north of Danville and about 90 miles south of Chicago. Her father, David, was a fairly successful salesman; her mother, Alina, was a full-time housewife, focused on raising Maggie and her two younger siblings, Denise and Charlie. The events of Maggie's life recounted in this study are based on Maggie's own memories and the stories the family has told about itself. Maggie is especially qualified to think about her personal psychological development because she became a counsellor and sociologist, a career that encouraged her to look at her own life for support of the theories she was studying and for increased self-understanding.
As far as Maggie has been able to tell, her birth and infancy were normal. Her parents had been married for almost two years when Alina discovered she was pregnant, and the couple was delighted to welcome their first child. Both Alina and David had been born during the Depression, and they tended to be somewhat frugal as a result, but they were eager to start a family, and Maggie's birth was planned and budgeted for.
Alina breast fed Maggie for the first six months or so, a practice s...