My husband, Robert Nelson Henninger Sr., was born on December 2nd , 1968 in Toledo, Ohio. After graduating from high school he joined the Marine Corp and participated in Operation Desert Storm/Shield. After his discharge four years later, he did several odd jobs to make a living. In 1994, he moved to Logansport, Louisiana to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a law enforcement officer. He had wanted to become a law enforcement officer since he was a child, and he cannot remember even considering another career path. He currently works for the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office. In that same office, he began his career and worked his way to becoming a Sergeant and shift supervisor.
Henninger comes from a broken family. His parents divorced during his late childhood, and his father remarried a waitress. His mother remarried a few years later to a man he describes as mean and controlling. Both his father and mother are still married to those people. After reviewing my husband’s life events, I came to the conclusion that biological factors have played a major role in his career choice because those factors influenced the rate of his psychological development. Because of his genetic predispositions he was resistant to stressful environmental factors, but some social factors, such as religious beliefs and patriotic values, contributed to the reinforcement of his values and decisions.
Cognitive development is closely connected to genetic predispositions. Because genetic predispositions have a predetermined set of instructions for neural development, I consider them the most responsible for my husband’s career choice during childhood. However, that does not mean I consider nature more important than nurture in human development. Scientific research clearly states that both nature and nurture are in a reciprocal relationship, and all traits, cognitive abilities, and behavioral patterns are shaped by the interaction between nature and nurture (Sigelman & Rider, 2012). However, the question of social roles does not normally arise until and individual reaches the stage of adolescence. That is why I believe inherited traits are the main reason for his choice in becoming a law enforcement officer during early childhood.
For example, low self-esteem is a trait that is often considered an underlying cause of many psychological disorders and anti-social behaviors. Furthermore, research is beginning to clarify the genetic influences that shape the level of self-esteem people will have in life (Orth, Robins, & Roberts, 2008). That would clarify why people with low self-esteem develop certain behavioral patterns. For example, people with low self-esteem will look for social approval or engage in socially unacceptable behavior (Orth et al., 2008). Other outcomes include depression, criminal behavior, or substance abuse development (Orth et al., 2008). While self-esteem can change in life, the study by Orth et al. (2008) proved that depression cannot be used to evaluate levels of self-esteem, but levels of self-esteem can predict potential levels of depression. I believe my husband had genetic predispositions for high self-esteem, temperament, and resistance to external forces. Those predispositions allowed him to overcome several external factors that are usually considered risk factors for inadequate psychological development.
Another example is a high level of self-regulation he displayed at a very young age. According to Shonkoff and Philips (2000), children progressively learn regulation to control their emotions, so they can successfully integrate into society. The sooner the child learns self-regulation, the sooner it will reach emotional maturity and lower chances of deviant behavior development or lack of personal identity (Shonkoff & Philips, 2000). However, modern research shows that the amount of children failing to reach emotional maturity is increasing, and emotional maturity is linked to psychological well-being (Shonkoff & Philips, 2000). With that in mind, I believe my husband had more genetic predispositions for self-regulation. Even though his parents had divorced during his childhood, he did not change his behavior or show negative consequences. Furthermore, maladaptive adolescents are associated with high-stress reactivity, something that is associated with low levels of certain neurotransmitter activity (Masten et al., 1999). Despite the fact that my husband’s step-father displayed aggressive and controlling behavior occasionally, my husband did not show maladaptive behavior and stayed loyal to his personal values. Other than genetic predispositions, I cannot find a way to explain how he could have developed a high level of self-esteem and self-regulation at such an early stage of development.
Psychology offers several perspectives that can be used to gain insights into different factors that define human development. Of course, the best analysis includes two or more perspectives at the same time because all perspectives have strengths and weaknesses. By observing a person or situation from several viewpoints, psychologists can make better conclusions.
Freud’s psychoanalytical theory. Freud’s theory is based on the premise that the sexual force is the main psychological driving force in people. Any traumatic event that occurs causes imbalanced distribution of that force among the id, ego, and superego. According to his theory, Robert Henninger was somewhere between the phallic stage and the latent period when he decided to become a law enforcement officer. During that time, Freud considered that children should learn to prove their worth in society without infringing the rights of others (Sigelman & Rider, 2012). However, my husband already had a set of values established at that time, and his motivation to become a law enforcement officer proves that he had already developed an identity some people fail to develop even during adolescence.
Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. According to Erikson’s theory, my husband was in the latency stage, between five and 12 years of age, when he decided to become a police officer. During that period, competence is the main developmental issue. Children develop moral values, learn the values of cultural differences, and build self-confidence. Those values become fundamental building blocks that enable successful identity development. However, my husband had already developed his identity during that age, and he still holds the same moral values and social roles he identified with at that age. Although he had hard times in life, especially when he was doing odd jobs to survive, he did not suffer from the same identity crises as most adolescents do. Furthermore, he did not engage in socially unacceptable behavior despite the difficulties he had to face after discharge from the army when he was a young adult. My husband’s identity was clear to him, and his pace of development seems to be faster than most models of development suggest, so I consider his biological influences more accountable for his identity development than psychological theories.
However, I would include some cultural influences that could have influenced his development because my husband is a religious and patriotic man. Family is one of his most cherished values. Because he has been exposed to those influences since early childhood, I believe his individual values were reinforced by cultural influences that supported religious and patriotic values. The combination of biological factors and early cultural influences allowed him to continue holding those values and maintaining psychological well-being through later stages of development even after his family fell apart.
Masten, A. S., Hubbard, J. J., Gest, S. D., Tellegen, A., Garmezy, N., & Ramirez, M. (1999). Competence in the context of adversity: Pathways to resilience and maladaptation from childhood to late adolescence. Development and Psychopathology, 11(1), 143-169.
Orth, U., Robins, R. W., & Roberts, B. W. (2008). Low self-esteem prospectively predicts depression in adolescence and young adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(3), 695-708. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1995
Powell, M. B., Skouteris, H., & Murfett, R. (2008). Children’s perceptions of the role of police: A qualitative study. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 10(4), 464-473. doi:10.1350/ijps.2008.10.4.099
Shonkoff, J. P., & Phillips, D. A. (Eds.). (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2012). Life-span human development (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.