1 While Victor was a typical boy in Mexico, his move to the United States changed him. While he once thrived in school and sports, he has become the class clown, prejudiced towards other colors, and combative. This rather extreme and sudden change can be attributed to classical conditioning.
Classical conditioning is learning by association (Changingminds.org, 2015). For instance, a rat can be taught to avoid sweet tasting liquid if after each time they drink the liquid they are injected with something that makes them sick (Changingminds.org, 2015). They learn to associate being sick with the sweet liquid, and will no longer drink it.
Victor was preconditioned by the fact he was shy, spoke little English, and felt left out. These factors meant he expected to be made fun of and treated badly by other students. Although the text does not specifically state it, Victor probably had a hard time understanding much of his classwork and was made to feel stupid by other children. This was a child desperate to fit in.
He conditioning began when he was sitting amongst the African American students, and Carlos had him move over to sit with other Latino students. This made Victor feel badly, since he knew he had done something to upset his new friends. Also, the other Latino students accepted Victor. They spoke his language, played with him, and generally accepted him as part of their group. When presented with choices about using racial slurs, drinking and other moral behaviors, Victor mimicked his friends in order to continue to feel acceptance. This behavior began to appear outside of his time with friends because he associated the behavior with being liked and accepted. He became a cool kid, who was the class clown and liked by many students.
His post conditioning, which allowed for the behavior to continue and accelerate, came from home. His mother had no means to control his behavior, and his father would not punish him. This meant that the behavior, while not specifically accepted by his parents, was not condemned in a manner that would change it. If his behavior is not brought under control, it could have long term consequences in his life. Jan Hoffman (2014) talks about how popular and rebellious middle school students are more prone to be adults who commit crimes and are addicted to drugs. This highlights the importance of quickly reconditioning Victor to a better mode of behavior in order to avoid lifelong issues.
3 Lawrence Kohlberg took Piaget’s theory of moral development and developed the theory further (McLeod, 2015). In doing so, he determined there were three of moral development. These stages are Pre-conventional Morality (approximately 9 years old and younger), Conventional Morality (most adolescents and adults), and Post-conventional Morality (a small percentage of the population) (McLeod, 2015).
Victor is an adolescent and would be making his moral decisions within the realm of Conventional Morality. Although most of our morality is internalized from the adult figureheads in our lives, it is also shaped by the groups which one belongs to (McLeod, 2015).
It is important to note that person-environment interactions are accessible through the significance and meaning which each person ascribes to the events, behaviors and circumstances around them (Vourlekis, 2009). While Victor’s parents could understand the reasons for the decisions they made in moving, Victor could only see the move from the perspective of a child. He could not process it in a positive manner, and so from Victor’s viewpoint he was torn from the strong family unit which he was accustomed to. This caused him to question the adult figureheads in his life, therefore changing how his moral compass grew. Instead of having concern over what his parents thought of him and his behavior, and changing it to match so he would be accepted by them, he learned morality from his friends group. He sought their attention and acceptance, and learned what was morally correct based upon that.
For instance, while he initially turns down the beer and asks what Carlos’ mother would think, when he is teased a little and given an explanation by Carlos he drinks the beer. He also continues to drink alcohol, since his parents mention him coming home often smelling of beer. When he is with Carlos and his other friends he looks up to the older boys who use a lot of swearing and racial slurs.
Also, his class clown routine is done for the benefit of the other children versus the adult role model. While he gets in trouble by the teacher for cutting up in class, he is instead encouraged by his classmate’s reactions and his morality resides where they encourage it to be.
6 Jean Piaget’s cognitive theory asserts there are four stages of cognitive development. These stages are the sensorimotor stage (birth to age 2), the preoperational stage (ages 2-7), the concrete operational stage (ages 7 to 11) and the formal operational stage (from adolescence into adulthood) (Cherry, 2015). Piaget saw a child development as a qualitative one versus quantitative; this means that as children get older they add in better knowledge versus more knowledge (Cherry, 2015). An example of this is building blocks. A younger child understands they can stack together; an older child understands they can be stacked together to create different objects. The information they have is not different, they just have a better understanding.
At the age of 12, Victor has just left the concrete operational stage and entered the formal operational stage. This means he has just left the stage where he begins to understand that he has unique thoughts, and also is thinking about how others think and feel about him. His development here has been affected by being taken away from his warm environment where he had close healthy friendships and was surrounded by family. Instead, he has be thrust into a completely new environment where he has to worry about meeting new people. The fact he is cognizant of what others think of him makes this transition much harder, and probably is part of what contributes to his initial shyness.
Since he has entered the formal operational stage, he is able to see there are many potential solutions to his problems. Since he has been stunted in growth, he dwells on what people think about him and tries to solve his problems by seeking the approval of his peers. This will have a long term effect on his development. He also has a warped sense of justice when one considers his treatment of his parents. This may be because he justifies his behavior by believing he is just, even if the moral implications of his behavior are in question (Kristjansson, 2004). In his world, he may see the bad treatment of his parents as a solution to soothing how he feels towards them due to the move. It gives him a feeling of control, when control was taken away from him in the move.
7 The theory of self-efficacy was originated from Alberta Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory. Self-efficacy is directly related to a person’s perception of their ability to reach a goal; it is believing that one can perform in a certain manner to attain a goal (Nursingplanet.com, 2015).
There are three factors which effect self-efficacy; these factors are behaviors, environment and personal/cognitive factors (Nursingplanet.com, 2015).
Bandura (1994) describes someone with low self-efficacy as someone who doubts their capabilities, shy’s away from difficult tasks, has low aspirations and weak commitments. Victor has a very low level of self-efficacy. He does not perceive that he has the ability to reach goals. The first indication of this is his struggle with being in mostly English speaking classes. Instead of setting goals and trying hard to learn English quickly, he allowed himself to become withdrawn.
Victor’s lack of self-efficacy is reflected in many other ways as well. First of all, his behavior is indicative of his low level of self-efficacy. Since he is school aged, most of his goals would be school or sports related. Instead of pursuing goals of this nature, Victor pursues drinking, fighting and rebelling against his parents. This may be because he feels he cannot achieve scholarly goals due to his struggle learning English.
His environment is also indicative of his low level of self-efficacy. Specifically, his social network environment is the issue. He hangs around with kids who do not have any productive goals to achieve, and instead spend their time making trouble. Victor has begun to mimic this environment, and therefore does not pursue goals.
Cognitively and personally, Victor harbors resentment towards his parents for making him move. This causes him to rebel against them since he is angry, and lose out on their guidance and help to set good goals and meet them. Also, because his father works such long hours he does not have a strong fatherly presence in the household to follow. He does not understand why they had to move, and why his life had to be so drastically changed. Instead of trying to thrive in his new environment, he has failed to thrive. This is directly related to his low levels of self-efficacy.
Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-83). New York, NY: Academic Press.
Changingminds.org,. (2015). Classical Conditioning. Retrieved 26 July 2015, from http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/classical_conditioning.htm
Cherry, K. (2015). The 4 Stages of Cognitive Development in Children. About.com Education. Retrieved 26 July 2015, from http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/a/keyconcepts.htm
Hoffman, J. (2014, June 23). Cool at 13, adrift at 23. New York Times.
Kristjansson, K. (2004). Empathy, sympathy, justice and the child. Journal of Moral Education, 33(3), 291-305.
McLeod, S. (2015). Kohlberg - Moral Development | Simply Psychology. Simplypsychology.org. Retrieved 26 July 2015, from http://www.simplypsychology.org/kohlberg.html
Nursingplanet.com,. (2015). Bandura's Self-efficacy Theory. Retrieved 26 July 2015, from http://nursingplanet.com/theory/self_efficacy_theory.html
Vourlekis, B. S. (2009). Cognitive theory for social work practice. In R. Greene (Ed.), Human behavior theory and social work practice (3rd ed., pp. 133-163). New York: Aldine De Gruyyer