The film, ‘Life is Beautiful’ is an ideal demonstration of developmental theory especially as a child grows up. Developmental theory that is a psychologically based theory is seen through the interaction between the father and the son while under seizure during the World War II. Developmental theory has been enhanced by the fact that, the father, Guido, has been the role model in the son’s life, Joshua. Therefore, this paper will explore psychological developmental theory in the film ‘Life is Beautiful’ through father-son interaction (Benigni & Cerami, 1998).
Behavioral child development theory is evident through Guido’s interaction with his son Joshua. The main factor that has contributed to this relationship is the environment that the two encounter while being held under captivity during the World War II. Guido knows that this environment will affect the son’s memory negatively and; therefore, he decides to create a better atmosphere for the son. He builds in a new environment for the son in a way that he intrigues observable behaviors that the Joshua follows (Adler-Tapia, 2012).
For example, through the son’s development while, under captivity, he ensures that the son remains confused about the environment by telling Joshua the rewards, reinforcement, stimuli and punishments that can result into him disobeying the conditions set in the camp of seizure. Joshua in turn follows whatever the father is telling him as he observes the conditions that are present while in the camp (Adler-Tapia, 2012).
First, Joshua ensures that the son believes that the camp is a complicated game and thus, for Joshua to survive the game he has to do whatever the father asks him to do. As much as sometimes Joshua does not want to do what the father tells him, he has to agree. Guido ensures this through promising the son that the individual with the highest points will eventually win a tank (Adler-Tapia, 2012).
Reinforcement and stimuli as a psychological influential factor in the development of a child is also evident from the father mentoring and modeling of the father while in the camp. The father reinforces the fact that crying for his mother will only lead to a catastrophic end while keeping up with the conditions that he is told will ensure that his staying in the camp is enjoyable. He uses the reward in this case as the stimuli for motivating the son and hiding the ideal conditions that the camp is composed of (DeRobertis, 2007).
Therefore, Guido has used behavioral theories to ensure that his son’s development is not affected in a negative way. He has made sure that the son can perceive the camp to be another home. He has more so, not considered the inner feelings of a son but concentrated on experiences that they undergo while in the camp. In this case, the father has made sure that the experiences that they go through shapes the individual that Joshua grow up to become (DeRobertis, 2007).
He hides the fact that, there are children who have been killed by the guards through lying that the children are hiding. He uses behavioral, developmental theory in this case in order to avoid scaring his son. Incidents such as killings can be very devastating to young children and, therefore, ensuring that Joshua does not know about the killings is the best option for Guido (Palombo, Bendicsen, & Koch 2009).
Since he knows that is it not possible to run away and get back home, he convinces his son that they are almost done, and they will take the tank with them on their way back home. Despite the situation that is present in the camp, Joshua does not question the father about the deaths, misery and sickness that is present at the camp due to the convincing nature of the father.
At this stage of development, the child is innocent and in most instances he or she tends to believe most of the things that he is told by a figure that is older and more convincing. Through social learning theory, a child learns new behaviors through observing other individuals (Palombo, Bendicsen, & Koch 2009).
Factors such as accomplishments made, rate of satisfaction and having a sense of pride from the observed and followed actions by a child relates to the process of learning in a child. Therefore, through observation, Joshua learnt new skills, and as he develops, he is more prone to use the skills on another individual (Palombo, Bendicsen, & Koch 2009).
The father through the film has acted as the care giver to the son. Psychologically, caregivers play an important role in the child development. Social child development theories suggest that the caregiver plays a role in influencing the social life and relationships that a child develops as he grows up through adolescence and finally becoming an adult. Joshua narrating the story through the film, it is evident that he grew up having learnt that socially, it is necessary to develop according to the expectations of the society. It is evident that Joshua’s experience through the camp has made him understand the social nature of the society (Palombo, Bendicsen, & Koch 2009).
In order to avoid the situation that the son has to see whatever takes place when the shutting down of the camps come nearer, he decides to tell the son to stay inside the sweatbox so that everybody leaves. He reminds the son that this was the final part of the competition and, therefore, it was more important to ensure that he still followed whatever he was being told by the father (Palombo, Bendicsen, & Koch 2009).
He is made to believe that the tank will be his when he hides in it. In this scenario, the son follows most of what the father says due to the rewards that he was promised. After all, for a child winning is the most essential factor that matter at the end of a game like this one (Palombo, Bendicsen, & Koch 2009).
At the end of the film, it is evident that there is a level of satisfaction from Joshua as he believes that he has won as the father had told him. The psychological relationship that exists in this case between the father and son can be said to be based on social learning theory. The most common feature that relates to this situation is the satisfaction that Joshua has on his father’s promises. He feels like he has accomplished something that is the game that they were playing, and he takes pride in having taken the tank home (Austrian, 2008).
Joshua is satisfied that he played a good game through the father’s advice only to come to realize the real meaning of the situation in the end when he gets to see the mother at the closing of the camp. The father, Guido, has played a major role in molding the development of his child Joshua. He has ensured that the psychological trauma that Joshua might come out of the camp with is eliminated through giving shaping his life experiences in a positive manner through the environment that is present (Austrian, 2008).
Therefore, ‘Life is Beautiful’ as a film has promoted developmental theory by ensuring that the father acts as a caregiver. He is giving the most appropriate conditions that the child can relate to other than the real situation that could easily affect the son later if he survived the harsh situation that existed at the camp. Therefore, psychologically, this film can be used to educate caregivers on child development and the theories that can be used to guide child developmental process.
Adler-Tapia, R. (2012). Child psychotherapy: Integrating developmental theory into clinical practice. New York: Springer Pub. Co.
Benigni, R., & Cerami, V. (1998). Life is beautiful =: La vita è bella. New York: Hyperion.
DeRobertis, E. M. (2007). Humanizing child developmental theory: A holistic approach. New York: iUniverse, Inc.
Palombo, J., Bendicsen, H. K., & Koch, B. J. (2009). Guide to psychoanalytic developmental theories. New York, NY: Springer.
Austrian, S. G. (2008). Developmental theories through the life cycle. New York: Columbia University Press.