The essay will evaluate and analyze the life of Michael Joseph Jackson, possibly the greatest entertainer of this era. Two different lifespan development theories will be utilized, including Erikson’s (1959) theory of psychological development, and Bowlby’s (1969) attachment theory. The primary source of material for this essay is Michael Jackson’s own autobiography, Moonwalk, in addition to other biographies like My Friend: An ordinary friendship with an extraordinary man by William Morrow and thrilling moments: my years with Michael by Createspace and related journals like The journal of Michael Jackson academic studies online (Jackson, 2009).
Outline of the Case
Born on 12th august 1958, in Gary Indiana, USA, to Katherine and Joe Jackson, Michael Joseph Jackson was the seventh born of nine siblings. Similar to his brothers, he developed an early aptitude for music. By the age of 6, Michael was performing as a lead vocalist with his other brothers on stage in the band, The Jackson 5. Their father, Joe Jackson, had been an aspiring guitarist, putting his musical ambitions aside to manage his family of performers. The group found worldwide fame within a short timeframe, with the first four of their album singles becoming hits and reaching number one on the billboard charts in America (Taraborrelli, 2009).
Their father was firm and sometimes physically abusive to Michael and his siblings. He was also a womanizer, meaning that he had many sexual relationships with different women. This is negatively impacted Michael in his later life. While on tour with the band, Michael was exposed to his father’s and brothers’ womanizing sexual exploits that occurred after concerts. Michael was forced to keep his father’s habits of infidelity from his mother, whom Michael had little contact with due to the busy schedule of their occupation. As traveling performers, holding tours across the country and abroad, Michael had little time to pursue formal education. In fact, his education was almost nonexistent, save for sporadic school attendance such as his appearance at a public school in the 1960s in Hollywood. At thirteen, Michael left the family band to launch his music career. As a teenager, Michael’s solo career became highly successful and featured widely in the media (Krohn & Jackson, 2010).
As an adult, Michael embarked on building his own play park called the Neverland Ranch, with amusement rides, a zoo, and a circus, a move that critics claimed was a re-visitation of his childhood, which he probably skipped. He established “The Heal the World Foundation” because his wish was to help children all over the world (Brooks, 2002).
In childhood, Michael fell ill frequently due to severe medical conditions. According to Sullivan (2012), there was an allegation that he suffered from a skin condition called vitiligo and lupus. The taunts could have been a trigger for many plastic surgery operations and procedures to change his skin color. As an adult, Michael was accused of child molestation and sexual abuse. Although he was never found guilty, the verdicts were twisted as payoffs to the victims’ families took place (Whitfield, Beard & Colby, 2014).
Michael Jackson wedded Lisa Marie Presley in 1994, daughter of the music legend, Elvis Presley and later divorced in 1996. The same year Michael got married to Debbie Row, with whom they had a son and daughter; Prince Michael and Paris Michael. In 1999, the couple divorced. Michael had a third child, a second son, Prince Michael II, courtesy of a surrogate mother. Michael’s adulthood witnessed constant family and legal feuds filled with lies and betrayals about his life. For example in 1993 a boy thirteen years of age accused Michael of sexual abuse; although Michael dealt with the case out of court it severely damaged his public image (Jones, 2005).
Jackson was declared bankrupt in his adulthood as a result of frivolous spending. Michael tried to reinvent his career and image in the latter part of his career, organizing numerous comebacks shows .The final reinvention tour “This Is It” never materialized. Michael Joseph Jackson died on 25th June 2009 of cardiac arrest from a drug overdose under mysterious circumstances involving his doctor (Andersen, 1995).
Analysis of the Case: Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development
Understanding Michael Jackson’s psychosocial development can be by illuminated by using the work of Erikson. Thus, this section specifically focuses on integrating the life history of Michael Jackson against Erikson’s eight developmental stage theory. In this case, the discussion will be based on the fourth stage to the seventh stage since they were years that Michael grew up and became famous (Shaffer, 2009).
The fourth stage of this theory is industry vs. inferiority. At this stage, the child is 5 to 12 years old. In this period, a child is exposed to new influences socially. A child form encounters with other children and families in the community and school. Due to traveling purposefully to perform, Michael had no time to settle down and join the school, and since school is where most children make friends Michael did not have that opportunity. This affected him until when he was an adult since he found it had to trust and interact with people. Erikson states that it is during this period that a child learns the study and work habits, principally as a means of obtaining praise and task completion satisfaction. Other than the normal social changes of this stage, Michael also encountered interactional experiences that are not typical for this age. His father made Michael perform in local nightclubs along his brothers for exposure. They also started to perform in big cities. It is during this period that Michael and the band became immensely successful on shows countrywide and appeared on TV shows as they released hit records. The family soon became wealthy and relocated to California. Forced by his father and new expectations, Michael was on a rigorous work schedule, forgoing schoolwork and childhood habits. He lost a lot of experiences at this stage. Joe Jackson was abusive and philandering at this time. The scenario created a sense of confusion for Michael against his Jehovah Witness upbringing (Roeckelein, 2006).
The fifth stage in this theory is identity vs. role confusion. Age span is 12 to 18 years. In this period, the individual forms a notion of self-realization, the integration of ideas about how others see them, and how one perceives him or herself. With the beginning of puberty and physiological and social transformation, adolescents become preoccupied with identity. As an adolescent, Michael became concerned greatly about his appearance and how his audience presumably perceived him. Michael came to terms with his identity as a person at an individual level (Ratele, & Duncan, 2003).
The sixth stage of Erikson theory is intimacy vs. isolation. This stage happens at the young adult stage of between 18 to 35 years. According to Erikson (1969), during this stage, young adults’ primary development objective is to obtain intimacy with others. At this stage also, the young adult seeks for a satisfying relationship and deep intimacy. At this point, one obtains independence from parents to start being autonomous. Jackson left his father’s management and his Jehovah’s Witness faith in his pursuit of identity and intimacy at the age of 34 when he married Lisa Marie Presley. He delved deeper into his solo career, releasing some of his most famous works such as “thriller.” he admitted to being bold on stage but shy off it. Michael’s inability to overcome troubles from previous stages affected his ability to embrace intimacy with others, romantically or otherwise. Michael Jackson was brought up as he said in front of many people that made him different. He had no opportunity to make real friends. He grew up in the adult world. He had private school when they were touring. Thus, he did meet people who he could build a satisfying relationship (Cross, 2005).
The seventh stage, age span is between 35 to 65 years. At this stage of this theory is generativity vs. stagnation. In this period, one’s inclination is to establish and guide offspring and future generation. An individual starts to give back to the society through raising the children, be productive at work and become involved in organizations or community activities. Michael Jackson married two times in this development stage. Both of his marriages ended in a divorce (Newman & Newman, 2014). The scenarios were a testament to his inability to solve previous development crisis. The negative media attention, family feuds, child molestation charges, legal disputes, and random demands took a toll on his ability to form intimate relationships; not only with women but also lack close fatherly intimacy with his children. At this stage, Michael fathered three children, raising his sense of generativity. Michael Jackson loved children and always wanted children around him. He was quoted saying that he found what he lacked or missed in his childhood through them (Weiner, 2003).
During this period, his musical career was not as lucrative as it once was. The media was against him, and his family had abandoned him, possibly breeding a feeling of stagnation. In 2002, he was noted to be disorganized in the stage and also the last album did not receive the respond that the others albums did. To regain credibility he planned a massive comeback and reinvention with a theme tagged “This is It.” Unfortunately, Michael died before fulfilling this. He was only 50 years old (Berzoff, Flanagan & Hertz, 2011).
Analysis of the Case: Bowlby’s Attachment Theory
The section of the essay will use Bowlby’s attachment theory to evaluate Michael Jackson’s personal lifespan and historical development. The psychological model aims at explaining the dynamics of the human interpersonal relationship (Zock, 1990). The main relationship discussed under this theory is parent-child. The early years of a child is a backbone where their emotional and social aptitude are formed and shaped, creating a backdrop against which their progression into adulthood will be based. From the onset, a child relies on their parents as the primary caregivers to gain these social and emotional skills. The attachment theory as developed by Bowlby (2012) states that people develop psychologically based on their belief of what relationships entail from observing their parents. Different attachment types have been developed with regard to this. Using this model, we can try to establish how the life of Michael Jackson was influenced by his relationship with his parents from a tender age (Marrone, 2014).
The first attachment type is a secure attachment. The theory proposes that infants tend to form trusting relationships with parents who are responsive to their requirements. The infants are secure enough that they do not fear abandonment or rejection from their parentages. The model stipulates that infants who received a secure attachment with their parents grow up to form long-lasting mature connections with their partners. Although little is known about Michael Jackson’s early childhood prior to Jackson 5 era, it is known that he was seventh born in a family of 9 (DePoy & Gilson, 2007). The position put him in a precarious position to gain leveled attention from his parents. Consequently, this might have resulted into minimal trust in relationships, a situation that might have contributed to his inability to maintain relationships later in life (Bowlby, 2012).
The second attachment type is an anxious/ insecure attachment. Here, a child is anxious because their parents are inconsistent and/or overbearing in their administration of affection. The theory stipulates that the child grows up to be an anxious adult as well. On such a phase of life, they may be keen to want to form meaningful relationships but apprehensive that their affection will not be returned. In their early childhood years, Michael and his brothers were under the management of their father, a man who many described as intimidating (Thies & Travers, 2006). Added to this was the confusion his father instilled in him regarding morality. Hailing from a family with a background in the Jehovah’s Witness faith, Michael, and his brothers were forbidden from social engagements such as Christmas, based on their faith, yet Michael was forced to keep a secret his father’s womanizing ways while they were on tour. However, this might have been a source of tension and anxiety, which could have affected Michael’s future relationships (Holmes, 2013)
The third attachment type is anxious/ avoidant insecure attachment. In this model, the child fears rejection despite wanting to be close to the parents who are distant and avoid intimacy with the child. The model suggests that the child would grow up to have difficulties in forming secure and trusting relationships (Van, 2011). As their manager in The Jackson 5 years and later at the beginning of Michael’s solo career, Joe Jackson was overbearing and intimidating. Joe was abusive to his children and managed the band with an iron fist. In his autobiography, Michael constantly alluded to the fact that he was shy in forming trusting relationships off the stage. He was quoted saying “I sit in my room at home and sometimes cry. It’s so hard to make friends. Sometimes I walk around the neighborhood at night, just hoping to find someone to talk to. But I just end up coming home.” (Tavecchio & IJzendoorn, 1987).
The fourth attachment type is disorganized/ disoriented insecure attachment. In this model, a caregiver is absent in a child’s life, creating a feeling of apprehension on whether to approach or avoid them when they meet. The theory stipulates that as an adult, the child grows to be untrusting in relationships. During The Jackson 5 years, the band was constantly traversing the country on shows and tours. The trend resulted in Michael not seeing his mom often, creating distance between them, despite them sharing a special mother-child bond. The setting might have been the cause for Michael’s poor connection with women later in. Moreover, it could possibly have been the reason for his failed marriages to Lisa Marie Presley and, later, to Debbie Row (Heard, Lake & McCluskey, 2012).
Final Evaluation and Formulation
From the analyzes above, using the two theories, it is evident that Erikson’s theory is superior in terms of covering the lifespan development of Michael Jackson as opposed to the attachment theory. This is partly because the attachment theory is more focused on relationships emanating from his childhood that had implications on his adulthood, whereas Erikson’s theory appropriately segments each stage of Michael’s life and analyzes the implications, both for that stage and future ones (Barr, 2015).
Following an ideographic evaluation, the Erikson’s theory best explains the lifespan development of Michael better than the attachment theory. His theory does illuminate clearly the rest of his life from the Jackson 5 era all the way to Michael’s death; something the attachment theory, which only generalizes on his childhood, does not.
The attachment theory has shortcomings in bringing out other factors that influence lifespan development, rather, focusing only on the aspect of early bonding relationships; the relationship between Michael and his caregivers. The theory evaluates the relationship between Michael and his intimidating father and that of him and his mother who was absent in his life as a child superstar and draws conclusions on the implications these relationships had on his later life.
The attachment theory does not evaluate other factors such as environmental and social factors that could have had an implication on Jackson’s lifespan development. Erikson’s theory, on the other hand, dissects the behavioral, social, and environmental factors that determine the development of the child. Another shortcoming of the attachment theory is that it is focused majorly on the early stages of lifespan development, from our evaluation above, the attachment theory cannot be applied to Michael’s life past his childhood and before his fame, relatively little is known about his early years, hence, Bowlby’s theory is of limited use to the application of Jackson’s life in terms of evaluation.
Following a nomothetic approach, practitioners and scholars consider Erikson’s theory superior in terms of its scope and detail as opposed to the attachment theory. Erikson, along numerous other scholars, agreed that the 8 stages serve as a template that is applicable across cultures and time. While attachment theory refers to an ongoing development approach as transitions or phases, the Erikson’s theory categorizes them as clearly marked divisions, forming an outline for easy comparison between several studies.
One of the main criticism of the attachment theory is the assumption that good, honest, and kind parents will have resembling children in terms of traits and parents that are liars and rude will have children that match them in the same way. The assumption is not necessarily true. Another limitation of the attachment theory is that the list of behaviors explained by this model is confined to those that involve the primary attachment figure which is typically the parents. Other attachments to other people like teachers, siblings and so forth fail to be characterized by these same behaviors. Erikson’s theory is contrary to this. It categorically highlights that a person’s lifespan development is characterized by almost all relationships they encounter within their lifespan.
In conclusion, the evidence suggests that Erikson’s theory is superior to the Attachment theory, following both the idiographic evaluation of Michael’s life and the nomothetic view held by academics and practitioners. Since the attachment theory has more drawbacks compared to Erickson theory in relation to Michael Jackson’s lifespan.
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