Social Influences on Behavior

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Life Span Development and Personality Paper


May 23, 2011

Life Span Development and Personality Paper

Albert Fish was a 20th century serial killer, child rapist, sadomasochist, and cannibal. This paper is a brief description focused on the forces that impacted his life from the viewpoint of developmental psychology. The author made an effort to distinguish between the influences of hereditary and environment on psychological development. He also explains what family issues and social support systems may have influenced Albert Fish’s developmental growth and adjustment. Two different theories of personality selected by the author was applied to Fish, which includes a discussion of how each theory differs in terms of how it explains Fish’s unique patterns and traits. The author also makes a determination regarding which theory he believes best explains Fish’s behaviors and achievements. Forces That Impact Life: Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is defined as “The branch of psychology concerned with the study of progressive behavioral changes in an individual from birth until death” (Farlex, 2011). Albert Fish’s rough childhood contributed to the person he became, along with other factors that occurred throughout adulthood. He was born to poverty on May 19, 1870. His father passed away on October 15, 1875. His mother could not take care of Fish, therefore, she placed him in a religious orphanage called Saint John’s Orphanage. Here he learned to lie, cheat, beg, and steal. He also experienced and seen wrong-doings no boy, or person, should. Albert Fish was whipped bare-bottomed at the orphanage and was forced to witness other boys being whipped. He said this abuse was the beginning of his ruined mind. During his interview, before his execution, he said he felt his first sex feeling while watching the other boys be whipped, which eventually developed while he was receiving the abuse. When Fish left the orphanage, he felt the need to satisfy these sexual urges with sexual experimentation and prostitution, which included men. His needs and urges became very sadomasochistic. He enjoyed what hurt. He inflicted pain on not only himself, but also on others. He would not stop until he reached his climax, and progress on with the torcher for days. In his late 20s, Albert Fish married. His wife had the same types of sexual interest as he. While he was married, he continued to lead a double life by fulfilling his sadomasochistic fantasies with boys. He made this way of life easily obtainable by working as a traveling housepainter and being away more than he was home. Fish traveled all over the United States. “I had children in every state,” Albert Fish stated during his interview (Borowski, 2006). After 19 years of marriage, Albert Fish’s wife left him for another man. She had sent their six children off to the movies, and they came home to an empty house. He came home to find his six children alone and discover she had taken everything. Fish believed this was his breaking point. His children testified, during his trial, although he never hit them or raised his voice to them, they did witness his self-torcher. They testified to finding blood covered boards with nails sticking out of one end and to seeing him drive needles into himself. An x-ray was taken of his pelvic region that showed 29 needles lodged within. In 1928, approximately five years after his wife abandoned him and their children, Albert Fish decided to act upon a growing urge. He responded to a newspaper advertisement of a young boy looking for employment. After he responded by telegram, he arrived at the young man’s house, bearing lunch. He quickly lost interest in the young man once Fish seen his younger sister, Grace Budd. He convinced her parents to let him take her to his niece’s birthday party, which was fictional. She was to never be seen again....