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Negative Childhood Experiences Shaping an Adult

Oct 18, 2008 1076 Words
How do adults become the way they are? What makes the way they act different from other adults? The definition of behavior is “the manner of conducting oneself” (Webster’s 103). An adult’s behavioral characteristics may just be a result of their biological genes or it may be from their past environments in which they lived. Is it nature or nurture that plays a role in shaping ones behavior? Negative childhood experiences shape the way an adult behaves and lives. In Truman Capote’s novel, In Cold Blood, a well respected family was murdered in the night by Perry Smith and Dick Hickock in search of a hidden safe. They are arrested and sentenced to death. Dick was the one who planned the murders and used Perry as his puppet. Perry clung to Dick because he never had a real friend and felt accepted by Dick as a cold blooded killer. Perry Smith actually committed the murders and was deemed unstable in Dick’s eyes. “There was something wrong with little Perry, Perry would wet his bed, cry in his sleep…. and had an extremely short temper.” (Capote 108) Perry’s childhood was one of abuse and child neglect. After his parents divorced, Perry was sent to an orphanage and a children’s shelter where he was constantly beaten by the nurses. Perry exclaimed to Dick “After a couple of months, they tossed me out of the orphanage and put me some place worse. A children’s shelter. They hated me too. They’d fill the tub with ice cold water, put me in it, and hold me under till I was blue.” (Capote 132) Perry’s mother, brother, and sister had all killed themselves and his only remaining sister; he had “loathed” (Capote 143). His father would come in contact with him when he desired. Perry’s murder spree and mental instability as an adult was just a result of the environment he grew up in. Similarly, a study was done on children who have had problems like Perry Smith. An article in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that kids who were raised in foster care had “little control over their adult life” (Turner 2). This lack of personal control is due to child neglect and abuse which ultimately leads children into foster care. The stresses that children face in foster care such as being introduced to a totally new environment and conforming to the needs and wants of the environment can scar them emotionally for life. Adults have poor self esteem and develop a negative assessment of them selves and life due to harsh abuse and neglect as a child. Adults who have been treated like this as a child often experience long term depression. An example of long term depression was seen in an adult child abuse victim. A recent New York Times article examines how adults deal with child abuse and neglect. Sharon Simone was abused and neglected as a child and as a result went into a stage of depression and fear of society. Sharon always hesitates when she enters her bedroom at night. She states “I remember dad coming in to my bedroom at night, him hitting us, mom letting him, my shaking for years as I remembered those events in my twenties to forties and my long dark underworld childhood” (Goldberg 2). Sharon Simone’s fear of society and long term depression was a direct result of her childhood. There are many people who do not make it evident that they had negative childhood experiences like Sharon Simone, but rather keep it to themselves and implode. Marilyn Monroe: The Biography by Donald Spoto looks into Marilyn Monroe’s childhood from her constant switch of foster care, her mother’s mental instability and several encounters with sexual abuse and how they all played a key role in her adulthood. One of many thoughts that went through her head when she was a child, she exclaimed “My mother never really made any effort to be with me; I don’t think I existed for her” (Spoto 39). She felt that she was an inconvenience to society. She was constantly abandoned and lied to by her mother and foster parents and “her lack of close female friends in adulthood was a result of these early experiences” (Spoto 43). She craved attention in her adulthood that she never received in her childhood but was not able to keep steady relationships with men throughout her life. Marilyn Monroe’s first of several experiences with sexual abuse occurred when she was eleven years old. She was raped by her foster mother’s boyfriend. This is one of many incidents which caused her to have little affection with others in her adulthood Marilyn Monroe’s suicide was the ultimate result of her early experiences. She had always been experimenting with drugs throughout her adult life and felt that this was the only way to end her life peacefully. At the time of her death, she was facing many pressures from her ex husbands, boyfriends, and the media; she did not have any guidance from an intimate friend that could help her through the hardships of her early life. In the end, Marilyn Monroe overdosed on drugs. The most common types of victims who develop from negative childhood experiences are sex and violent offenders. These types of victims let out their emotions through physical contact with another person rather than taking it out on themselves. An editorial in the National Institute Of Justice Research Preview examined this very issue. The writer argued that “childhood abuse is associated with later criminal activity” (Weeks 1). Most of the offenders remember their parents in a negative light. The study found that 68% of inmates in a New York prison experienced physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect. Mostly all the offenders had some from of problems in their childhood. One of the sexual abuse offenders said “My aunt would come into the house and hit me until I was half conscious and then take off my clothes and …. I wished I was dead” (Weeks 2) Negative childhood experiences all have negative effects on the adult no matter the situation. Depression, crime, suicide and mental instability are just a few results of terrible young experiences. Sexual and physical abuse to child neglect all lead down to one path where it is almost impossible to change one’s life. Bad childhood experiences will direct the way an adult behaves and lives.

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