biographical and autobiographical

able to demonstrate how well you understand the themes, vocabulary, and theories introduced in this course. You will choose a famous person form the lists here and get biographical and autobiographical information about this person. Your task will then be to interpret the concrete events in a person’s life and then place them into more abstract theories and research findings concerning lifespan development. In doing so, you are expected to use the technical vocabulary of this course. If your paper merely repeats the facts in the biography and does little or nothing in the way of interpretation, it will get a grade of “F”


Pick a person from the lists on the next pages. I got the list from the web and looked up lists like Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of the Century, etc. There should be plenty of biographical and autobiographical material on each one. If you find somebody who is interesting to you but not on my list, you must check with me. Make sure to correctly reference your source material.

Take first two pages of your report to summarize the main events of the person’s life. You probably would want to do this in chronological order and a timeline would probably be very useful.

3. On the remaining six to eight pages, try to answer a good deal of the following questions. Make sure to provide detailed references for your material.

How does your subject’s life fit in the stages (if at all) of theorists like Freud, Erikson, Levinson, Gould, Fowler, Kubler-Ross? Where would you place this person in terms of these stages? Are there any things that helped or hindered the person’s growth through these stages?

Using Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology, can you see a life theme that runs through this person’s life? Does birth order (Adler) have anything to do with your subject’s life?

Are there any Jungian themes that show up in his/her life? Can you classify him/her in terms of Jungian type theory?

As per ecological and dialectical theories such as those proposed by Bronfenbrenner and Riegel, how did cultural, cohort, ethnic, and historical factors affect his/her life?

Does this person’s behavior display typical gender traits and/or roles and/or challenges? Did his/her life reflect traditional, sex-typed forms of masculinity or femininity or is this person androgynous? If so, how and why? Does this help or hinder him/her?

What (if any) was this person’s family’s parenting and/or discipline style? How did this affect this person?

What social roles did this person play?

Can you consider your subject’s life transitions to be normative or idiosyncratic? Does the concept of “age-grading” fit this person?

Using Piaget’s and Kohlberg’s theories and related research, what can you say about this person’s levels of cognitive and moral development? Where’s your evidence?

Given Vaillant’s work (The Grant Study) of “good outcome” and “poor outcome people”, how did your subject’s coping and defense strategies help him/her to cope with life’s challenges?

Can you describe aspects of your subject’s life in terms of the concept of the family life cycle? How did he/she or the family handle these stages?

Physical health, social networks, and psychological health are important factors in aging. How did these factors play a role in your subject’s life?

What is this person’s attachment style?

Considering his/her love life, which factors of attraction (if any), led to finding mate(s)?

Given work on marriage and divorce, which factors, if any, led to a happy or unhappy marriage?

What (if any) is this person’s parenting style?

Taking his/her work life, does his/her work history reflect themes of important developmentalist approaches (for example, Super, or van Maanen and Schein, or Roe)?

How would he/she fit in John Holland’s occupational scheme? Given a classification system, such as O*NET, how would you classify their careers?

Can you detect any themes of “generativity” in this person’s life?

How have losses played a role in his/her life? Does he/she show any pattern of dealing with loss?

How does this person approach the death of other people? How does this person approach the eventual death of him/herself?

Don’t just give your opinions. Cite textbook and class material and other professional sources. Since my questions take up almost four pages, you shouldn’t have too much trouble giving me another eight pages of interpretation.

If you wish to do so, you can give me an early draft of your paper and I’ll look it over without giving it a grade. I’ll try to suggest any needed areas for improvement and/or help you with interpretation. I expect this to be a learning experience. There’s no reason why you can’t get an excellent grade. However, to be fair, give me enough time to read your paper. The week that the paper is due is a hectic one for me and if it comes at a late date, I can’t promise to read your paper. Therefore, give me drafts considerably ahead of time.

You have plenty of time for the project. Your paper is due on the assigned date.

People to Consider
Leaders and Revolutionaries
Idi Amin
Caesar Chavez
Winston Churchill
Dali Lama
Mohandas Gandhi
Che Guevara
Ho Chi Minh
King George (any one of them) of England
Mao Tse-tung (Zedong)
Nelson Mandela
Huey Newton
Richard Nixon
Madame Nhu
Nelson Rockefeller
Donald Rumsfeld
Joseph Stalin
Margaret Thatcher
Harry Truman

Entertainers and Artists
Woody Allen
Chuck Berry
James Brown
Eric Clapton
Salvador Dali
Bob Dylan
Jim Henson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
James Joyce
Steve Martin
Edgar Allen Poe
Lou Reed
Keith Richards
Mark Rothko
Jean Shepard
Shel Silverstein
Pete Seeger
Tina Turner

Builders and Titans
Jeff Bezos
Frank Gehry
Ray Kroc
William Levitt
Robert Moses
Dave Thomas
Sam Walton
Thomas Watson, Jr.
Warren Buffit

Scientists and Philosophers
Tim Berners-Lee
Rachel Carson
Francis Crick
Thomas Edison
Erik H. Erikson
Ronald Fisher
Michel Foucault
Henry Ford
Stephen Hawking
William James
Eric Kandel
Margaret Mead
Isaac Newton
Bertrand Russell
William Shockley
Baruch Spinoza
B.F. Skinner
Nicola Tesla
Alan Turing
John Tukey
J. Craig Venter
James Watson
John Watson
Steve Wozniak

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