Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. Life Span Development Review

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This paper applies the main concepts and terms in chapters one through seven in Robert S. Feldman’s Life Span Development to the movie Boyhood.

Question 1 – Bioecological Approach

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In the first system, the microsystem, Mason was majorly influenced by his friends who he spent significant time with daily. For example, when the movie first behinds we are shown Mason riding bikes with his friend Tommy, they were spray-painting a wall which Mason most likely wouldn’t have done himself. Another factor from the microsystem that had a major influence on Mason was his peers. Later in life, Mason pays close attention to his classmates and people around him and makes decisions based on not wanting to be like them (Linklater, 2014). In the mesosystem, Mason is directly affected by his relationship to his mom and her choices, such as the day she had at work of school, and the attitude she interacts with Mason with. Another factor of the mesosystem is Mason’s father’s attitude toward Mason in response to his relationship with their mother (Linklater, 2014). In the exosystem, Mason is affected directly by mass media, specifically as a senior in high school. He sees the trends happening in social media and responds with direct neglect of the trend. Another factor is his grandparents place of worship. Mason receives a Bible for his birthday and attends church with his family, where he reflects on the message that is being taught that day. This influences his outlook on life and his own purpose. In the macrosystem, Mason is heavily affected by the value of education in his community which Feldman (2017) explains to be a larger cultural influence (p.20). Mason is also affected by the Western culture he encompasses. This includes the social norms (ex. Drinking, drugs, relationships). In the chronosystem, Mason is affected by his mom joining the work force rather than being a stay at home mom. Feldman (2017) explains that this could affect children’s development because it is a historical change (p.21). Another factor would be moving so much during his lifetime. Moving would be an underlying influence throughout history in his life because he leaves friends behind, adapts to new locations, and his overall course of life changes.

Question 4 – Health and Wellness

In chapter 4, Feldman (2017) explains many threats that to wellness that can occur and cause issues within a family. One of the threats explained is drugs, which I observed in Mason’s family while watching Boyhood, specifically when it came to Mason’s choices. Feldman (2017) explains that the use of drugs is dangerous for many reasons, including that many drugs are addictive, both physically and psychologically (p.139). Mason wasn’t physically addicted, given he only is shown using marijuana, but I do believe due to the common use of the drug he became psychologically dependent on the drug. For example, when Mason comes home one night after being out with his friends, he takes a hit off of a blunt and asks his girlfriend for gum before going in the house. Towards the end of the movie, Mason takes a piece of food with THC in it and goes on a hike with new friends. This shows that Mason used drugs for a substantial amount of time while growing. Along with this, Mason seems out of touch most of the movie while asking “life-questioning” questions and standing out within his peers (Linklater, 2014). There were also many healthy behaviors that I noticed in Mason’s family. For example, Feldman (2017) explains that problem-focused coping is a good coping strategy because it manages a threatening situation by completely changing the situation to make it less stressful (p.129). I noticed Mason’s mother doing this when the family was in a difficult situation. She usually sought immediate help, or removed herself and the family away from the situation. Another healthy behavior I noticed was how open Mason and his sister were to their mother about drugs and alcohol use. When Mason came from hanging out with friends, he was honest with his mom about drinking and smoking and his mother made sure he was being safe. I think the healthy and open relationships in the family will lead to an honest and aware health and wellness attitude in the future.

Question 6 – Adult and Peer Partners

The adults and peer partners that had a major influence in Mason’s life I would say would be his immediate family, which would be his mother, father, and sister. I also think his friends throughout the years had a lot of influence on him and his decisions. In cognitive growth, I think Mason’s father had the most influence on him because he encouraged the most support for learning and problem solving, which in return encourages independence and person growth as Feldman (2017) explained as scaffolding (p.180). I believe this is because his father wasn’t around most of the time, so when he was his influence was heftier and opinions were more valued due to his absence. For example, when at the bowling alley, Mason wanted to use bumpers on the lane so the game would be easier and more fun for him. But his father explained that putting bumpers on the lane would not make him better at bowling, and thus encouraged Mason to play without them so he could learn and become a better bowler instead of taking the easy way out. His father encouraged Mason to solve the problem on his own rather than relying on assistance of something else, in this case would be the bumpers.

The other adults and peers that had a major influence were his mother, sister, and some peers. The people had an influence on Mason because they had direct opinions on life that influenced Mason’s outlook and thus his cognitive growth. For example, his mom lectures his sister when she retaliates going to a new school where she knows no friends. While doing this, Mason is in the backseat listening and doesn’t complain like his sister does when his stop comes. This influence was Mason learning how to react in certain situations by observing the reactions his sister gets out of his mother. In turn, Mason is growing intellectually based on experiences in his family.

Question 7 – Drug and Alcohol Use

Occasionally, teens in Boyhood experiment with drugs and alcohol. An example of this is when Mason’s friends pull into his driveway with a full car of kids, and Mason is shown taking “one last hit” of marijuana before going back to his house. When he goes in and talks to his mom, she asks if he had been drinking and smoking and Mason answers that he has. There seems to be no consequences to these actions as his mom simply laughs and says “okay” (Boyhood, 2014). There are several other times in the movie that we are shown where Mason or his friends are using drugs or drinking alcohol, but we are never shown any severe consequences or him getting disciplined by his mother. Feldman (2017) discusses threats to adolescents through the form of drug use, and explains that illegal drug use happens in 1 in 15 high school seniors on a daily or near-daily basis (p.138). Feldman (2017) also explains that drug use is common in this age group because of the pleasurable experience they provide, to escape from the pressures of everyday life, or simply to experience the thrill of doing something illegal (p.138). It isn’t a smart thing for teenagers to experiment with drugs, especially if that drug is addictive. Feldman (2017) defines addictive drugs as drugs that produce a psychological or biological dependence in users, which usually results in cravings (p.138). It also isn’t very safe for adolescents to experiment with alcohol, either. One reason for this is binge drinking is popular, which means the person is having multiple drinks in a short amount of time to become intoxicated (Feldman, 2017, p.139). This can lead to humiliation among peers and put young people at risk of becoming alcoholics. Feldman (2017) defines alcoholics as persons with alcohol problems that have learned to depend on drinking, and are unable to stop (p.139). The consequences of experimenting with drugs and alcohol are hefty, because use of these substances can become addicting and have negative consequences on general social life.

Question 9 – Stress

One example of stress that occurred in the family in Boyhood was in the very beginning, when the mom told the two children that they were going to move away from their current town so they could live near their grandmother while their mom went to school. The consequence of this stress was the children becoming frustrated with the mom and not wanting to leave the current home, and they made many comments to their mom about how she was being unfair and that they both did not want to leave. The way they coped with this stress was through social support, which Feldman (2017) explains to be support or comfort supplied by others (p.129). The social support came mostly from their mom who gave them encouragement, and their grandmother who supported them while they lived near her. Mason had better coping strategies than his sister, and often became okay with a situation while she was still bothered by the original stressor. Another example of stress that occurred was when the mother of the family was a victim of domestic assault from her husband. The coping mechanism used here was problem-focusing coping, because the mother directly removed the source of stress by leaving her husband making the entire situation less stressful. Their mother showed great resilience and hardiness when faced with difficult situations by taking charge and directing her children on the same path. Another source of stress was with the children’s real father regarding him selling the car he promised Mason. Mason was upset and angry that his father couldn’t remember telling him that the car would be his, and his father seemed to pretend that he couldn’t remember and that it wasn’t a big deal because it was his. This sort of coping mechanism is called defensive coping, which Feldman (2017) explains as strategies that distort or deny the true nature of a situation (p.129). Although this stressor happened, Mason was resilient and didn’t let it bother him for the remainder of the trip.

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