childhood losses


Hey psychnurses:-)

Okey so I guess this is all pretty basic but I am wondering if the loss of a parent ( the mother ) within the first year of living brings on certain personality traits. I have been discussing this with a colleage of mine and she says it brings on anxiety later on in life and a "difficult personality" in patients. How important is it if the patient doesn´t rembember being seperated from the parent and do you consider that when evaluating patients?

.......okey clearly we are not in psych;-)

Thunderwolf, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 6,621 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatric, Behavioral Health. Has 32 years experience.

interesting topic...haven't seen this raised up to my recall on the board as a topic of yet.

i would imagine what has "more impact" is the current home environment...with or without the actual biological parent. kids learn from their environment (that includes the people in it who either increase the stress load or decrease it).

another way of posing this question would be:

which environment has the better chance raising a child in learning more adaptive skills and in forming a better functional adult personality?:

a) both bio parents with healthy/unhealthy personalities themselves

b) single bio parent with a healthy/unhealthy personality

c) one bio parent with healthy personality and the other bio parent who does not have one

d) both bio parents with healthy personalities, but an extended bio family member who lives in the house having a poorly adaptive personality

e) both bio parents with healthy personalities, but an extended bio family member who lives in the house also having an adaptive healthy personality

f) single/remarried bio parent with a healthy adaptive personality, partnered with a lover/new spouse who has a healthy/unhealthy personality

g) single/remarried bio parent with an unhealthy personality, partnered with a lover/new spouse who has a healthy/unhealthy personality

h) single/remarried bio parent with a healthy/unhealthy personality, with a lover/new spouse who has a healthy/unhealthy personality with an extended family member who either has a healthy/unhealthy personality

i) now, do the same formula as above with a non-bio parent(s).

i would bet the child has a better chance with any adult or group of adults in the home that have healthy, intact, adaptive personalities...makes little difference if bio or non-bio. increase the psychological healthiness in the home, the better the any age.

Thunderwolf, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 6,621 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatric, Behavioral Health. Has 32 years experience.

loss of a parent....within the first year of living brings on certain personality traits....anxiety later on in life and a "difficult personality"....doesn´t rembember being seperated from the parent

If separation at a very young age from the parent and with the child having no memory of this occurring, there is NO reference to cause anxiety; therefore, moot for a young child. However, existential anxiety (ie loss of mother or father issues, being one of many) typically doesn't come into play until the teen "who am I, what am I, what does it mean?....NORMAL adolescent development. The environment (healthy vs unhealthy) and those who are in it (healthy vs unhealthy personalities) would again impact this adolescent stage...for better...for worse.

Thunderwolf, MSN, RN

6 Articles; 6,621 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Geriatric, Behavioral Health. Has 32 years experience.

since we are talking about personality and development, this begs us to look at eric erikson and his theory on personality development.

erikson was a student and teacher of art. while teaching at a private school in vienna, he became acquainted with anna freud, the daughter of sigmund freud. erikson underwent psychoanalysis, and the experience made him decide to become an analyst himself. he was trained in psychoanalysis at the vienna psychoanalytic institute and also studied the montessori method of education, which focused on child development.

theories of development and the ego

erikson's greatest innovation was to postulate not five stages of development, as sigmund freud had done with his psychosexual stages, but eight. erik erikson believed that every human being goes through a certain number of stages to reach his or her full development, theorizing eight stages, that a human being goes through from birth to death. erikson elaborated freud's genital stage into adolescence, and added three stages of adulthood. his widow joan serson erikson elaborated on his model before her death, adding a ninth stage (old age) to it, taking into consideration the increasing life expectancy in western cultures. erikson is also credited with being one of the originators of ego psychology, which stressed the role of the ego as being more than a servant of the id. according to erikson, the environment in which a child lived was crucial to providing growth, adjustment, a source of self awareness and identity. his 1969 book gandhi's truth, which focused more on his theory as applied to later phases in the life cycle, won erikson a pulitzer prize and a u.s. national book award.

erikson's theory of personality

even though erikson always insisted that he was a freudian, he is better described as a neo-freudian. subsequent authors have described him as an "ego psychologist" studying the stages of development, spanning the entire lifespan. each of his stages of psychosocial development are marked by a conflict, for which successful resolution will result in a favourable outcome, for example, trust vs. mistrust, and by an important event that this conflict resolves itself around, for example, meaning of one's life. favourable outcomes of each stage are sometimes known as "virtues", a term used, in the context of eriksonian work, as it is applied to medicines, meaning "potencies." for example, the virtue that would emerge from successful resolution. oddly, and certainly counter-intuitively, erikson's research suggests that each individual must learn how to hold both extremes of each specific life-stage challenge in tension with one another, not rejecting one end of the tension or the other. only when both extremes in a life-stage challenge are understood and accepted as both required and useful, can the optimal virtue for that stage surface. thus, 'trust' and 'mis-trust' must both be understood and accepted, in order for realistic 'hope' to emerge as a viable solution at the first stage. similarly, 'integrity' and 'despair' must both be understood and embraced, in order for actionable 'wisdom' to emerge as a viable solution at the last stage.

the erikson life-stage virtues, in the order of the stages in which they may be acquired, are:

  1. hope- basic trust vs. mistrust - infant stage. does the child believe its caregivers to be reliable?
  2. will- autonomy vs. shame and doubt - toddler stage. child needs to learn to explore the world. bad if the parent is too smothering or completely neglectful.
  3. purpose- initiative vs. guilt - kindergarten - can the child plan or do things on his own, such as dress him or herself. if "guilty" about making his or her own choices, the child will not function well. erikson has a positive outlook on this stage, saying that most guilt is quickly compensated by a sense of accomplishment.
  4. competence- industry vs. inferiority - around age 6 to puberty. child comparing self worth to others (such as in a classroom environment). child can recognise major disparities in personal abilities relative to other children. erikson places some emphasis on the teacher, who should ensure that children do not feel inferior.
  5. fidelity- identity vs. role confusion - teenager. questioning of self. who am i, how do i fit in? where am i going in life? erikson believes that if the parents allow the child to explore, they will conclude their own identity. however, if the parents continually push him/her to conform to their views, the teen will face identity confusion.
  6. love- (in intimate relationships, work and family) - intimacy vs. isolation - young adult. who do i want to be with or date, what am i going to do with my life? will i settle down? this stage has begun to last longer as young adults choose to stay in school and not settle.
  7. caring- generativity vs. stagnation - the mid-life crisis. measure accomplishments/failures. am i satisfied or not? the need to assist the younger generation. stagnation is the feeling of not having done anything to help the next generation.
  8. wisdom- ego integrity vs. despair - old age. some handle death well. some can be bitter, unhappy, dissatisfied with what they accomplished or failed to accomplish within their life time. they reflect on the past, and either conclude at satisfaction or despair.

(erikson material taken from wikipedia)


much according to erikson's view in personality development had to do with "how well the environment nurtured or failed to nurture" the child in adaptive functioning. nature (bio parent) vs nurture (environment, including a non-bio parent)...with nurture being the most important factor in developing a healthy personality or not in a child.


541 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

Wolfie, you are on a roll! ;) Good stuff! Thanks.

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