Mary is a 36-year-old stay-at-home mother of four children. She is starting to become a bit bored with staying home, having done that for the past 15 years. Prior to having children, Mary worked in a credit union and enjoyed her job. She especially liked the precision of number crunching. She has carried this characteristic into her housekeeping chores. She tries to keep her home spotless, even with four children. She cleans the two bathrooms every day, vacuums, dusts, picks up toys, and performs various and sundry cleaning chores. Clutter and messiness bother her, and she is almost neurotic about cleaning. She is a perfectionist and knows it. All of her friends agree, but she is able to laugh at this quirk and not take herself too seriously.
Although maintaining a house with four children might seem overwhelming to others, Mary handles these chores fine and has time (sometimes while cleaning) to keep in close touch with her friends, especially with phone calls. Mary is continuously on the phone. Her friends are a very important part of her social support network, especially since she does not have coworkers with whom to interact and because her husband travels a lot for his job. Often, her friends seem more important to her than her spouse and she seems to have a better relationship with them than her husband. They describe her as being fiercely loyal, supportive, and talkative. They also know that she has a good heart. She is always willing to help another mom whose babysitter got sick by watching their child while she goes to work. If a friend is feeling overwhelmed about preparing for an upcoming party, she is willing to cook or bake something for them. You would never know from looking at her that Mary is such a warm and caring person. She actually looks a bit intimidating and angry, but that is just because her age is starting to show with somewhat deep lines between her eyes, which is mistaken for a frown. She is aware of this contradiction and is a bit self-conscious of her frown lines.
Mary is also insecure about not having attended college. Many of her friends graduated from college. Some even have doctorate degrees, but Mary never did. She does not think of herself as unintelligent, but she sees herself as uneducated and defers to others with a better education. Her friends see her as very intelligent, and they encourage her to pursue at least an associate’s degree mainly so she will feel better about herself. Mary is considering this possibility. It is something that she has always wanted to do. In particular, she is thinking about getting an associate’s degree in legal business studies and becoming a legal assistant after all of her children are in middle school. They will be old enough to not need her as much, but that is still two years away and she is nervous about this prospect because she has been out of school for so long.
Mary is a good mother. She takes care of her children’s physical and emotional needs. She has one child, Jennifer, who has a severe learning disability, and she is a consistent advocate for her. She makes sure that Jennifer’s needs are met, but she is realistic. She knows that Jennifer will probably not go as far as her other three children in whatever career she chooses. Mary is pragmatic that way, even though it is painful for her.
Mary also makes sure that her children have fun. Their family usually purchases a Six Flags amusement park season’s pass, and they frequently go during the summers and even into the fall. At first, she went on some of the more exciting roller coasters just because her children wanted to try them out, but now she is an avid roller coaster fan and would ride on them even if her children were not with her. This sense of fun can likewise be found in her ability to laugh at herself. She is able to see humor in her need for order and cleanliness and in her tendency to not be able to recall a word she wants to use (the notorious tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon) and her occasional feelings of frustration as she takes care of her children. She sometimes loses her temper, especially when she is tired, but she is always aware of her fatigue being a factor in how she reacts to her children. She can later joke about this with friends who also have children and sometimes even with her own kids.
Using Allport’s trait theory approach, describe Mary’s personality by answering the following questions. Answer thoroughly and completely, using full sentences and citing to sources to support any contentions and analyses.
1. Allport suggested seven criteria that demonstrate that a person is psychologically healthy (mature). What are they? Find examples of them in the case.
2. What are the differences between cardinal, central, and secondary traits? What are some of Mary’s central traits?
3. What is functional autonomy? Find at least one example of preservative functional autonomy in the case.
4. What is proprium according to Allport? What is Mary’s proprium?
5. What is propriate striving? Find at least one example of it in the case.
Theory Comparison Questions:
Answer thoroughly and completely, using full sentences and citing sources to support any contentions and analyses.
1. Compare Allport’s criteria for mental health to each of the following theorists and theories:
a. Freud’s Psychodynamic Theory of Personality
b. Rogers’s Person-Centered Theory of Personality
c. Cattell’s Factor-Analytic Trait Theory of Personality
2. How does Allport’s propriate striving compare to Jung’s concept of self-realization? To Maslow’s concept of actualization? To Rogers’s concept of actualization?
3. Compare Allport’s concept of the proprium to Rogers’s concept of the self.
Ashcraft, D. (2012). Personality theories workbook (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
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