Lifespan Theory Applied To the Life of Iyanla Vanzant


LifespanTheory Applied To the Life of Iyanla Vanzant


LifespanTheory Applied To the Life of Iyanla Vanzant

In the society, there are different people and personalities who havegreat influence on individuals, both positively and negatively.Iyanla Vanzant is one of these people who have positive influence onpeople’s lives. Iyanla Vanzant is a very influential person to manypeople in the world today. Her life span development since birth toadulthood has undergone physical, mental and social emotionalchanges. Psychologists believed that once into adulthood a personreaches their optimal growth and change (Thies &amp Travers, 2001,p. 721). However, this is not the case because according to Vanzant’slife experiences her life underwent drastic change when she reachedadulthood. This paper delves into Iyanla Vanzant’s lifespan ofdevelopment. This is because of her influence on others,specifically, African American women is fascinating. It will finallyconclude by explaining the impact of diversity on Vanzant’s life interms of the struggles that she went through, her success andfailures, as well as the challenges and decisions that she made inher life.

Nature andNurture Influences

Bennett (2006, p. 480) asserts that the family is considered the mostinfluential factor in the development of a child. This is in terms ofvalues, attitude and overall cognitive identification of self. Theextent and nature of parent to child interaction is a process that isattached to modeling of a child’s nature toward self and otherpeople. As an African American, the life style that Vanzant lived wasinfluenced greatly by the surrounding environment. Nature tends toinfluence an individual’s life as well as how one is nurtured.Cancer was a hereditary disease in Vanzant’s family. Her mother hadpassed away when she was only two years old when she succumbed tobreast cancer. The same disease took away her precious daughter whodied of colon cancer. The disease was genetically inherited in herfamily and it is in this way that nature got to influence Vanzant’slife pathologically (Vanzant, 2011). One’s physical and socialenvironment can also influence a person’s life. For instance,Vanzant found it quite interesting that even though she was notbrought not up by her mother she found herself repeating the sameparenting and relationship mistakes. Piaget, in the preoperationalstage of cognitive development theory, argues that children who arebetween 2-7 years can think about objects or events that are notimmediately present as well as imitate past actions (Jeong andCooney, T. (2006, p. 411).

Middle childhood is a stage in life that starts at the age of six andends at around the age of eleven it is the time of growth beforeearly adolescence. Middle childhood involves various significantchanges in a child’s life which include emotional, intellectual andphysical realms. It is a period in life that the child is eager tolearn certain things independently (Deanna,2008, p. 49). The way of parenting of Vanzant can be explainedby Piaget`s theory. It can be argued that the only two years thatVanzant got to spend with her mother made her imitate the littleparenting skills that she got to experience. The parenting skillsmay have also been hereditary because the pathological stories wererooted back to her great grandparents and so on (Darling, 1999, p.2).

The changes that occur in an individual’s life can be both ofself-identity and of independence, Parents are always left out thechildren try to solve problems on their own. Throughout this durationof time external appearance and peer groups are of great importanceto these individuals that are in this stage. An example from themovie is one Greg who wants to be voted the class’ favorite andtries to convince other to that he is the most famous one. WhenVanzant was conceived, her father had asked her mother to abortVanzant because of her alcohol problem and the breast cancer that wasdeveloping but her mother had refused. Vanzant was nurtured as theunwanted child and it was clear to the way her father treated herthat reciprocated in the kind of men that she dated.

There is an aspect of Vanzant’s life that was influenced by the wayshe was raised. She narrated one ordeal where she was in a taxi andshe could not ask the driver to change the car temperature and hermind was debating on the right thing to do. Sigmund Freud in theSuper Ego stage of development argued that a child operates on theconscience principle that hosts the feelings of guilt and beinguncomfortable. Vanzant explained that the fear to express her haddeveloped in childhood where she did not want to upset or hurt otherpeople. She had therefore, grown up with that fear and the outcomewas evident in her adult life. She could not ask the taxi driver tochange the temperature despite her suffering and instead she opts toalight before even reaching her destination to avoid upsetting thedriver.

Roles ofcognitive, physical, &amp social-emotional development/changes in aperson`s life

The development of from one stage of life to another is important asit presents as with different challenges that make as developphysically and psychologically. It is through psychological andphysical growth that made these kids settle their difference and lookforward at life’s pleasures (Vandell, 2000, p. 701). Cognitivedevelopment, physical and social-emotional changes play several rolesin the development of human beings since birth. One of the roles thatcognitive development played in Vanzant’s personal life was todevelop a sense of permanence through memorizing things that she cameacross. Vanzant confesses of several patterns that she learned as achild that could be seen affecting her adult life, for instance, thefear of upsetting others and sticking in relationships that had nofuture. Cognition influences the way a child thinks. Vanzant believesthat most of her actions as an adult were influenced by the imagesthat she had reserved in her mind since childhood. Piaget argues thatchildren in the concrete stage can reason logically hence, it is therole of a parent to guide and counsel their child during this stagewhere they are constructing their knowledge.

The morals that a parent teaches their children in this stage arevery crucial because it helps one’s mind to determine what is rightand wrong. Vanzant may not have experienced the cognitive developmentadequately during childhood, but while into adulthood, she got toattach meaning to the different life experiences that she faced. Sheunderstood that one`s thoughts are influenced by their own perceptionof things. Hence, the change that she so desired in her life, the onewhich she entrusted would come from God, was also available fromwithin her own world. Cognitive development thus allows one to thinkintelligently. The cognitive development also taught Vanzant thatlearning is a sequence. One has to think systematically about thepossible outcomes of their actions as well as consider alternativedecisions that may be more appropriate. There are several thingsthat Vanzant got to learn as she grew up and there were lessons thatshe learnt through her difficult adulthood. Being brought be hergrandmother, Vanzant learned the different meanings of hergrandmother’s reactions. She could tell when she was happy or sad,when to approach her for a favor and when not to cross her pathbecause of the beatings or bitter words she would get.

Majormilestones and turning points in the Iyanla Vanzant’s life

The life people live has various challenges that in most cases changethe way of thought and lifestyle. These events usually act as amilestones and turning points in people’s lives. One of the rolesthat physical development played in Vanzant’s life was that itenhanced her communication with others. During early childhoodcommunication is minimal but it advances in middle and latechildhood. Actually, in the ages of 6-11 years children areexcellent in reading and writing which enhances their socializationskills (Bowlby, and Ainsworth, 1992, p. 760). Physical developmenthelped Vanzant to build relationships with the different people whocrossed her life like Aunt Nancy and Uncle Lee, her step motherNett, Nancy’s children and all relatives who visited Nancy’shome. Physical development also played a role in Vanzant’s life bymaking her respond to the hormonal changes in her life during theadolescent stage. It was during this self identity versus roleconfusion stage as Erikson puts it, that Vanzant got pregnant. Thephysical human body is experiencing different feelings and one tendsto have the urgency of developing a sense of belonging (Thompson,2000, p. 166). Physical changes had made Vanzant to become a mother,to understand the need of being independent at a young age, and aboveall that neglect meant. Growth is rapid during childhood and becomesslower when one becomes an adult. Vanzant rapid physical changes inchildhood can be said to have progressed into adulthood because ofthe many traumatic events that followed in her adult life that madeher life more suffering.

The social emotional development also played a big role in Vanzant’slife. Her childhood was an emotional one especially after hermother’s death. Staying with her grandmother made the situationworse because understanding her own feelings towards her absentfather, her harsh grandmother and pretending brother was not easy.She experienced adult fighting at a young age and comprehending theemotional status of other people at a young age was not good for ayoung child. Social emotional changes in a child may influence thekind of relationships that one builds with others. For instance,Vanzant had to move from one family to another in order to get foodand shelter. The different homes that she grew in may have influencedher social emotional development because in some she got love andaffection but the state of the family made her to develop a negativeattitude towards men because she experienced her violent father aswell as Uncle Lee fight with his wife. Children tend to be attachedto their mothers and the strong bond influences their socialemotional development thus when the parental love lacks, theemotional stability of the child is affected (Clark &amp Reinecke,2003).

Vanzant was able to endure all the suffering from childhood toadulthood but the turning point in her life to the renowned woman sheis today took place when at the age of 30. That was then shediscovered that something had to be done to change her presentsituation by then. One of the turning points was after her brotherRay had died. The cause of Ray’s death was a heroin overdose.Vanzant had watched her brother abuse drugs since when he was16years. He had become addicted to alcohol and over the years he hadprogressed to the hard stuff. Ray had decided to find solace in thedrugs because of the rough childhood he had passed through. It isevident that despite being favored and receiving the fragiletreatment from his grandmother because of his asthmatic condition,Ray’s life was no better. The disease that most feared might takeaway his life did not, but instead an issue that could have beencontrolled managed to kill him. Ray’s death was a turning point forVanzant to realize that the way one chose to lead their own life madethe ultimate difference and not the pathological pattern as she hadled herself tobelieve.

Another major milestone in Vanzant`s life was overcoming the death ofher own daughter. As earlier mentioned, Cancer was a hereditarydisease in Vanzant`s family. Her daughter suffering from colon cancerhad taken a huge financial toll on her as a result of the hugemedical expenses. Her granddaughter was very young and she was afraidthat history was going to repeat itself again as it was the norm forher family. According to the cognitive dissonance theory, humanbeings tend to have conflicting attitudes, feelings and behavior thatproduces a feeling of discomfort that can only be balanced by ourinner drive. Vanzant was aware of how the world might be for hergranddaughter if he was raised the way she was and this made hertense. There was a need for her to reduce the dissonance by changingher behavior, beliefs and attitude towards life (Boucher and Maslach,2009, p. 679). That was her turning point because no matter howpainful the experience was she realized that she had managed toovercome very trying moments in her life. The only way to spend therest of her life is by making a difference in someone else’s lifethat is undergoing what she went through.

Child neglect is one of the issues that Vanzant’s put emphasis inher life. Neglect was quite persistent and consistent even in theprovision of basic needs such as education, protection and emotionalsupport. The rejection from the only family she had brother, father,and grandmother deprived Vanzant of her childhood innocence. Theneglect of the only men present in her life as a child affected mostof the romantic relationships that she engaged herself with. Most ofthem failed and she realized that she had to make peace with the malefigure in her life in order to attain the marital peace she needed.Symbolic interaction theory argues that the way people interact withothers in the society influences the meaning they attach to differentthings in society. Vanzant had not had a good interaction with themen in her life since childhood hence the reason why she feltneglected and the failure in most of her relationships with men.Although Vanzant was not sure whether the neglect was intentional ordue to lack of knowledge but for her healing process she needed toforgive them and let go (Worster, 2008, p. 456).

The impact ofdiversity on the Vanzant’s life

The impact of diversity on Vanzant’s life is evident in herpersonal decisions, her success and failure, the challenges she facedand her life struggles. Vanzant had a challenge of maintaining astable relationship. She first got pregnant when she was only 13years and a half when she barely knew how to look after the baby. Itwas only after three years that she got pregnant again and just likethe previous time, the father of the child was not present. Shedivorced with most of the men she got married to because diversityhad led her to believe that fathers are not for keep. Diversityinfluenced her perspective of men. She had experienced her fatherfight her grandmother, and physically abuse her. Uncle Lee wouldfight with his wife in the presence of the children. All the violenceshe witnessed from the men she considered family influenced how sheviewed all the men in her life. Diversity provides one with exposureto new ideas or role models. However, for Vanzant despite all theexposure she got from her childhood life, she did not have anyone sheconsidered a role model. The women present in her life who shethought needed to be a mother figure to her ended up negativelyinfluencing her life. She had led herself to believe that theparenting mistake that was common in her family line was because ofthe diverse childhood that their children got to experience (Andersenand Taylor, 2008, p. 623).

Vanzant managed to overcome all life challenges despite all odds tobecome the renowned woman she is known to be in the world today. Thelifespan theory of development that is evident in her life continuesto encourage many people today both men and women. Her positiveinfluence on other’s lives is being recognized in the world todaybecause of her willingness to change the life of someone who isundergoing struggles similar to hers.


In conclusion, Iyanla Vanzant has had positive influence on AfricanAmerican women, she also encouraged African American men. Inaddition, as an ordinary African American woman she was able to riseabove the many struggles, beginning at birth, developed into theperson she is today.


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