In the documentary, Raising Cain, psychologist Michael Thompson explores the lives of different boys, their environment, and looks into the various sources that have caused them to be who they are at their age.
Two boys in the film that particularly sparked my interest were Hugo and Jimmy. Through Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, I’ve come to a better understanding of the different stages they have accomplished, stages they have missed, and the effects that certain stages have had on their personality traits that they present throughout the film. Throughout their age, upbringing, environment, their parental figures and lack there of, there is a better understanding as to why boys today are the way they are.
Hugo, a 16-year-old boy that lives in an urban area, does not know his mother or father. He lives in a small apartment with his grandmother and has been forced to be the father figure of two young nieces at very young age. During the day, Hugo has a very tough and long commute to get to school. Because him and his family are insecure within their financial situation, they must take a cab to drop off his grandmother at her work and his two nieces at their school before arriving at his destination. This kind of responsibility being given at such a young age can negatively affect a young boys morale. A kid at 16 years old should be able to stay a child, and not be forced to grow up so quickly.
As well as being forced to grow up quickly, Hugo hasn’t even been able to experience guidance from parents. Because of Hugo’s lack of parental figures during his upbringing, a lot of his essential stages haven’t been experienced positively, thus resulting in bad behavior that he displays. For example, when Hugo was home in the afternoon, he lit a candle, which upset one of his little niece’s very much. The niece asked him to blow it out because it made her uncomfortable, and he chose not to despite the fact that she is a young girl with many fears because of her age. He lacks any sympathy or need to comfort her in this situation. During the play age, 3-6 years old, Hugo was faced with the conflict of initiative vs. guilt.
Hugo’s behavior of not blowing out the candle because of his desire for control over the environment is a reflection of what happened during the play age. His lack of parental guidance is a reason as to why he doesn’t understand that sometimes you have to give up something you want to compromise for another person’s wants. Within this stage, I believe there was a negative outcome of ruthlessness and inhibition. He is driven to do what makes him happy, and feels no guilt when others don’t get what they want.
Not only has Hugo been effected because of his home life, but his environment is detrimental to the person he will be in the future. Because of the urban environment he lives in, he is unable to live up to his full potential. I don’t believe that he will grow up to be successful and happy because of the environment he lives in. At night, he walks around the street, encouraging 9-year-old boys to engage in violent behavior, and participates in the use of very foul language with boys who talk about smoking every drug that exists.
This kind of environment and behavior can have a negative impact on one’s motivations in life. It is very concerning to think that if placed in the right household, with the right parents, and in a healthy living situation, he could potentially be focusing on school work rather than hanging around at night on the streets with no supervision.
Jimmy who is age 18 has had a completely different experience growing up in a suburban town with little crime and more family oriented values. He was brought up in a traditional family, consisting of a mom, a dad, and siblings. Throughout the film, Jimmy consistently seems content with his family life. He does not mind the public display of affection he gives towards his mother, which is uncommon with a lot of boys. He kisses his mom before he goes to school, and before his big football game, he gave her a big hug. His upbringing and environment have proved to be beneficial to the kind of person he is presented as in the film.
There was a particular situation within the film that strongly related to the ego identity vs. role confusion stage. During the Halloween celebration at Jimmy’s high school, him and his friends performed a dance, which was a parody of the Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. In the performance, they were dancing around Snow White, and aggressively pushing her around. A lot of the student body and parents of students were offended and upset after hearing about this. When word got back to Jimmy and his friends that people were angry, they were very surprised. There were many negative interpretations of it, some even were calling it a ‘gang-bang’. After this incident, Jimmy as well as his friends went to the principal’s office voluntarily and sincerely apologized for the uncomfortable image it portrayed to many people. This shows a tremendous amount of maturity. There was a positive outcome of his upbringing and it is reflected in this situation. Within the stage of ego identity vs. role confusion, he has established his morals. Jimmy showed a sense of fidelity and loyalty here, and those are valuable traits that he will need for when he becomes an adult.
There are no concerns that I have for Jimmy, because from the footage, it seems that he has reached a very mature level at a young age. I believe that Jimmy will grow up to be successful and happy because he is instilled with a lot of motivation given from his parents and family, and self motivation as well.
Ultimately, I think that a boy’s environment has a strong effect on who they become later in life. Throughout Hugo and Jimmy’s experiences, it is evident that both of them lead very different lives because of the situations they are faced with on a daily basis. While Hugo must worry about his safety on the street, Jimmy’s concerns consist of his next big football game. I agree with Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, because they are applicable to the boy’s situations within the film, and I felt they accurately depicted their situations. Essentially, their psychological development and their overall personality is a reflection of their upbringing and environment.