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According to Sapphire (2010), Precious is the main character in the horror movie “Precious” which is based on the novel “Push”. The sixteen year old Claireece P. “Precious” Jones lives with her abusive and dysfunctional mother Mary in the Harlem ghetto in 1987. Precious is illiterate, obese, abused, cast a drift, and on her own at a very tender age (p. 1). Surprisingly, Precious finds herself pregnant with her fathers’ child for the second time and her mother constantly discourages and berates her. Moreover, she suffers mental, physical, and sexual abuse from her jobless mother for quite a long time. As if this was not enough trouble for her, Mongo her first born child suffers from Down syndrome and is being taken care of by his aged great mother. However, Precious is faced by a more serious problem when her mother forces the entire family to make-believe that Mongo lives with his grandmother and mother so that she can obtain additional support in form of money from the government. Basically, Precious go through very hallowing experiences that leave her discouraged, distressed, and unhappy at the beginning of the movie (Sapphire 2010, p. 21).
In relation to Sapphire (2010) Precious body structure is on that is not accepted or considered as beautiful in the American society. Thus, Precious feels ugly, unlovable, and not sexy at all making her to isolate her self from the rest of the world with no friends at all. Precious character demonstrates the burden which the society has imposed on her through belittlement. The fact that she’s functionally illiterate at the beginning does not imply that Precious can not read or write perfectly, but her frequent use of swear words and jargon makes it difficult for her to keep on reading. Moreover, Precious is distrustful of everyone, and reacts with resentment, violence, and anger when faced with difficult situations since she has never had someone care for her (p.62). Nevertheless, Precious decides to believe in a world of fantasies and imaginations as a way of escaping a daily traumatic existence.
In contrast, Precious is seen as an optimistic and precious girl toward the end of the movie. For instance, she does not give up learning after being expelled from school. As a matter of fact, Precious is an industrious girl and this is demonstrated by her good performance in her new school which was arranged for her by the principle in her former junior school (Sapphire 2010, p. 76). In addition, Precious is also an intelligent girl who ends up writing poetry with a lot of passion though ignorant. As a result of the traumatic psychological experiences that Precious has been through, she ends up stealing her case file from Miss Weiss the social worker who was helping her get through her sexual abuses. Basically, Precious is an intelligent, hardworking, and optimistic girl who has been greatly affected by the numerous social, physical, and psychological abuses that her parents have put her through. She is also naive and innocent since allows her parents to abuse her without attempting to seek for help. Moreover, Precious accepts to tell lies as her mother demands at her expense and that of her sick son who is seriously in need of medical help. At the end of the movie, Precious portrays her determination and courage by resolving to improve her life and that of her two children (Sapphire 2010, p. 188).
There are several theories which can be used to study a character’s functioning and understand his/her state of affairs from a social work point of view. Considering that social work involves person-in environment approach and bio-psycho-social approach to understand human psychosocial functioning and behaviour, these approaches ought to be taken into account when analyzing a character. However, the character Precious may be analyzed theoretically using the alternate-and-post-modern theory, Systems-and-ecological theories, learning theories, and psychodynamic theories. Human beings are quite different from other species due to their behavioural aspect (Walsh 2010, p. 32).
In accordance with Walsh (2010) the human behaviour may be studied and analyzed either from sociological or biological point of view. However, biopsychology combines the social and biological psychological factors in determining human behaviour. From the biological point of view, the hereditary compound referred to DNA is held responsible for human behaviour. Biologically, the human behaviour may be understood through intelligence, genetics and heredity, and specific common uncontrolled actions (p. 32). In connection with this, the character of Precious may be understood perfectly through the use of these three biological factors. Scientists have argued that a person’s intelligence is to a certain extent determined by their genetic composition. To a certain extent, Precious parents were not intelligent and that’s why they could not secure a job and take care of their daughter. Instead, they heavily relied on the government for support. This is quite evident where Precious mother forces her to lie to the government that her son Mongo lives with them in order to get more support. Relatively, at the beginning of the movie Precious is illiterate. She probably inherited it from her parents. Moreover, as a consequence of the constant abuse by her father and mother both sexually and psychologically, Precious adopted the uncontrollable act of self-destruction which is common in most distressed people. Precious allows her new friend to influence her and gets involved in alcoholism and exploitive sexual activities (Walsh 2010, p. 81).
Nevertheless, the biopsychosocial approach also involves psychological aspects. In line with Newman and Newman (2008) the psychological approach aids to understand the behaviour of human beings though cognitive development. In this approach, most people are in a position to figure out meaning from happenings via the relationships which they create in their minds regarding that particular thing. Following the development of the mind and customization to certain ideas, then, the brain starts to react towards them hence resulting to different reactions (p. 61). In the case of Precious, she developed a fantasy and imaginary world where she felt loved. Consequently, this helped her to remain optimistic regardless of what she was going through. Possibly, this may be the reason why she accepted to attend the school which her former high school principle organized for her. At the end of the movie, Precious resolves to improve her life and her children’s even though the situation was not any better (Sapphire 2010, p. 188). Apparently, human beings are greatly affected by their immediate environment and a majority of them adopt certain behaviours subconsciously.
Lastly, in relation to Shaffer (2008) the social aspect is also contained in the biopsychosocial approach. In this case, it is important to consider the influences of culture and family on human behaviour (p. 32). Nonetheless, in social analysis of human behavior, there is a great difference between believed behavior, ideal behavior, and actual behavior. In relation to this, Precious behavior was highly influenced by the manner in which her immediate family members treated her. As a result of her parent’s abusive nature, Precious became distressed and unhappy girls who ended up being violent and engaged in morally unacceptable behavior. For instance, her biological father sexually abused her and even bore two children for him. Eventually Precious resolved to engage in sexually exploitive activities after being persuaded by her friend. Toward the end of the movie, when her mother intentionally drops off her newly born child, Precious violently fights with her (Sapphire 2010, p. 6). Obviously, she had adopted her violent behavior from her parents. In general, Precious was a very young girl who grew up without the love of her parents and went through traumatising experiences. Consequently, she longed for love and attention thus chose to seek for them from other avenues.
The ecological perspective makes use of ecological concepts obtained from biology to explain the reprocity between people and their immediate environment. Much of the interest is taken on the quality of relationship between a person/group and the environment where they live. Basically, this perspective may be traced back to theories of biology that give explanations on how organisms adjust to their environments. The term “ecology” refers to a living organism and its dependence on a natural environment. However, the ecological perspective brought a new down to social work profession since it demonstrates how family system models can be adopted to incorporate the idea that members of a family are equally influenced by environmental systems ( Ford 2000, p. 279). According to Walsh (2010), the social work profession has expanded the ecology perspective to give explanation that a person is “continually creating, reforming, and adjusting to a new environment as it affects them” (p. 32). Unlike a number of psychological and behavioural theories, ecological theories take interest on the interrelation dealings between
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Systems and emphasize that all elements present in an ecosystem contribute equally in maintaining the overall balance.
In order to be able to understand the character of Precious on the basis of ecological theory and systems perspective, an understanding of cultures, persons, policies, families, and communities is essential. In addition, it is important to make out and intervene upon the weaknesses and strengths in the exchange processes between these systems (Ford 2000, 279) .Based on the ecological theory and systems perspective, Precious violent, angry, and distressful character was as a result of the unfavourable environment which she was growing up in. For instance, at only sixteen her father takes advantage of her and abuses her sexually. This did not occur just once, and this is quite evident when she gets pregnant for her father for a second time. Honestly, a father is supposed to protect and provide for his children at all times. These acts of sexual abuse are quite uncultured and probably Precious got embarrassed to even report her father to the authorities. Moreover, her jobless mother also abuses her sexually and takes advantage of her sick son in order to get extra money from the government.
In relation to Sapphire (2010), Precious grew up in a home without love, care, and affection, thus, she ended up being distressed and developed anger and violence just like her parents. The interrelation between Precious and her environment is quite unpleasant and this greatly contributes to her drifting away from it (p. 7. Actually, she starts living in a world of fantasy and imagination so as to be able to ignore her frustrating real environment. Nevertheless, Precious doe not give up on pursuing a better life for herself and her children. This is probably because her grandmother has tried to create a favourable environment for her. For instance, she takes care of Precious sick son Mongo.
Precious is a young girl portrayed to posses numerous character traits. In order to clearly understand her behaviour based on the personality development theory, it’s important to consider and incorporate the moral, cognitive, and social development concepts (Wrightsman 1994, p. 59)
According to Shaffer (2008) Cognitive development refers to the process whereby the understanding of a child regarding the world changes with age and experience. This concept attempts to explain the qualitative and quantitative intellectual capabilities that take place during human development. All children undergo four different stages in a constant order, and these stages differ depending on the quality, quantity, and understanding of knowledge acquire at every stage. The sensorimotor stage is between child birth and about two years after birth (p. 37) during this stage, an infant does not recognize people or objects that are not in their immediate environment. Children lack permanence of objects at this stage. Basically, an infant is unaware of the fact that people and objects still exist even when they are out of sight. During the sensorimotor stage, Precious definitely didn’t understand that her parents were not always there for her since she possibly thought that they were gone forever every time they were absent.
The next stage in cognitive development is preoperational stage which lies between two to seven years. Language development is the most important thing in this stage. Children develop an inner representation of the environment that enables them to describe feelings, people, and events. Additionally, children in this stage are characterized by egocentric thoughts. Basically, the child views the world from his/her own perspective and thus any information from children in this stage can be unreliable. In the same context, children in this stage are likely to shy off when in trouble. They also lack the conservation principle and are unable to understand that quantity is not related to the physical appearance and arrangement of objects (Novak and Pelaez 2004, p. 216). In spite of Precious being abused sexually several times by her father and mother, she shy off and keeps it secret. Possibly, her parents have been abusive since her tender age and that’s why she is unable to report them to the authorities even after she turns sixteen.
In line with Novak and Pelaez (2004), the formal operational stage of cognitive development exists from the age of twelve up to adulthood. In this stage, a child develops a new form of thinking that if logical, abstract, and formal. In fact, a child at the formal operational stage can think theoretically and apply logic to resolve problems. However, it’s not every one who gets to reach this thinking level (p. 217). This concept best explains the behaviour of Precious. Though, at the age of sixteen, Precious can not think hypothetically and understand that her parents abuse is wrong. Moreover, she is unable to apply logic to solve the problems facing her, thus, she has probably not reached the formal operational stage. For instance, both her parents abuse her sexually and physically, and yet she does not tell any one about it. In addition, she gets pregnant for her father the first time and after he comes back four years later, the same thing happens. She ought to have learned from the first experience and taken the necessary measures. Moreover, Precious also allows her irresponsible mother to manipulate and receive extra money for her sick son Mongo while her grandmother takes care of him.
In accordance with Novak and Pelaez (2004) the psychosocial development theory explains the effects of social experience across the entire lifespan. In order to understand the character of a person, one has to understand the concepts of ego identity and ego strength or quality. Ego identity refers to the conscious self sense that people develop via social interaction (p. 216). However, a person’s ego identity varies as they face new experiences and acquire new information. On the other hand, ego strength or quality is a sense of competence that if well managed a person experiences a senses of mastery and a sense of inadequacy when poorly managed. The first psychological stage consists of trust vs. mistrust. The development of trust in children is purely depended on the quality of its guardians (Newman and Newman 2008, p. 62).
A child that develops trust is likely to feel secure and safe whereas one that is brought up by rejecting, inconsistent, and emotionally unavailable parents is likely to develop mistrust. Consequently, the child develops fear and adopts the belief that the world is unpredictable and inconsistent. In the case of Precious, her parents denied her the chance of experiencing parental love and care. As a matter of fact, Precious developed a sense of mistrust since she was brought up by parents who abused, manipulated, and mistreated her instead of making offering her absolute protection. Consequently, Precious developed mistrust towards everyone and probably that the reason why she could not disclose her misfortunes and seek for help. Even when the guidance counsellor summons her in the office, Precious doesn’t disclose the fact that her father is responsible for her pregnancy simply because she’s afraid and thus she ends up being expelled from school. In relation to Newman and Newman (2008) Autonomy vs. shame is the second stage or concept of psychosocial development theory. It mainly focuses on development of a greater personal control sense in children. In addition, it also deals with important events such as development of control over clothing selection, choices of food, and toy preferences. Apparently this theory does not seem to apply much in the case of Precious (p. 65).
The theory of personality development several important concepts that must be understood in order to analyze a person’s character from social work point of view. These levels include pre-conventional morality, conventional morality, post conventional morality, individual rights and social contract, and universal principles. The pre-conventional level involves the obedience and punishment stage which is most common in children though it also exists in adults in certain cases. Moreover, children often view rules as absolute and fixed and being obedient means avoiding punishment (O’Connorand Netting 2009, p. 2). In this context, Precious might have persevered with all the abuse in fear of punishment by her violent parents. This better explains why she wouldn’t report her father even after raping her several times. Individualism and exchange is the second stage in pre-conventional morality and in this stage children account for their own opinions and give judgement based on individual need satisfaction. On the other hand, conventional morality entails of interpersonal relationships. However, this stage focuses on leaving according to social roles and expectations. Apparently, conformity is highly emphasized in this stage. Social expectations require a child to obey his/her parents without questioning their decisions (O’Connor and Netting 2009, p. 5). This gives a slight idea of the reason why Precious accepted to let her ruthless mother receive money on behalf of her sick son.
In line with Gibbs (2003), at the fourth stage which involves maintaining social order, individuals judge the society as a whole. Individuals mainly focus on adhering to laws and orders, performing their duties, and respecting the authority (p. 69). This concept may not be very helpful in understanding the character of Precious. Conversely, post-conventional morality consists of individual rights and social contract, and universal principles. At the social contract and individual rights stage, individuals start to account for the differing beliefs, values, and opinions of others. The universal principles stage is based upon abstract reasoning and ethical principles. People tend to adhere to these internalized justice principles even if they are not in accordance with the law. However, the post-conventional moral theory does not apply well to theoretical analysis of Precious character. This is because the theory concentrates more on moral thinking yet there exist a huge difference between understanding what one should to and their real actions. The concept of justice has been over emphasized in the moral development theory (Gibbs 2003, p. 72).
In accordance with Johnson (2000) Learning can be considered as both a process and s product. There is also formalized or learning or learning-conscious, and acquisition learning. It is not all behaviour changes arising from experience that involve learning (p. 3). However, such behavioural changes may be as a result of conditioning. Learning may be categorized as acquiring knowledge, storing information, acquiring skills and facts, abstracting meaning, interpreting and comprehending reality in various ways. Nonetheless, learning can be considered as a process through which behaviour change occurs as a consequence of experience. According to Johnson (2000) Task-conscious learning is perceived as continuous, immediate, tangible, and restricted to a particular activity; it doesn’t involve general principles. Parenting is a good example of acquisition learning (p. 11). However, the learner is unaware of the learning process but can recognize the task involved. Precious is a caring parent as it is seen toward the end of the movie. The young mother of two sons resolves to improve her life and that of her children. Moreover, when her mother drops off her newly born baby, Precious fights back so violently and manages to protect her baby. The fact that her first born son Mongo is under care of his great-great grandmother doesn’t imply that she is not a good parent. Parenting is task-conscious learning and with time, Precious has learnt the importance of being a good mother.
In contrast, formalizing learning is educative rather than experience accumulation. People are aware of the process as well as the task at hand. These contrasting learning ways can exist in the same context and are present in families and schools. Learning may be considered as a process that involves behaviourist, cognitive, humanistic, and social orientation to learning. Behaviourist orientation involves change in behaviour and it’s meant to produce change in behaviour in desired direction (Johnson 2000, p. 33). This form of learning is provoked by external environment stimuli. Nevertheless, the cognitive orientation is viewed as an internal mental process, memory, processing of information and perception. It main objective is to develop skills and capacity to learn better and is controlled by internal cognitive structuring. On the other hand, humanist orientation is viewed as an individual act to fulfil potential and it’s controlled by cognitive and affective needs. Last but not the least, situational and social orientations are viewed as observation/interaction in social contexts and the learning process is in relationship between persons and environment. However, learning theories are not sufficient and effective in analyzing the character of precious. This is because she doesn’t seem to have any learning problems. When Precious starts attending a different school after being expelled, she performs excellently and even contributes in poetry.
Self-reflexive processes and culture studies are the most important concepts of the post-modernist theory. Postmodernism states that objective truth doesn’t exist (O’Connor and Netting 2009, p. 15). On the other hand, the higher order concept of alternative theory best explains the character of Precious as compared to the other concepts namely souls and spirits, memes, and bicameralism. The order concept argues that there are several orders or levels of consciousness. This consists of thoughts about the things a person is seeing at that moment and thoughts about other thoughts. However, these concepts are not applicable in understanding the character of Precious.
The bio-psycho-social approach was more appropriate in analyzing the character of Precious. This is because it comprises of biological, psychological, and sociological theories on human behaviour. Considering that the parents of Precious were both abusive and violent, the biological concept best explains why she had also developed similar behaviors. This theory explains that genes are transferrable from parent to child and therefore there are chances that Precious might have inherited a few of her mother’s behaviors such as being violent. On the other hand, the psychological concept explains human behaviour based on emotion and experience. However, Precious is a young girl who has undergone so much trauma and she is likely to have suffered from emotional breakdown. As a matter of fact, psychological approach explains why she is distressed. Moreover, Precious has isolated herself from the rest of the world and has no friends at all. These character traits are best explained by the sociological approach which deals with the inter-relationships between human beings and their environment.
In addition, the personality development theory best describes the character traits of Precious and the reasons behind them. Actually the cognitive developmental concept and the morality development concept give clear steps during which children develop certain behaviors as they grow up. The events that take place in a person’s life during these steps clearly illustrate the reasons behind Precious character.
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