There's an attitude that if you're doing something you usually do with women, then you are not gay" (Rhoads, 1999, p. 136). This notion of homosexuality among Puerto Rican community is reflective of the perception elsewhere in Latin America. For instance, Rhoads adds that, "Such a perspective exists throughout much of Latin America, where activos (sexual aggressors in same-sex encounters) are typically not considered to be gay, whereas pasivos are seen as subordinate and are considered to be gay" (1999, p. 136). Finally, Nicholas is even confronted with some differences in perception among the gay community itself that may account for his reluctance to openly reveal his sexual orientation to most of his peers. For example, Rhoads addsd that, "Queer students from diverse cultural backgrounds not only face possible rejection from their racial communities for being queer, but they also face racism within the gay community. A student commented: 'On top of everything there is the issue of racism within the queer community, which tends to be dominated by whites'" (1999, p. 136).
Moreover, not only is Nicholas faced with the same types of challenges that face all young people in their academic, relationship and professional pursuits, he is one of a growing population of children who have experienced the adverse effects of divorce and subsequent remarriage of a parent. Like many other young people, Nicholas has also experimented with alcohol and marijuana, but most troubling of all is his use of crystal methamphetamine. As noted above, the inevitable outcome of this behavior is institutionalization or death, and this self-destructive behavior has contributed to much of the problems that exist between Nicholas and his step-father, and have been the source of much of the anxiety being experienced by his mother. Unless this substance abuse issue can be successfully resolved, the remaining problems faced by the family stand little chance of being overcome anytime soon.
Compare and contrast two (2) theories of psychosocial development as it relates to one member of the family:
An Application of Erik H. Erikson's psychosocial development perspectives to Nicholas.
The manner in which people confront and overcome the challenges and obstacles that characterize the different stages of life articulated by Erikson provide a useful way to understand the world from Nicholas's perspective. For instance, according to Hoare (2002), "Erikson was the first to illustrate how the social world exists in the psychological apparatus of each person, a person he saw as a biopsychosocial being who lives in the flow of one seamless, personal narrative and in one niche of total historical time" (p. 4). From Erikson's psychosocial development perspective, then, Nicholas is stuck in a cultural-religious-social niche that is restricting his ability to forge an accurate identity for himself in ways that are required for further self-actualization. In this regard, McMullen (2004) reports that, "In a paradigm of psychosocial development, [Erikson] offers eight stages. During the fifth stage, Adolescence, he stresses the establishment of sexual and religious identity. According to Erikson's findings, persons who fail to establish their sexual, occupational, political, and religious identities experience role uncertainty or maladaptive behavior, so such persons experience 'identity confusion'" (p. 95). Therefore, from Erikson's perspective, Nicholas must successful navigate this identity crisis to achieve further self developmental levels, a process that will involve his resolution of his gay orientation with his family and peers, as well as the more immediate threat of his substance abusing behaviors. Fortunately, his stepfather's personal experiences with substance abuse provide him with the insights that can help him understand Nicholas's behaviors, but this same understanding also makes his stepson's behaviors even more troubling for him because he recognizes the dangers that are involved.
Strengths. One of the major strengths of Erikson's psychosocial developmental paradigm is its ability to provide useful insights into current developmental constraints as well as the likely consequences of the failure to resolve these constraints. For instance, Linn notes that, "Erik Erikson's constructs of psychosocial tasks and the consequences of failure to successfully navigate those tasks provide the foundation for parent education" (p. 478).
Limitations. Erikson's attempts to pigeonhole people into specific developmental categories have caused some observers to question their efficacy and the studies to date concerning its use have met with some mixed results (Christensen & Palkovitz, 1998).
An Application of critical race theory to Nicholas.
Critical race theory can provide some valuable insights concerning the manner in which Nicholas may feel marginalized as both a Puerto Rican as well as a gay. For instance, according to Parker, Deyhle and Villenas, "Although no set of doctrines or methodologies defines critical race theory, one very broad commitment is the relationship between ostensibly race-neutral ideals, like the rule of law, merit, and equal protection, and the structure of white supremacy and racism" (p. 1).
As noted above, there are some powerful cultural differences between the perception of homosexuality in Puerto Rico and the rest of the United States that are likely affecting how Nicholas perceives his sexual orientation with respect to mainstream society as well as the gay community in which it exists. The cumulative effect of this marginalization may be a contributing factor to Nicholas's self-destructive behaviors as well as his problems in communicating his identity to his mother, stepfather and most of his peers. Although the perceptions of homosexuals are continuing to change in substantive ways as state after state legalizes same-sex marriages, it is apparent that Nicholas remains sufficient uncomfortable with sexual orientation that he is unable to take the leap of faith needed to confide in his immediate family.
The basic tenets of critical race theory are specifically focused on addressing these types of issues. For instance, Milner reports that, "Critical race theorists are concerned with disrupting, exposing, challenging, and changing racist policies that work to subordinate and disenfranchise certain groups of people and that attempt to maintain the status quo" (p. 333). Moreover, from a critical race theoretical perspective, Nicholas has been acculturated to view his sexual orientation in this fashion by institutional forces that make his confusion all the more difficult to resolve (Milner, 2008).
Strengths. One of the most important strengths that has been associated with critical race theory to date is its ability to illuminate the specific multicultural challenges that are faced by minorities in a white-dominated society (Milner, 2008). In addition, critical race theory "seeks to understand structures of social oppression for the emancipatory purpose of transforming them" (Sterba, 2001, p. 325).
Limitations. Like Erikson's psychosocial development paradigm, critical race theory is not without its critics. For instance, on the one hand, Sterba emphasizes that, "Critical race theory is explicitly anti-racist," but on the other hand, "in a sense it self-consciously distances itself from 'race' also, by putting the word in scare-quotes to indicate its constructed rather than biological character. On the rare occasions the term is used nowadays in mainstream discourse, it is employed to refer to the values and beliefs of racist fringe groups, for example skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, etc." (2001, p. 325). In addition, critical race theory does not provide the specific framework that is needed to address the family's more compelling and urgent problems that are directly related to Nicholas's substance-abusing behaviors.
Christiansen, S.L. & Palkovitz, R. (1998). Exploring Erikson's psychosocial theory of development: Generativity and its relationship to paternal identity, intimacy, and involvement in childcare. The Journal of Men's Studies, 133.
Hoare, C.H. (2002). Erikson on development in adulthood: New insights from the unpublished papers. New York: Oxford University Press.
Linn, S. (2003). Children and commercial culture: Expanding the advocacy roles of professionals in education, health, and human service. The Journal of Negro Education,
McMullen, J. (2004). Gail Godwin's message: to those who want wholeness. Southern Quarterly,
Parker, L., Deyhle, D. & Villenas, S. (1999). Race is-- Race isn't: Critical race theory and qualitative studies in education. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Pistole, M.C. & Roberts, A. (2002). Mental health counseling: Toward resolving identity confusions. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 24(1), 1-3.
Rhoads, R.A. (1999). Coming out in college: The struggle for a queer identity. Westport, CT:
Bergin & Garvey.
Singer, M., Mirhej, G., Santelices, C. & Hastings, E. (2006). Tomorrow is…