Life Span Development
Most people are often in awe about famous personalities who have made it into the top of their careers. Often times, the masses take particular interest with celebrities especially in the fields of movies and music. Their interest would even reach a point where they would idolize these personalities. This kind of people would even reach the status of being an icon that people emulate and follow. Being the case, the life story of these individuals also becomes an interest to the public eye. In line with this, even the field of psychology is often used in order to explain the development of their lives. This idea could be exemplified by Madonna, a famous singer who has captured the attention and interest of people not only in her native country but also around the world.
Biography of Madonna Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone or simply known as “Madonna” was born on August 16, 1958, in Bay City, Michigan. “Nonni”, her nickname at home, is the third among six children of Madonna Louise Fortin and Silvio Ciccone, an Italian-American automobile engineer (Worrell, 1985). At a very young age, she already experience emotional hardship during the death of her mother due to breast cancer when she was only five years old. This incident made her father take care of six children (People, 2008).
The early events in Madonna’s life have been very difficult for her. She had undergone a hard transition in her life after her mother’s death and the remarriage of her father. These experiences motivated her to stand out and push herself to be an achiever (Fox News, 2008).
This pop star grew up with the beliefs of the Roman Catholic religion. Her involvement in performing arts where already seen in her growing years as she frequently participated in school musicals and choirs while she was in junior high and high school. However, she has a special interest in dancing, which became more evident when she started her ballet lessons at the age of twelve. During her stay at Adams High School in Michigan, she also excelled in acting, as she became a member of the Thespian Society. She also continued with her dancing by becoming a cheerleader in her school. Her exceptional dancing skills aid her in having a dance scholarship in the University of Michigan (Fox News, 2008).
Madonna only stayed at the University of Michigan for two years as she decided to drop out from school. In 1978, she finally decided to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional dancer when she moved to New York. She only had little money in her pocket when she went to the big apple. This is the time when she experienced having different jobs. She worked at Dunkin Donuts in Times Square as well as a figure model for artists (Fox News, 2008). Madonna lives in different ramshackle apartments while she was studying and dancing at the same time under Alvin Ailey and the Pearl Lang Companies (Music Atlas, 2008).
Madonna’s first single “Everybody” became a club and dance hit during the year 1982. This started a series of hit songs for Madonna that reached the top of music hit charts. She became known for songs like “Material Girl” and the critically acclaim “Papa Don’t Preach”. Madonna also participated in the big screen wherein she also succeeded with box office hit movies like “Evita” that also gave her the Golden Globe award for best actress. Her career skyrocketed and she reached stardom in an unexpected pace. However, with popularity come intrigues like the scandal made when both the Playboy and Penthouse magazines posed her nude photos. Madonna also has difficulties when it comes to her relationships. She experienced series of failed relationships with the men in her life. Regardless, of the controversies and hardships that she went thorough she was still able to reach the iconic status that most stars dreamed of. Many people idolize her and follow her every move to the point of imitating her fashion sense, music, and even her way of projecting her sexuality (All Music Guide, 2007).
Influences of Heredity Parents play an essential role in the psychological development of an individual not only in terms of their upbringing and nurturing but also through the genes that they past to their offspring. It is through these genes that a child acquires certain traits or characteristics of their parents. This idea proves to be applicable in the case of Madonna.
Madonna’s determination and drive to make her life better and go after what she wants is also an observable characteristic of her father. She acquired some cognitive characteristics of her father in terms of how she views life and makes her plans a reality. In her interview with Time Magazine (1985), she narrated that her father strived hard to change the old life style that her Italian grandparents have. His father work hard in order to acquire a college education that makes him the only one among his siblings to graduate with a degree. As such, it is evident that Madonna’s trait of pushing herself in achieving her dreams and enhancing the situation of her life is something, which she acquired from his father. They both have the same courage and persistence in doing what is necessary to accomplish their purpose in life.
Environmental Influence The place or surrounding as well as the people within it also greatly influence the psychological development of an individual. Madonna was able to enhance her singing, dancing, and acting skills through her family as well as the different institutions that she attended.
During her younger years, Madonna’s father made everyone in the family choose a musical instrument that they want play and also instructed them to go to music lessons everyday. She took piano lessons but she did not develop much interest about it. Then, she finally convinced her father that she would take dance lessons instead. Taking dance lessons exposed her to ballet, jazz, tap dance, and baton swirling. In doing so, she develop her love for dancing wherein she learn new techniques and skills that enhanced her abilities (Worrell, 1985).
The schools she attended also aided her in improving her artistic skills. When she was in junior high and high school she became a member of the choir and the cheerleading squad. She even participated in the Thespian Society that opened the door for her to maximize her acting potentials. Moreover, when she decided to drop out from college to become a professional dancer, she also experienced working with professionals like Alvin Ailey and other important people in the music, dance, and acting businesses (People, 2008).
Family Issues Madonna had undergone various family issues that have affected her psychological development through the years. The firs issue is the early death of her mother. Since her mother died of breast cancer when she was only six years old, she went through emotional hardship due to this. In one of her interviews she recalled how she comforted and consoled her mother during the days that she was having a hard time. She even emphasized how their roles change during that situation because it was her who was taking care of her mother instead of the other way around. This incident made her a stronger person, which is proven when she said the following statements. “I think that made me grow up fast. I knew I could be either sad and weak and not in control or I could just take control and sad it’s going to get better” (Worrell, 1985, n.p.).
Madonna, being the oldest girl among six siblings had to take on adult responsibilities that she immensely resented. She had to take care of her younger brothers and sisters by changing their diapers, feeding them, making sure that all their needs are attended to. Simply put, she had to compensate for her mother’s responsibilities. As such, she was robbed of her childhood. While other kids are playing outside, she had to stay at home to do her chores. Undergoing this kind of duties made her become mature and responsible at an early age (Worrell, 1985).
Madonna confessed that her childhood life is best exemplified by the idea of Cinderella. She felt that she is like this fairy tale character who has to stay at home to do household chores. The fact that she has a stepmother that she also had to endure further reinforces this idea. Furthermore, she also hated how her stepmother always imposed that they wear the same dresses. She believes that this started her interest in creating her own fashion sense (Worrell, 1985).
Theories of Personality Sigmund Freud’s Theory of Personality is applicable in the some of the life experiences that Madonna had to go through. The early death of her mother, the need for her to be competitive among her siblings as well as the resentment she felt towards her father and stepmother are among the incidents in her life that shaped her psychological development. During the years where she was at the top of her career, she used provocative imagery and exhibitionism. In doing so, it could be theorized that she employed such as a means of displacement wherein she used a symbolic substitute as an outlet of her personal frustrations (Boeree, 2007). Simply put, Madonna was able to show her dissatisfaction of the changes in her family by mocking and ridiculing social norms. She unconsciously devalues and belittles social conventions like the conservative notions of propriety due to the fact that she was denied of experiencing a traditional family upbringing.
The concept of “compensating” by Alfred Adler could also be used in explaining the psychological development of Madonna. Compensating functions in two ways. First, an individual behaves in such a way that would compensate for his or her problems. Second, an individual develops skills in order to make up for the areas that he or she is lacking (Boeree, 2008). In the case of Madonna, she used her independence to compensate for her inability to trust and depend on other people.
Some people would think that with Madonna’s upbringing she would have been a damaged child that is characterized with insecurity and a negative outlook in life. Nonetheless, this was not the case for Madonna as she managed to be an achiever regardless of the difficulties in her life. Despite the loss of her mother she was still able to excel academically. This only shows that she learned to assert herself by overcoming disappointment through achieving personal goals.
Adler’s theories can also be related to Madonna’s behavior when she is dealing with other people especially in the years when she is just climbing the ladder of success. Instead of being insecure and developing an inferiority complex, Madonna’s behavior shows exactly the opposite as she has superiority complex. Her sense of superiority is evident in her trait of being very assertive that is quite observable with her tense relationship with previous manager Camille Barbone.
When Madonna was still a struggling musician, Barbone was the first person who believed in her talent and help her reaching stardom. However, as Madonna gets famous she tends to get her self in more chaotic situations, which Barbone had to deal with. Barbone was spending more time fixing Madonna’s problems instead of actually running her career. Despite all of these, Barbone still stayed by Madonna’s side. Nevertheless, as she achieved more success the tensions between her and Barbone worsen until they reach the point where they terminated their contract (The Daily Telegraph, 2006; O’Brien, 2007).
Adler suggests that all people strive for superiority. The inability to satisfy this drive could result to inferiority complex. Nevertheless, the idea of success without the proper self-mastery of control and discipline could lead to superiority complex. Healthy self-actualization could only be achieved in maintaining a balance between personal goals and the welfare of other people, as these two factors are actually complementary (Boeree, 2008; Ansbacher & Ansbacher, 1964). Madonna fits Adler’s theory of superiority complex because of her inability to recognize and acknowledge the support that other people gave her. She became the agent of her own success to the point that she did not give due importance to the assistance she got.
Alfred Alderian personality theory is the one that best exemplified Madonna’s psychological development. Even though Freud’s theories are applicable in understanding her early life especially her personal frustrations that led to her flourishing career, Alderian theory is still more applicable. The Alderian theory best explains Madonna’s personality as it explains her drive for perfection and superiority. These two elements are considered as the main themes of her life that are further emphasized in her self-image, which her dance, movies, and record labels promote in the society.
All Media Guide. (2007). Artist Biography – Madonna. Retrieved September 8, 2008, from
Ansbacher, H. & Ansbacher, R. R. (1964) Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler. New York: Harper Perennial.
Boeree, C. G. (2007, December 28) “Sigmund Freud.” Personality Theory. Retrieved September 8, 2008 from: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/freud.html.
Boeree, C. G. (2008, January 31) “Alfred Adler.” Personality Theory. Retrieved September 8, 2008 from: http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/adler.html.
Fox News. (2008). Madonna Biography, Discography, Filmography. Retrieved September 8,
2008, from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,193740,00. html?sPage=fnc.entertainment/Madonna.
Music Atlas. (2008). Madonna. Retrieved September 8, 2008, from http://www.music-
O’Brien, L. (2007, September 2) “Madonna: For the first time, her friends and lovers speak out.” The Independent. Retrieved September 8, 2008 from: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/madonna-for-the-first-time-her-friends-and-lovers-speak-out-463608.html.
People. (2008). Celebrity Central: Madonna. Retrieved September 8, 2008, from
The Daily Telegraph. (2006, July 26) “The child who became a star.” The Daily Telegraph.
Retrieved September 8, 2008 from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1400097/The-child-who-became-a-star.html.
Worrell, D. (1985). Now: Madonna on Madonna. Retrieved September 8, 2008, from