Personal Growth of a Person Who Lost Everything During Hurricane Katrina

Table of Content

Many theorists such as Piaget and Vygotsky have agreed that human development takes place in different stages of life. They have supported their findings by analyzing a person’s individual growth in terms of biological, social, cognitive, environmental and psychosocial theories. The researcher will analyze a hypothetical person, named Patrick, aged 13 years old and who lived in New Orleans. He lost everything after Hurricane Katrina including one of his family members. Of interest to this study, will be Patrick’s development between two stages of development namely adolescence (12-17 years) to early adulthood (20-40 years). The study will analyze all issues faced by Patrick and other New Orleans participants who were forced to move away after the aforementioned calamity.

This paper is structured as follows. The background study of what made Patrick leave his home will be also provided. He will then examine the features of the participant’s cognitive, social, biological, emotional, and psychosocial development during adolescence and early adulthood. Moving on, this study will then make forecasts with regard to the outcomeof the results for individuals in the consecutive development phases. To wrap things up, the researcher will then suggest interventions for reducing the exposure to disasters as well as propose further studies that could explore the predicted findings.

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In late August 2005, disaster hit the south-eastern part of the USA after Hurricane Katrina struck and killed at least 1800 people (Graumann et al., 2006). After careful examination, it was established that the storm, which traveled with speeds of up to 127 mph, caused $300 billion worth of damage and widespread flooding. Patrick, residing in New Orleans during that the time, lost a family member and was forced to move away from New Orleans at the time. This adversely affected Patrick; as a result, he had to live in Texas for a while before moving on to New Jersey, then later to New Orleans. In addition to these issues, he experienced several development problems that will be analyzed in depth in this research. Patrick experienced emotions of shock, fear, anxiety, and grief after this event.

According to Campbell (1995), adolescence is an intermediate growth period that occurs between childhood and adulthood. During this stage, Patrick was aged between 12 to 17 years. It is narrowly equated to puberty in many societies, but that is not always the case. This research will go further and examine the various development features that were expected during this period.

Cognition during this phase exhibits itself through the ability of the adolescent to reason and make choices by employing logical thinking. Upon the birth of a child, he or she immediately begins learning. This is what the child uses as he or she grows to make informed choices dependent on what they have grasped up until this point. During adolescence, teens develop more critical thinking skills by using the concrete skills they have learned up to this point. Normally, children begin their early adolescence by adopting a familiarity of their own personalities. Decisions made up until this point largely come from the parents with no or little input from the child.

However, adolescents are at the moment being obliged and permitted to exercise their personal thinking skills so as to infer this knowledge to have independent opinions on various things. This often brings conflict between the teenagers and the parents as the decisions made are in direct opposition to each party. However, a compromise is made by the parents as they understand the stage of development their children are going through.

The beginning of biological and physical development during adolescence is defined by the onset of puberty. The teen transforms into an adult, and an array of changes occur which include sexual maturity, increase in height, changes in body composition and completion of skeletal growth. Typically, the progression of biological development is consistent among adolescents, but this may vary greatly due to nutritional aspects. The progression and speed of these changes may not be consistent. This leads to a distinct variation in overall physical appearance.

Teenagers start to practice many types of relationships upon reaching adolescence. However, these social relationships are often more intimate, and they take nature of deep involvement. As opposed to the early childhood years where the children’s social circle is often composed of family, a few friends and maybe their teachers, their close friends are now composed of more people. Social development in this age group is marked by a vast shift in the value and measure of relationships.

The maturity of an adolescent is a personal phase of development that sees the child start to have his or her own beliefs. Consequently, they are viewed as being self-conscious as they have to appraise themselves constantly. This leads to the start of a future-oriented goal setting process, as well as emotional and social independence. As the child passes through early adolescence all the way up to late adolescence, they are forced to think logically and make use of the acquired critical thinking skills. As adulthood nears, the teen starts to have a stable sense of their identity as well as their place in society.

Perhaps more importantly, is the evolution of values through moral reasoning (Kohlberg, 1966) argues in his theory that adolescents should be offered conjectural impasses where they can analyze their feelings as well as candidly talk about their explore perspectives in picking between conflicting scenarios.

Cognitive development in a person is a lifetime process that peaks the age of 35 and slowly declines in later adulthood. During this stage, cognitive changes occur numerous times as it is a period that we spend most of our time in. Cognition stabilizes, and the young adult begins to become aware of more than simple views of what is right versus what is wrong.

Adults experience age-related changes based on numerous factors broadly categorized into primary aging and secondary aging. The latter involves aging that occurs due to controllable factors such as poor diet and physical exercises. The former, however, is caused by molecular and cellular changes. Cardiac functioning, muscle strength, and sensory abilities are at their peak. This aging process is normally characterized by changes in skin, vision and reproductive capability.

According to Ryff and Singer (2002), positive relationships with significant others in early adulthood tend to contribute to a state of well-being. Young adults adopt a state of loneliness if they are unable to form meaningful relationships with their friends or family. This is explained clearly by Hamilton (2002) in his theory of psychosocial development. He termed this as the crisis of intimacy versus isolation.

Patrick was adversely affected by the Hurricane that struck his hometown while he was still an adolescent. This greatly influenced his development patterns, and this is carefully examined in the passage that follows.

Consequent of the events of August 2005, Patrick experienced feelings of anxiety and emotional stress. His loss of a loved one filled him with loneliness, and this had a psychological impact on him. He felt that the world as not a safe place to live in. Patrick displayed divergent forms of behavioral depression and encountered an increased cognitive load. Having survived the ordeal, he displayed reduced levels of aggression and increased levels of confidence. Arguments provided by Redlener, DeRosa and Hut (2008) on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on child development, were found to be true after Patrick showed signs of increased emotional distress over the next 2 years than experienced in the immediate aftermath. This was largely in part due to the increased uncertainty and hopelessness regarding permanent living conditions.

However, Patrick reported having had more support from friends and family who offered to provide him with moral and emotional support at his own convenience. The relationships that he had fostered during his time in New Orleans were compromised after he moved to a new town, and he needed extra time to make new friends. A close examination of Patrick’s social and psychosocial behavior established nature of being aloof, evident on the fact that he did not know whom to trust in his new environment. Most importantly, the storm necessitated the need for Patrick to grow up physically and mentally.

The study will further look into the effect that the storm had on Patrick’s development in his early adulthood stage. This was the period between 20 and 40 years. Norris and Murrell (1988) developed the inoculation hypothesis that maintains that previous indulgence with natural disasters may bring about a defending function for adults of middle age, shields them from distress as well solid emotional reactions to the following natural disasters. Having experienced a hurricane before, Patrick’s tolerance for future stresses increased. He showed minimal stress responses, but this increased as he grew older. As he was younger in his adulthood, he was partially emotionally reactive as compared to his later years in his adulthood. He, therefore, adopted more advanced coping styles what has resulted in reduced levels of pre-disaster distress levels evidenced by an increase in wisdom and maturity.

At a relatively young age, Patrick did not have many responsibilities and obligations for his family. However, as he grew older, his social and financial responsibilities increased, and this led to some levels of increased emotional distress. This is known as the burden hypothesis, which was developed by Thompson, Norris and Hanacek (1993). They argued that twin sets of responsibilities coupled with compassionate caring for their dependent children may increase the seeming burden. His social development did not stutter as much when compared to his prior social development as a teenager. Whereas he still had to cope with fostering new and meaningful relationships, he handled this more maturely. His mental growth allowed him to think this in logical terms, as he now had a family to look after and potential colleagues in his workplace.

Predictions, strategies for disaster prevention and further studies to be made on the findings of this study, Patrick will have an increased distress tolerance as he grows older. Having experienced this before, any future disaster, such as the storm that affected him before, will be dealt with increased levels of maturity. The occurrence of a natural disaster will at this point be a phenomenon that he completely understands and sees as nothing he has control over. Additionally, his increased responsibilities of having a family will mean that he has to cultivate a feeling of being safe for his wife and kids.

The events of August 2005 were a major catastrophe to the residents of New Orleans and the whole county in general. However, several strategies can be implemented that would greatly reduce the effects of exposure to disasters. To begin with, uncertainty should be incorporated in resilience planning. Decision making should encompass uncertainty while planning for different scenarios. This would allow for more anticipatory measures to be in place rather than adaptation measures. Planning through this lens would allow for visualization of climate impacts and potential disasters years ahead.

Additionally, monitoring and evaluation of what should be done. The importance of this strategy cannot be understated, as it would allow implementers of actions weigh their options and adjust them accordingly when in cases where the action being taken is not reaching its full potential or it is veering from the set course. Conclusively, the relevant bodies should conduct vulnerability assessments so as to develop resilience plans. McCarthy et al. (2001) defined vulnerability as “the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change”. It is therefore very important to first understand the vulnerabilities that exist through thorough vulnerability assessment. This should be backed up by credible scientific information.

To this day, Hurricane Katrina remains one of the most devastating storms ever experienced in the United States. This had an adverse effect on our participant in this study, Patrick, as he was forced to live his hometown as well as a bear with the loss of one of his family member. This greatly affected his cognitive, psychological, social and psychosocial development. This study has examined in detail the expected changes in the two consecutive age groups as well as the effects that this had on his development.

Further studies should be made to analyze the effect of experiencing natural disasters on older adults. The studies should examine the causes and factors that would make a full grown adult adapt to a storm like the one experienced in New Orleans  before better than a person of a younger age in the same age group or a completely different one.

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Personal Growth of a Person Who Lost Everything During Hurricane Katrina. (2023, Feb 16). Retrieved from

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