Lifespan Development: Britney Spears
Many people believe that they know Britney Spears. Having grown up in front of a camera, first on Mickey Mouse Club, and then as a major worldwide pop star, her life was covered by the camera. Unfortunately, Spears might be more notable for her personal problems than for her major life success. She had a public marriage followed quickly by two children and a divorce. However, it was her post-divorce behavior that garnered a significant amount of attention. She engaged in some publicly erratic behavior, which was apparently even more dramatic behind the scenes. The breakdown led to speculation by people that Spears was suffering from a bio-chemical disorder, with most people speculating that she was bi-polar. It also led to her father becoming her legal guardian. All of these problems have led to intense public speculation about Spears, including her own adulthood and her impact on the development of others. This should come as no surprise. “In cultures without clearly defined rites of passage, defining oneself as an adult rests on one’s perception of whether personally relevant key criteria have been met. In U.S. society, this can be very complicated, for example, when success comes at a young age. Is Britney Spearsan adult?” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007, p.383).
Biologically, the answer to that question is clearly a yes. However, the real question was whether Spears displays that behavior that one generally associates with adults. At this point in time, the answer to that question appears to be a “yes.” Unlike many tragic Hollywood stories, Spears’ story seems to have a happy ending. She is currently in a stable romantic relationship. Her father is still her guardian, but she appears to be managing herself and her career with sufficient ability. She has relationships with both of her children, and an apparently good friendship with her ex-husband. Therefore, she appears to be functioning as a stable adult in her personal and business life.
Major Milestones/Turning Points
Because so much of Spears’ life was lived in public, one does not have to speculate about the major milestones in her life. Instead, one can examine the persona she chose to portray to the public, and, from that examination, observe what appear to be several milestones or turning points in her life. Of course, it is critical to keep in mind that these milestones are derived from what is known about her public persona. How the public persona and private persona interact is something that the public may not ever understand; to date, none of her current biographers have the type of reliable inside information that would suggest an unusual degree of personal insight.
One of the more significant milestones in Spears’ life occurred before she ever became part of the public consciousness. It was a dance recital with her cousin Laura Lynn Covington:
For their first dance recital, Britney and Laura Lynn did a routine together. Both wore frilly pink costumes, and they had their hair done the same way. Nervously waiting their turn to perform, they looked like two adorable peas in a pod, but when the music started, that abruptly changed. Laura Lynn giggled and repeated the dance moves she liked over and over. But Britney, a look of intense determination on her face, completed the routine exactly as she had learned it, even though she was out of time with the music (Heard, 2010).
In other words, at the first opportunity to be a perfectionist performer, Britney embraced that. Throughout her childhood she was known as being a performer, and competed in gymnastics and other athletic endeavors throughout her childhood. However, what is interesting is that, even though many people perceive Spears’ parents as the ultimate stage parents, they did try to push Britney towards endeavors that would fulfill her. Spears was considered for training by famed gymnastics coach Bella Karolyi, but Britney’s mother Lynne Spears saw Karolyi’s training as too intense and negative for her young child (Heard, 2010). Instead, they searched for other ways for Spears to perform. Spears began singing at a young age and performing in child talent contests and beauty competitions.
The website ListafterList.com made a list of the different steps in Britney’s life. Though the list was somewhat facetious, it did capture some of the many public twists and turns that Spears’ has experienced over the last decade in the public eye. They began with “Mickey Mouse Club Britney” — a young Britney’s introduction to the public via The Mickey Mouse Club (ListafterList.com, 2010). Next, they described “Sexy Schoolgirl Britney,” which marked Spears’ transition from child to woman, including sexy videos and provocative magazine covers (ListafterList.com, 2010). While the next step might naturally be included as part of the prior one, the website described it as “Incredibly Ripped & Oversexed Britney,” and it was hallmarked by Spears’ body confidence, impressive physique, and step out into the dating world outside of Justin Timberlake (ListafterList.com, 2010). At this point in time, Spears had many of the trappings of adult success, but was still trying to fit into an adolescent persona. “Only 17 when her debut album released, she worked hard to maintain her image as a wholesome teen. However sales from the album quickly made her a multimillionaire and a worldwide celebrity. Clearly, she had achieved financial independence” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007, p.383). However, was financial independence enough of a hallmark of adulthood to signal a true transition from child to adult? However, it is important to keep in mind that her transition from mouseketeer to pop star was not without interruption. Instead, she went back to Louisiana when the TV show was canceled. “Gradually Britney became a normal teenager. Her MMC memories faded, and she became interested in other things- including, eventually, boys. She progressed from grade 7 to grade 9, and sometime that year, perhaps due to her lingering celebrity status, she attracted the attention of Mason Stratham, a popular boy who was a year older than she and who had been unofficially dubbed ‘most handsome boy in school’” (Heard, 2010). Another high school boyfriend claimed that she lost her virginity to him at the age of 14 (Heard, 2010).
For many people, these two above steps signaled Spears’ transition into adulthood, but they did not signal the end of Spears’ very public changes. The website then describes “Rebellious Britney,” which they suggest was the beginning of Spears’ initial public downfall and was characterized by rebellious behavior like smoking cigarettes and dressing in an unflattering manner (ListafterList.com, 2010). The website goes on to describe “Pregnant Britney,” which featured Spears in her two back-to-back pregnancies (ListafterList.com, 2010). However, after her pregnancy, Spears appeared to begin engaging in some erratic behavior. The website derisively calls that “White Trash Britney,” and Spears was observed engaging in some distasteful behavior, like wearing trashy clothing, appearing barefoot in public several locations, and generally looking disheveled (ListafterList.com, 2010). Spears’ erratic behavior comes to a climax with “Dangerous Bald Britney,” where Spears’ shaves her head, goes to rehab, attempts suicide, and attacks a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella (ListafterList.com, 2010). During this phase, one sees Spears’ struggling to regain balance in both her personal and professional lives. She fails to appear for court dates regarding her children’s guardianship, and engages in very public partying. Spears is eventually hospitalized for a mental health evaluation (ListAfterList.com, 2010). What is interesting is that, although characterized as a sign of decreasing mental instability, Spears’ shaved head may not have been the warning sign of mental illness that the media characterized it to be. The hairdresser Spears approached to have her head shaved, Esther Tognozzi, reported that Spears’ stated reasons for wanting her head shaved was that she was tired of the look of long hair and that her extensions were uncomfortably tight (Heard, 2010). When one imagines having to live with the constant discomfort of pulled hair, the decision to shave her head no longer seems like an irrational, desperate cry for help.
While that website stops documenting Spears life at that time, there were, fortunately, more significant steps in Spears’ life. Her hospitalization seems to have led to some positive changes in her life. “While in the hospital, Spears became the subject of a power struggle between her parents, Jamie and Lynne, and her then-manager Sam Lufti. The couple believed that Lufti was a bad influence on their daughter and was trying to control her life. Her father went to court and obtained control over Britney’s personal, professional, and medical matters” (A&E Television, 2011). This appears to have been beneficial for Spears’ life. While her ex-husband remains the primary caregiver for their two children, Spears has significant contact with her boys. Her father retains control over Spears, but their relationship appears to be an amiable one. She is currently engaged to a man with whom she has been in a significant long-term relationship. Moreover, she is in the process of a career comeback. Her body, which served as the foundation for much of her career, and as a barometer for her prior life changes, is once again fit and healthy looking. Of course, Spears is still very young, and may face numerous future changes. However, at this time, she appears to have found some stability.
While Spears spent much of her early life in the public spotlight, it is actually difficult to assess her early cognitive development. This should come as no surprise when one looks at various theories of cognitive development. For example, Piaget discusses cognitive development, but all of his significant stages occur prior to the time that Spears became a public figure, and, therefore, prior to the time that biographers have reliable information about her development. However, Piaget’s conclusions “that cognitive development is the product of complex interactions between the maturation of the nervous system and that of language, and that this maturation depends on children’s social and physical interactions with the world around them” allow the observer to draw conclusions about Spears’ early life without having direct knowledge of that life (The Brain from Top to Bottom, Unk.).
The sensory motor period occurs from 0 to 24 months and is characterized by learning reflexive behaviors and how the infant interacts with the world (Child Development Institute, 2011). There is nothing to suggest that Spears did not complete that stage. The preoperational period occurs between 2 and 7 years of age, and is marked by increased verbalism and a transition from egocentric to social, as well as developments in logic and reality testing (Child Development Institute, 2011). Though much of Spears’ young adult behavior appeared both illogical and hallmarked by a breakdown in her reality testing, that behavior occurred after her displaying consistently logical behavior, and seems more likely related to a chemical imbalance, perhaps related to postpartum depression, than to a failure to complete earlier steps in cognitive development. In fact, it is important to realize that Piaget’s theory of development is really based on cognition rather than emotion. However, part of this stage involves learning social rules like reciprocity “or taking the other person’s point-of-view into consideration” (Borensen, 2008). Whether or not Spears was able to master this stage is a subject of some debate.
However, by the time the world was introduced to a young Spears, she was already apparently engaging in concrete operations. Her successful work on television provided evidence of “organized, logical thought” (Child Development Institute, 2011). Moreover, the clear calculations in her early career were characteristic of formal operations. She was able to predict outcomes from her behavior (Child Development Institute, 2011). There is no doubt that much of Spears’ early adult success was linked to her careful transition from child to woman in her public persona, and her carefully marketed sexuality was an important part of that image. “Britney Spears was consumed by children when she was still a child.Then the consuming changed. On April 15, 1999, Britney appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone for the first time. Her body became text, her eyes invited the gaze and her stomach made readers of all types look twice” (Smit, 2011, p.20). This was a critical time in Spears’ career, because it was at that time that she began to experience negative public reaction to her emerging sexuality and adult personality. For a pop star like Spears, it is important to realize that her changing personality not only reflected differences in her own personality, but also contributed to changes in her fan base as well. For example, young girls primarily identify with pop culture icons like Spears, so that parental concerns about the influence of pop stars on their children, while seemingly misplaced, may have some real merit (Goodman, Unk.). The increase in sexuality, while it may have been significant to Spears’ career and her personal development, almost certainly created some negative repercussion among her fanbase.
Of course, how much of that marketed sexuality was cognitive and how much represented actual physical changes in Spears is something that might never be understood by anyone other than Spears, herself. Spears certainly seemed intent on hiding some of her true intentions when she first began the transition, which was part of her public appeal. “The harder the consumer looked, the more sly she became, hiding a nipple, hiding behind the decency laws of television and the press. Her pregnant body, naked almost. A cultural hide and go seek. Then the infamous photo came, her in the backseat with Paris. When we saw her sex directly, it was over” (Smit, 2011, p.20).
Social Development Theory
In contrast to Piaget, whom placed great emphasis on cognitive development, Lev Vygotsky placed tremendous emphasis on social interaction being the key to development. There are three major themes in Vygotsky’s social development theory. The first is that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development and that social learning precedes development (Learning Theories, 2011, Social). The second is the idea of the more knowledgeable other (MKO), which refers to anyone with a better understanding or higher ability level than the learner (Learning Theories, 2011, Social). The third theme is that of the zone of proximal development (ZPD), which is the distance between a student’s ability to perform a task under peer or adult guidance and the peer’s ability to independently perform the task (Learning Theories, 2011, Social). Vygotsky focused on the connections between people and their sociocultural context (Learning Theories, 2011, Social). Humans use social tools, like speech and writing, to mediate their social environments (Learning Theories, 2011, Social). Children use these tools as social functions, but the internalization of these tools lead to higher thinking skills (Learning Theories, 2011, Social).
One of the critical components of Vygotsky’s theory is that play has a role in development. Looking specifically at Spears’ life, the role of play seems interesting. Her early imaginative play showed her engaged in various forms of competition. She repeatedly pretended to be a famous pop star, most notably Madonna. While many children might engage in a similar type of play, this play does seem to have been successful in assisting in the development of Spears as a pop star. She was renowned for being very professional and a perfectionist in her work life. Was this impacted by her early imaginative play as a pop star? This leads one to wonder how play impacts development. Vygotsky pondered whether play was the leading developmental activity for young children or simply the predominant form. Examining how other types of early-stage development may have helped contribute to Spears’ development. In fact, what is interesting is that Vygotsky posits that the history of attention in a child, which begins from the birth of the child, is the history of the organization of the child’s behavior (Vygotsky, 1979). Therefore, examining a child’s play helps explain the person’s development.
What is interesting is that creative activity does not always involve creating something tangible. While some of what Spears developed through creativity and play when she was a child was observable by outsiders. It is important to understand that creation includes inner world construction as well as the creation of tangible things (Vygotsky, 1990). Spears’ public revelations have frequently mentioned that, as a child, she envisioned herself as the type of mega-pop star that she eventually became. (A&E Television, 2011). Therefore, this imaginative behavior was very constructive. Moreover, it is important to realize that this creative visualization is not limited to Spears’ past. She imagines and constructs the tone of her concerts, bringing them to life for her fans. She has imagined and constructed a comeback, which has been successful. Therefore, the imaginative component of play has been something that she has been able to incorporate into her adult life.
It is difficult to discuss Spears’ physical development without focusing on her sexuality. Part of this is due to the fact that most of Spears’ other physical development was done prior to her entering the spotlight. She had certainly mastered motor control and coordination before emerging into the public spotlight. However, she emerged into the public as a young girl and then transitioned into a woman in the public spotlight. Not only did her body physically change, but Spears also attempted to highlight the differences between her young girl body and her emerging womanly body. “One way Britney tried to emphasize the change was through her dress, which became more revealing. One of her now famous routines during this period had her take off a more modest costume to reveal a more risque one” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007, p.383). In fact, some of her other behavior may have been linked to attempting to prove the differences between her adolescent and adult bodies. For example, “her two marriages, first to Jason Allen Alexander for 2 days, in 2004 and second to Kevin Federline, and her subsequent pregnancy may be indicators of her transition from adolescent pop stars to adult woman” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007, p.383).
Linked to her physical development is how Spears chose to portray her sexuality to the public. When she was a young, emerging pop star, even though she was using her sexuality aggressively to market her music, she maintained the position that she was a virgin. This seemed improbable given that she was living with then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake, but it was the public position that she adopted. Then, she reversed course and seemed to embrace the idea of sexuality. She engaged in significant public displays of affection with later romantic interests, which though they may not have amounted to a denial of her earlier proclamations of virginity, certainly did not support those claims. Of course, her most aggressive public display of sexuality had little to do with virginity and more to do with the idea of alternative sexuality. Spears engaged in a televised kiss with pop-icon Madonna. This kiss was the only confirmed instance of actual homosexual behavior, but it spurred “tabloid rumors for reputed dalliances with female porn stars and loyal personal assistant Shannon Funk” (James, 2007).
The other facet of Spears’ physical appearance that seems to play a critical role in her lifespan development is her physical fitness. After emerging as a sexual icon, Spears seemed to follow in the footsteps of her self-proclaimed idol, Madonna, and devote significant time to honing her body into a muscular and sexy machine. When she would deviate from this regime and put on a small amount of weight, she was lambasted by the media and the general public for being fat. Except when pregnant, Spears was never actually in the range one would consider fat, however, her insistence on continuing to dress in provocative clothing during that time, which seemed to belie any recognition that her body had changed, made her an excellent target for ridicule. Therefore, the physical condition of her body combined with her choices on how she presented her body became a barometer for her mental condition.
Of course, Piaget is not the only theorist to discuss life stages, and not all theorists are as committed to the cognitive or physical aspects of development. Erik Erikson did as well and focused on social-emotional development. Because, aside from issues of possible biological mental illness, there does not seem to be a real question that Spears successfully transitioned through the stages of cognitive and physical development, a social-emotional perspective is well-suited towards an investigation of her life. The way that Erikson described life stages seems well-suited to the discussion of a person like Spears, because Erikson’s life stages are not as firmly tied to cognitive development, but more akin to what one would consider psychological development. Erikson envisioned development in eight stages:
1. Infant (Hope) — Basic Trust vs. Mistrust
2. Toddler (Will) — Autonomy vs. Shame
3. Preschooler (Purpose) — Initiative vs. Guilt
4. School-Age Child (Competence) — Industry vs. Inferiority
5. Adolescent (Fidelity) — Identity vs. Identity Diffusion
6. Young Adult (Love) — Intimacy vs. Isolation
7. Middle-aged Adult (Care) — Generativity vs. Self-absorption
8. Older Adult (Wisdom) — Integrity vs. Despair (Learning Theories, 2011, Erickson).
Moreover, Erikson believed that individual differences in developmental stages help explain individual differences in the developmental trajectories of life history (Dunkel & Sefcek, 2009).
While all of these stages are present, because Spears’ biological age places her in the young adult age, this paper will not focus extensively on either the middle-aged adult or older adult stages.
According to Arlene Harder, “Our personality traits come in opposites. We think of ourselves as optimistic or pessimistic, independent or dependent, emotional or unemotional, adventurous or cautious, leader or follower, aggressive or passive. Many of these are inborn temperament traits, but other characteristics, such as feeling either competent or inferior, appear to be learned, based on the challenges and support we receive in growing up” (Harder, 2009). Therefore, examining Spears’ behavior as an adult can provide insight into how they progressed through earlier life stages. Moreover, an examination of Spears’ life demonstrates two of Erikson’s core concepts, which are that: “1) the world gets bigger as we go along and (2) failure is cumulative” (Harder, 2009).
It is important to realize that, although Erikson talked about life stages and associated specific ages with specific stages, “all of the stages in Erikson’s epigenetic theory are implicitly present at birth (at least in latent form), but unfold according to both an innate scheme and one’s up-brining in a family that expresses the values of a culture. Each stage builds on the preceding stages, and paves the way for subsequent stages” (Davis & Clifton, 1995). It is equally critical to realize that a negative outcome in a stage does not mean a permanent negative outcome, but will be likely to influence development in later stages. “Ideally, the crises in each stage should be resolved by the ego in that stage, in order for development to proceed correctly. The outcome of one stage is not permanent, but can be altered by later experiences. Everyone has a mixture of the traits attained at each stage, but personality development is considered successful if the individual has more of the ‘good’ traits than the ‘bad’ traits” (Davis & Clifton, 1995).
Erikson believes that the first stage is infancy, and it occurs from birth to 18 months. It is during this phase that babies learn trust or mistrust. “If we pass successfully through this period of life, we will learn to trust that life is basically okay and have basic confidence in the future. If we fail to experience trust and are constantly frustrated because our needs are not met, we may end up with a deep-seated feeling of worthlessness and a mistrust of the world in general” (Harder, 2009).
Erikson’s next stage is early childhood, which occurs between 18 months to 3 years. It is during this phase that a child learns autonomy vs. shame. The child’s most significant relationships during this time are with parents. It is a period of significant self-mastery, and a child gains self-esteem and autonomy while exercising more control over one’s body and one’s external environment. However, “it is also during this stage, however, that we can be very vulnerable. If we’re shamed in the process of toilet training or in learning other important skills, we may feel great shame and doubt of our capabilities and suffer low self-esteem as a result” (Harder, 2009). It is interesting that I was at this early age that Spears was first introduced to the public spotlight via competitions and pageants. Unlike many children she did not learn about autonomy and shame in the relative isolation of her family environment, but in front of many strangers.
Erikson’s third stage is the play age, which occurs between 3 to 5 years of age. It is then that the child struggles between initiative and guilt. First, the play age is marked by imaginative play, in which a child engages in role play of an adult life. While Erikson does not focus on sexuality in the same manner as Freud, he does mention the Oedipal struggle in which a child competes with the same-sex parent for the attention of the opposite-sex parent. Moreover, Erikson suggests that, “if we’re frustrated over natural desires and goals, we may easily experience guilt” (Harder, 2009).
Erikson’s fourth stage is the school age, in which a child learns industry or inferiority, and it occurs between 6 to 12 years of age. For most children, the most significant interactions during this time period are going to occur in school, with peers. However, Spears was a child celebrity, albeit a minor one. Her early peers included several people who went on to become significant artists, including Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. Therefore, it is no surprise that Spears, who was, at least temporarily, the most successful pop star of her age, appears to have learned industry during that time period. It is during this time period, which many people refer to as latency, that a person is “capable of learning, creating and accomplishing numerous new skills and knowledge, thus developing a sense of industry” (Harder, 2009). However, it is important to keep in mind that latency can also provide an open doorway for some negative things in life. Consider that one of Spears’ peers during Latency was Christina Aguilera, a fellow pop star who may not have achieved quite the same commercial success as Spears did initially, but who was widely considered to be a better artist. Would exposure to Aguilera during this stage have been a negative for Spears? One must consider that it could have been, since latency “is also a very social stage of development and if we experience unresolved feelings of inadequacy and inferiority among our peers, we can have serious problems in terms of competence and self-esteem” (Harder, 2009).
Erikson’s next stage is adolescence, and it is a significant shift from the earlier developmental stages. First, it signals the choice between identity and role confusion. This is significant when discussing Spears, because she had some real public struggles with establishing her identity outside of the roles that she was supposed to play. “Up to this stage, according to Erikson, development mostly depends upon what is done to us. From here on out, development depends primarily upon what we do. And while adolescence is a stage at which we are neither a child nor an adult, life is definitely getting more complex as we attempt to find our own identity, struggle with social interactions, and grapple with moral issue. Our task is to discover who we are as individuals separate from our family of origin and as members of a wider society. Unfortunately for those around us, in this process many of us go into a period of withdrawing from responsibilities” (Harder, 2009). It certainly appears that Spears was delayed in her cognitive and emotional adolescence, though not in her physical development. Her parents carefully managed her career, profiting off of their child while she should have been taking steps to establish her independence. Maintaining a good-girl image, even while marketing her body, was something that was critical to Spears. Therefore, when she began exhibiting behavior that one would normally associate with adolescence, but in her early adulthood, it could be seen as a form of delayed adolescence. After all, she began dating questionable people, began being assertive about her sexuality, and began experimenting with various substances (drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes) in experimentation after what one would normally consider an experimental time frame).
Erikson’s sixth stage is young adulthood, which occurs between 18 to 35, and is marked by the choice between intimacy and solidarity vs. isolation. “In the initial stage of being an adult we seek one or more companions and love. As we try to find mutually satisfying relationships, primarily through marriage and friends, we generally also begin to start a family, though this age has been pushed back for many couples who today don’t start their families until their late thirties. If negotiating this stage is successful, we can experience intimacy on a deep level” (Harder, 2009). Britney’s disastrous early romantic relationships make it clear that she struggled with establishing intimacy and solidarity vs. isolation. First, she married a childhood friend in what appears to have been a whimsical scenario, and the marriage literally lasted a matter of days. Then she married one of her backup dancers, whom many people believed was not an appropriate match for Spears. However, it would reflect a misunderstanding of Erikson’s stages to suggest that these romantic failures indicated a failure to complete these stages. Instead, “Her heavily publicized relationships indicated that she was beginning to deal with Erikson’s stage of intimacy vs. isolation. During this period, a key issue was a need to change her image from teen idol to adult female pop star” (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2007, p.383). The stages are supposed to be hallmarked by struggle, and Spears certainly engaged in specific public struggles.
One interesting aspect about Erikson’s social development stages is that successful resolution of the conflicts in those stages is thought to have a significant impact on the life of the adult. As early as 1975, researchers were beginning to really explore this link. One of the things discovered was that stage resolution attitudes had an impact on vocational choice and vocational maturity. In fact, generally, subjects who had more successful attitudes towards their vocations/careers had also been more successful at resolving earlier stage crises. Spears does not seem to fill this trend. Her professional life has been astoundingly successful. At one point in time she was considered the most successful pop star of her generation, and her financial earnings surpass those of most of her peers. Moreover, she has displayed a keen head for business, showing business acumen even in times when she appeared to be demonstrating distress in other areas of her life, which seems to suggest that even non-optimal resolution of earlier stage crises can result in someone with a successful professional life.
Impact of Diversity on Her Life
Chuck Klosterman observed that, “Britney Spears is the most famous person I’ve ever interviewed. She was also the weirdest. I assume this is not a coincidence” (Klosterman, 2007). This observation is interesting because, in many ways, Spears is very average. She came from a middle-class American family, which many people forget because of the media portrayal of Spears as somehow white trash or redneck. That image may fit people’s stereotypical ideals of the American South, but have little to do with Spears actual childhood. In fact, Spears’ southernness plays a large role in her image. Like Spears, “The South is a zone of contrasts and conflicts, and it always has been. The solid Christian values and genteel traditions exist- and indeed still characterize the region- but they coexist with the notorious tensions between white and black, rich and poor” (Heard, 2010).
What is interesting is that, though Spears came from family with whom many Americans could identify, her drive to incorporate diversity in her life, which may actually have reflected her mother’s ideals, was part of the driving factor for her success. Lynne interfered with a serious young romance, fearing that Britney would repeat her history, which was to marry and have children young. It was at that time that Lynne worked “to put Britney’s career back on track” (Heard, 2010).
Britney’s most diverse experience might actually be her most mundane. In the midst of all of her problems, the reality is that she was suffering from a significant substance and mental health issues. These were exacerbated by her access to money and privilege, which isolated her from many of the consequences that “normal” people would have experienced if they had these problems. After a visit with her children, Spears was said to be holding her children hostage. The standoff resulted in Federline’s lawyer, Mark Kaplan, getting Spears to open the door. “She asked for her ‘vitamins,’ the word she used for the prescription drugs she was taking. She was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. After opening the door, she’d huddled in the corner wearing nothing but panties” then refused a police officer’s offer of clothing (Heard, 2010). She was held for a 72-hour psychiatric hold so that her psychological state could be evaluated. Though she was released from the hospital, her father quickly became her conservator, and the family got a restraining order against Sam Lufti, whom they believed had manipulated their daughter. Spears was hospitalized once-again, and this marked the beginning of her transition from troubled young woman who may have been experiencing a chemical imbalance (some suggested bipolar disorder, while others suggested post-partum depression) to a stable young adult (Heard, 2010).
While Spears has lived a huge amount of life in her less than three decades on this earth, there is still the feeling that she is a child. “Still a Disney Mousketeer. This is the image of Britney Spears that persists, despite her attempts to break free of it. And it is probably the closest to the real Britney in many ways. But ever since she left the confines of the Magic Kingdom, she has attempted to sculpt a far different image for herself, edgier, sexier, more like her idol Madonna” (Heard, 2010). However, while she has tried to craft an adult image, the reality is that Spears is under strict parental control. “In a way, she has no more rights and freedoms now than she had when she was a child doing The All New Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and she had a chaperone and a tutor and all of her earnings went into a trust” (Heard, 2010). The problem is that it is impossible to distinguish why Spears remains so vulnerable; is that due to her failing to have adequately progress through earlier life stages, or because the people in her life, who have undoubtedly used her for profit, need her to remain dependent in order to continue living off of her earnings?
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