Academic journal article Education

Comparing the Personal Development of College Students, High School Students, with Prison Inmates

Academic journal article Education

Comparing the Personal Development of College Students, High School Students, with Prison Inmates

Article excerpt

Personal development, a process that spawns maturity, is paramount in sustaining and improving the functions of societies of any form. Maturity, as we have known it, is that state, or time of life at which a person is considered fully developed socially, intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Maturity level often guides an individual's behavior, needs, and motivational level. Full maturity or full personal development, if it can be defined, is the ultimate goal of human development according to Maslow's (1954) notion of self-actualization. Through education at home, at school, and at work the collective efforts have been to ensure that citizens value the "musts" and understand the "must-nots" in society so that each one learns to live and grow together in peace and harmony in such a way that every one stands to benefit from each other's full participation in upholding the values deemed important for the betterment of human living. Hence significant emphasis is placed on school, on living in a socially acceptable fashion, and on being law-abiding citizens. The education and the legal system play significant roles in teaching and enforcing society's rules and garnering the cooperation and support of the people. The interweaving of living and education brings about personal development and thus maturity.

Although there are many definitions for maturity, it is presumed that people are increasingly more mature as they grow older. To put it more succinctly, Saul (1947) defines maturity as mankind's struggle to grow up. However, age alone does not necessarily entail maturity. Rather, the achievement of age-appropriate individuation is considered a prerequisite for the assumption of adult roles and responsibilities (Hill & Holmbeck, 1986). In addition to growing up and attaining autonomy, a vital component of maturity is the ability to exhibit socially responsible behavior that is directed toward ensuring the survival and well being of society (Gouinlock, 1994; Bomar & Sabatelli, 1996).

Often, definitions of maturity are too broad and therefore difficult to use meaningfully in research. In layman terms, the word "mature" simply means fully developed, although there is no such finality when discussing human growth and understanding. To pinpoint a destination for human development is implausible since environmental and biological stimulation, which are present throughout every instant of a human's life, cause the body and mind to alter constantly. To study personal development or maturity we need to devise a way to measure it.

Maturity can be broken down into categorical distinctions such as physical, cognitive, and psychosocial maturity. Although these categories represent distinct elements of maturity, they are still too broad to be used in meaningful experimentation. A more practical and useful definition will likely come from a narrower scope; for example, the characteristics of psychosocial maturity, which include personal maturity, emotions, social awareness, and social integration. Maturity, as defined by the Personal Development Test (formerly known as the Democratic Maturity Test), can be viewed as a type of psychosocial maturity score because the test rates the presence of a combination of the distinct characteristics relevant to psychosocial maturity. This narrower scope of maturity actually broadens the test's application as the results are useful for exploring many areas of psychology.

The Personal Development Test

The kind of maturity explicated in the Personal Development Test (PDT) is based on John Dewey's notion of "the interdependence of independent individuals" (Cassel and Chow, 2000). There are two parts of Dewey's concept that are useful when defining maturity, or personal development. The first is "independence", which can also be described as "personal maturity", meaning a person's ability to be self-directed, self-controlled in his/her thinking and actions, and to be free of emotional dependency. …

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