Personality Influences And Development Of JFK Essays Example

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Family, Psychology, Development, Personality, Theory, Life, Politics, President

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/10/07

Born on May 29, 1917, John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) is known as one of the most-popular United States Presidents. His assassination on November 22, 1963 -- only two years into his term as the 35th President -- was received by worldwide shock, and continues to be examined posthumously. His charismatic personality, as well as his boyish good looks, were part of his popular appeal. Much of his psychological development, and his personality development can be interpreted through the lens of modern psychological theory -- primarily personality theory.
Much of JFK's personality development can be viewed as a product of his up-bringing. In order to understand JFK, it is important to understand his father, Joe Kennedy, and the prevailing family dynamics of the large Kennedy family. JFK was the second son of nine children. His elder brother, Joe Jr., was killed in action during World War II. John also served in World War II, where he showed exemplary courage, receiving the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism (John F. Kennedy, 2015, internet).
The Kennedys were a very influential family. JFK's father was a successful businessman who later served as U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain. After Joe Jr.'s unfortunate death, Joe Kennedy urged JFK to enter the world of politics, and become the nation's first Catholic President. Joe Kennedy was a dominant figure of the Kennedy clan. Another important factor in JFK's personality development -- since his highly-privileged boyhood -- was his schooling at elite educational institutions -- including private schools such as Canterbury and Choate on the East Coast. His easy-going personality and relaxed demeanor were the products of many years of expert grooming at the insistence of his father and the Matriarch of the Kennedy family, Rose. Of course, the Kennedys had a lot of money to splurge on supporting their children's aspirations -- especially JFK's entry into politics.
In addition to a life of privilege throughout boyhood -- and later manhood -- JFK and his family were very competitive with each other, as well as with others. They often played baseball and other outdoor sports with reckless abandon, and were very ambitious in terms of winning -- even against other family members. This learned behavior would later translate into JFK's competitive nature reflected in his volunteerism (World War II), and his later political ambition.
He defeated Richard Nixon handily in his bid for President in 1960. People were attracted to his seeming concern and passion for his country, as well as his composure during televised debates.
Along the way, personality development was central in making JFK the man that he was, and the symbol of American patriotism that he continues to represent. Erik Erikson's eight stages of personality development is a theory that explains JFK's success, and perhaps his early demise. As Erikson asserted, an individual's personality develops throughout their lifespan, as they overcome (or fail to overcome) a series of crises (McLeod, 2013, internet). JFK displayed traits such as hope (for a better nation), autonomy (despite his privileged birth), initiative (overcoming physical challenges such as Addison's Disease), industry (displayed by his work ethic), role confusion in his personal life, (a sense of isolation), and generativity (evidenced by his desire to move his country forward) (McLeod, 2013, internet). Erikson's final stage is wisdom which is attained roughly at the age of 65 -- an age Kennedy never reached. Although it appeared that JFK had a strong sense of identity, his personal life suggests otherwise. This stage, according to Erikson, is roughly developed between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. Unfortunately, one of JFK's legacies is his womanizing, and his adulterous affairs. This suggests that he did not have an appropriate sense of fidelity in his personal life. Also, his Catholicism (he was the first and only Catholic President) contributed to a sense of isolation vs. intimacy -- a probable cause of his infidelity. As Erikson asserts, the stage of love is the completion of this crisis -- a completion which is usually made as a young adult between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. As JFK married Jacqueline Bouvier during this period, it is easy to speculate why they had marital problems. However, JFK demonstrated a great deal of love -- represented by his sacrifice and patriotism -- for his country, qualities which endeared him to the American public. According to Erikson, the completion of the generativity vs. stagnation crisis -- reached between the ages of 40 to 65 -- are represented by his bold and innovative resolutions during his short time in office, such as space exploration and his signing of a nuclear test ban treaty.
Another personality theory is Kohlberg's theory of moral development. Kohlberg broke up his personality theory into three distinct levels: preconventional (from birth to nine), conventional (until adolescence), and post conventional. In JFK's public life, he exhibited a strong sense of succeeding at the preconventional level of personality development -- when a child learns how to be rewarded by obeying rules (Barger, 2000, internet). His father was very influential -- even forceful -- in JFK's moral development, instilling in him obedience from a young age onward. His respect for his parents and their wishes, however, continued throughout adulthood when Joe, Sr. gave his son little choice between entering politics and becoming a journalist. Thus, even at a later age, JFK interpreted his father's wishes as an overriding moral law. Evidently, according to Kohlberg, JFK (at least in his public life) reached the post conventional stage of moral development, as his morality was much higher-focused in his role as a peacemaker. Another one of Kennedy's goals was to avoid direct confrontation with Russia (John F. Kennedy, 2015, internet).
Of these two theories, Erikson's is more directly applicable to JFK's emotional development. Kohlberg's theory of moral development is ambiguous and unclear. Erikson's theory of personality development more fully addresses the different stages throughout JFK's lifetime, and explains much of JFK's personal and public life. Unfortunately, we will never know the wisdom that, according to Erikson, JFK would have attained after the age of 65, as his life was cut short by the bullets of a gunman.


Barger, Robert N., (2000). A summary of Lawrence Kohlberg's stages of moral development. Retrieved on 22 Dec 2015 from
John F. Kennedy., (2015). Retrieved on 22 Dec 2015 from presidents/john-f-kennedy
McLeod, Saul., (2013). Erik Erikson. Retrieved on 22 Dec 2015 from

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Personality Influences And Development Of JFK Essays Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Oct 07, 2020. Accessed June 30, 2022.

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