Final Paper

Andris Delins

 Analyzing Kids and Personal Voice


Authoring Your Life by Marcia B. Baxter Magolda is, as the title implies, about “authoring your life” by way of developing your personal inner voice. The main part of the text is made up of a very detailed recounting of interviews with six different people over 20 years as they attempt to develop their personal voices. Each one of these provides a crucial insight on how people of various backgrounds deal with cultivating their voices through the different challenges life throws at them. What interested me was how these different approaches to authoring their lives affected their parenting styles, and in turn, their kids. It seems like a given that these people, with different life experiences and different methods of taking charge of their lives would also have different parenting styles which would in turn affect their children in different ways. However, closer examination of the subjects in the book who had kids reveals that perhaps the book is a bit too focused on a single topic to provide enough diversity for a thorough analysis of how self-voice affects parenting style and how that affects the kids.

Mark was one of the main characters that had to go through raising a kid during the interview process. Just like everybody else in the stories presented, Mark had to go through many challenges in his life, but his preferred intra-vocal development technique was distance. In his attempts to grow his inner voice he found that the most effective way was to control how he reacted to things in life, rather than his emotions being based on the events that transpired around him. He read texts about Taoism and psychology, eventually getting to the point where he could look at events objectively and try to think about them optimistically and intuitively. He took a similar approach to parenting. Immediately into fatherhood his internal foundation was tested when his son was born with a critical medical condition. Throughout the proceeding hospital trips and surgeries, Mark remained cool and collected, stating “It’s completely out of my hands at that point…I just couldn’t see how I could do anything productively by getting incredibly emotionally worked up” (Magolda 88). Even later into parenthood he kept his distance, where, as Magolda describes “Mark was always present and intervened when he thought it was necessary, but he wanted his son to learn to deal with things on his own” (96). Even though Mark provided his son Nate with unconditional love and support when he thought he needed it, this style of parenting is very reminiscent of what some call the Laissez Faire style. This is where the parents are more hands-off from the kids and let them do what they want, trusting that they’ll make the right decisions, or if not, that they’ll learn from their wrong decisions. This can also be called the permissive style of parenting. However, Mark’s alleged availability for support and love also indicates a mix of authoritative parenting, where the parent is more involved and sets down rules, but is focused on the child’s growth and well-being, rather than punishment and strict obedience. What does this mean for the kid? We can never be truly sure of how Mark and his wife actually go about parenting, or how the kid will handle it, but according to studies, a mix of authoritative and permissive parenting will create a kid that should be “happy, capable, and successful,” while the permissive side could lead to some trouble with authority (Cherry). This means that, depending on how Mark and his wife actually execute their parenting, Nate and their next child could be successful and end up learning the life skills and self-authorship that their parents want them to learn. However, with a bit too much permissive parenting, the kids could end up believing too strongly that their internal voices are always correct and run into trouble with authority that are trying to lead them in some way.

Lydia was another person who had to deal with kids growing up, however her circumstances were different in that for a lot of the time she had to raise her kids by herself due to her husband being on active duty tours. For most of her life Lydia had been rather shy and not very confident, but due to these tours and following her husband around the world, Lydia had lived a very fickle lifestyle, which forced her to develop a strong personal voice to help cope with the changes. Over the years her voice became stronger.  Lydia put her full faith in her voice.  She became comfortable with making her own decisions when nobody else was around to give advice. This approach proved to be extremely beneficial when it came time for kids. Both of Lydia’s kids were born while her husband was actively participating in the Navy, meaning that Lydia bore the sole weight of parenting for extended periods of time. Where others may have gotten excessively worried and stressed being in such a situation, Lydia’s strong internal foundation from years of change enabled her to be calm and make decisions she knew to be right, such as quitting her job to parent her first child full time, or constantly asking doctors for a re-diagnosis when her second child was chronically ill. Her certainty of herself, yet caring for her children looks like a mix of authoritarian and authoritative parenting. Authoritarian parenting is the type where a parent tells a child definitive rules and enforces them strictly, with little or no discussion about why those rules are in place with the child. Authoritative, as mentioned before , deals with the growth and well-being of the child, so what we end up getting is a mix of strict, organized parenting, where the parent firmly believes in the rules they make and how they parent, while still being caring and trying to get the best for their child. Once again there could be many ways that parents could execute this type of parenting, and many ways the kids could respond to it, but typically we would see a kid who is subdued under the leadership of his or her parents. This child would follow directions very well, but depending on how strict the parents really were, he or she might grow up with a lack of personal voice and a large reliance on the parents for decision making. Factoring in that Lydia’s kids are growing up in a Navy environment with a very organized and personally driven mom, these characteristics could be exacerbated, potentially making the child more submissive to authority figures and therefore less happy and less personally driven later in life.

These are just two examples from the many stories in Magolda’s Authoring Your Life. On the surface they are different, but they hold many similarities, as is the case with the rest of the stories as well. In this text we are given only a handful of the total number of interviews conducted, and since they’re there for the purpose of showing us how to author our lives, they hold on to a narrow theme and largely follow a similar thought pattern. For example, Dawn and Kurt have very similar opinions as Mark on how to handle life’s challenges; they all try to control their reactions to life rather than letting life control their emotions. Alice, from a small section in the back of the book, has a parenting style similar to Mark’s where she keeps her hands off and for the most part lets her children guide themselves, trusting that they will learn through living their lives. Evan, meanwhile, although in a vastly different situation, is a similarly authoritarian-authoritative parent like Lydia, heavily involved and somewhat strict, while still participating in dialogue with his child. We can certainly analyze the parenting styles and we can get a basic idea of what the kids may be like in the future, as I’ve done with Mark and Lydia, but we have to remember that the nature of the book prevents us from doing so with accuracy and certainty. The kids of the subjects are not the subjects of the book, so we have very limited knowledge about them. And without this definitive evidence we can’t really come to any conclusions about how a parent’s self-voice affects the kids. We can certainly assume the effects. But an assumption is essentially just a guess based on some vague evidence. So while we may have been able to assume some things about the children of the subjects based on how the subjects cultivated their personal voices, all we’re really doing is guessing about the kids based on how Magolda portrayed their parents in a book she sold to us with the goal of showing the development of personal voices.

Works Cited

Cherry, Kendra. “Parenting Styles.” Psychology. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2013.

Magolda, Marcia B. Baxter. Authoring Your Life: Developing an Internal Voice to Navigate Life’s Challenges. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., 2009. Print.

Final Essay Topic

As a conclusion to our Comp 250 class we had to write a paper concluding our research. I wanted to make a quick note that I changed my topic for the paper from what I had previously stated in the blog to examining how a subject’s method of cultivating personal voice affects their parenting technique and how that in turn might affect their kids, while at the same time arguing that this is all based on assumption and that we’re not given enough information to ever really know how the kids will turn out in real life. The resulting paper will be put up in the next post.

Reading Plan

Another thing we had to do for class was develop a plan to read a story from Baxter Magolda’s Authoring Your Life at several different times and places. The idea was that due to our different surroundings and how we felt that day at that time, we would read the text differently each time, with different interpretations and things that we noticed. I decided to read Mark’s story since I hadn’t read it yet. Since I’m a little behind on blogging, one of these times has already happened, but here was my reading schedule:

1) Saturday, 12/7, reading in my dorm at around noon

2)Monday, 12/9, reading in my hall’s lounge somewhere between 10-12pm

3)Tuesday, 12/10, reading in the library in the morning around 10am

In Class Writing

In our Comp 250 class on 12/05/13, we talked about reader response theory as presented by C.S. Peirce and John Dewey. They had stated that what you bring to a reading changes its meaning and that you have to “lay things down in order to pick new things up”, or in other words, let go to receive. After this discussion we were asked to write a little about what we have to let go of and what we bring to a text. Here is what I wrote:

What you have to let go of to get something from the stories:

To get something from these stories I believe you have to let go of prior prejudices and quick judgements. You have to let go of personal emotions and come in with an open mind. This will make it easier to read and analyze and understand what the writer is trying to say through the words they’ve put on the page, the emotions, feeling, and key ideas that they are conveying.

What am I bringing to this text that’s changing it’s meaning;

Prior life experiences, emotions, the course your day took are all factors that can change the meaning of the text. Basically anything that influences your mood or thinking or any personal philosophies  can affect how you perceive what is written and how you connect with it. In the end reading is a very personal thing, usually it isn’t done out loud and immediately discussed, but rather it is all in your head, so any condition that makes you unique makes how you read a lot different and unique.”

A somewhat irrelevant question

I’ve been reading through the book more thoroughly now in search of some insight to my research topic, but my mind has been wandering. One of the questions that has popped up recently is about how much this study has affected the extent to which the subjects try to cultivate their personal voice. I know that before reading this text I had no intention to set out clear goals in my life and try to lead myself there consciously; that was not a thought that had entered my mind even once. But here we have a group of people who all describe their lives in terms of how they cultivate their personal voice. So I’m wondering, did they start doing this because of the research being conducted on them? Were subjects for the research specifically chosen based on if they were actively trying to author their own lives? Or are we only getting a small sampling of the original subjects who just so happened to all be trying to consciously lead their lives based on their personal philosophy. Perhaps the answer is in some corner of the book that I haven’t explored yet, but either way, it’s something interesting to think about in relation to the bias and overall mission that Baxter Magolda had when writing this text.

The Initial Foray Into Children’s Autonomy

I’ve started to delve a little deeper into Baxter-Magolda’s Authoring Your Life in search of some information of what the subjects think of either their childhoods or about raising kids. And while I’ve not found any conclusive information about the relationship between childhood autonomy and personal voice later in life quite yet, I have noticed that for those who talk about their kids, raising a child is a major part of developing their own personal voice. Both in Barb’s story on page 28 and Lydia’s story, there is a struggle in the balance between parenthood and outside life, creating a big stress on personal voice. While I’m not exactly certain what that means quite yet or if it even relates to my research topic, I thought it was something interesting and worth noting. Meanwhile, I’ll keep reading and analyzing!

Idea Brainstorm Number 2

My second idea for a topic stems from both the previously mentioned interviews and from the book itself; I’m wondering about the difference between the people who aim to take control of their lives and actually do it versus the people who simply want to do it and never do.

Baxter-Magolda studied approximately 30 people but only included six in her book. Obviously there are space limitations and some of the people’s stories are better for a book about self authorship, but that doesn’t eliminate the fact that some people in the study probably didn’t get anywhere. It’s a fact that there are dreamers and there are doers and I’m wondering about what the difference between the two is, specifically when it comes to something as critical as managing your own life.

This idea is also a little bit “out there” and I probably won’t be able to find an answer from simply reading the text, but there it is. It is just an idea after all.

Idea Brainstorm Number 1

This initial idea was sparked by the interview videos of Marcia Baxter-Magolda that our Comp 250 professor Dr. William Mangrum provided to the class (links provided on the side). Baxter-Magolda was following approximately thirty students over a long period of time, studying their continuous struggle to take charge of their own lives. The interview was about this same study. As the interview drew to a close, the interviewer asked a final parting question; whether or not Baxter-Magolda had noticed anything about the generation of students she was studying that stuck out to her when compared to students from approximately two decades ago.

Now, not having studied students in such a fashion previous to this generation, Baxter-Magolda couldn’t pinpoint  specific differences. She did say, however, that several of the students she had studied now were worried about the level of autonomy that they’re able to give their own kids. That is to say that they’re not able to give them much autonomy.

What Baxter-Magolda hypothesized about, and what I’m thinking about researching is the connection between the amount of autonomy that a child is given at a young age and how much they struggle to find self-direction as young adults. Do people with little autonomy as children end up growing into mere robots, dependent on others to guide their lives?

My worries with this topic are several. First I’m wondering if this is too much of a yes/no question. Is this deep enough for the type of research that we’re supposed to be doing on the topic? I guess that brings me to the fact that I would still like to know more about exactly what the outcome of this whole project is supposed to be. I’m also wondering if there would even be any data that examines the correlation or if this is something I would have to do a study on myself. Also, is this too far disconnected from the actual text of the book?

Any input is certainly welcome! As it is just a preliminary idea it is in rather rough shape, but I would love to know if any of you all out there think it’s something worth pursuing!