The Life of Ngoc Bich Nguyen

What are the human life stages?

(The life stages included in this booklet.)

Key Debates:

The key debates used in this booklet will be:

  • Nature Vs. Nurture:- This is the debate as to whether development and behaviour is inherited or learned (Galton 1883).
  • Continuous Vs. Discontinuous:- This is the debate as to whether development is continuous throughout life or whether it is discontinuous and happens in defined stages (Atchley 1971).
  • Static Vs. Dynamic:- This is the debate as to whether development fits into more rigid structure or is slow and incremental (Bergen 2007)
  • Stage Vs. Open Ended:- This is the debate as to whether development happens within unique stages building on previous development in an almost predetermined way or whether development happens in a more fluid and less defined way, with choices and stimuli being key to development rather than pre-set milestones (Sigelman and Rider 2014).
  • Nomothetic Vs. Ideographic:- This is the debate as to whether development happens due to a shared characteristics of people or due to a person's own unique characteristics (Windelband 1921)

These debates will be referred to throughout this booklet by name.

Pre-natal stage (conception-birth) 1946-1947

1946:- Just outside of Hanoi, a part of what was known then as French Indochina and would eventually become Northern Vietnam. Ngoc was conceived, her mother then refrained from any manual labour on their farm and was cared for by other female relatives as was the custom in French Indochina at the time. Ngoc's mother had a diet based around mainly rice and local vegetables and due to this did not have a wide range of nutrients during the pre-natal stage. This could have lead to a manner of health complications, however at the time in French Indochina culturally there would not have been an awareness of this concept. One major biological issue with a lack of nutrition could have been a diminished resistance to the negative effects of teratogens (University of Plymouth 2006). This could be seen as an interaction been the nature and the nurture debate. As Ngoc's mother could have chosen or been influence by society to start smoking. However the nature side could be that it was outside of Ngoc's control to be exposed to the smoking.

The Battle of Hanoi began on the 19th of December 1946. It was seen as the beginning of the 'First Indochina War'.

Viet Minh (Vietnamese anti-French and anti-Japanese soldiers) detonated explosives in Hanoi's power plant in response to French naval bombardments that killed a large number of civilians, plunging the city into darkness.

During the 60 day battle that ensued the French soldiers took up positions in the ground around the city of Hanoi to shell the city with artillery.

Ngoc's mother's pregnancy was conventional until around 8 months in when the Battle of Hanoi (1946) took place. (See the above event). The noise and the general unpleasantness of the battle could have had some adverse effects on both Ngoc's mother and herself. One biological influence from this could be an increased possibility that a baby can be born premature or with a low birth weight due to the mother experiencing stress during the pregnancy (March of Dimes 2017).

Ngoc was born on the 23rd of January 1947. She weighed around 5.7lbs which in a western society would be considered low birth weight. Culturally however this would be consider about an average weight for the region at the time. Ngoc Bich Nguyen's name was chosen as it means 'precious jade'. This name was symbolic to her mother as Ngoc's Grandmother was named 'Ngoc' meaning 'jade' and they wished to continue it as a family tradition.

Jade is used as a symbol of beauty and preciousness

Infancy stage (0-2 years) 1947-1949

Despite her lower birth weight Ngoc began to grow healthily and seemingly suffered from no adverse effects due to the turbulence during her pre-natal stage. She began to develop at a conventional rate and as the second child in the Nguyen family she followed her older sister by 2 years. Ngoc saw what her older sister was doing and attempted to mimic this, adhering to Bandura's hypothesis on children and observational learning (Bandura 1961). Due to Ngoc's level of cognitive development she was absorbing information and learning behaviour rapidly and began to reach conventional developmental milestones; such as, rolling over, crawling and beginning to develop the use of language. At this stage of development Ngoc was in what Piaget outlined as the Sensorimotor Stage (Piaget 1936). She also was adhering to the nurture side of the nature nurture debate. This is due to Ngoc learning behaviour from others such as her family.

During her infancy Ngoc developed in a typical way for a child in Vietnam. She developed a keen interest in nature and animals. She would often be seen playing with any of the farm animals that she could. During this phase of her life she was outside for the majority of the day while her mother and father were outside working. From a biological perspective, in doing this she began to further develop her gross motor skills. She also began to see the origins of her fine motor skills developing. These skills are the foundations of all the further skills that Ngoc would go on to develop in the later stages of her life. This would be supportive of the dynamic side of the static dynamic debate. It could further be argued that the development of these skills is an interaction between the static and dynamic debates as the skills could be considered to be a part of a rigid stage in Ngoc's life.

Early Childhood (2-6 years)1949-1953

In the 1950's French Indochina went through some political changes. The northern half of the country became known as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. This was due to the North being given arms and training from the Chinese and Soviet Union.

This meant that the former Guerrilla fighters were turned into conventional army units. This had a fairly large influence on the people of Northern Vietnam as there was now more large scale fighting between the French and the Viet Minh.

The areas around Hanoi became used by both sides as the Viet Minh launched attacks on the French Outposts and the French retaliated using artillery and mortars.

As she got older Ngoc continued to further become interested in the nature surrounding her on the farm. She became particularly fond of a cow that lived on the farm. She also began to assist in manual labour on the farm along side her mother and her sister as well as the rest of her family. At the age of six Ngoc would frequently discuss with her sister concepts outside of her own self. This interest in these concepts would align with another of Piaget’s stages of development, the concrete operational stage. (Piaget 1936). However in Piaget’s original theory this stage did not occur until the age of 7-11. The reason Ngoc developed the use of this train of thought could be due to the fact that her sister was developing it at the same time. This again could be seen as an interaction between the Nature vs. Nurture debate. It could be seen as Nature due to the fact that the sisters are related and would therefore have similar genetics with could explain the similarities in their behaviour. However it could also be argued that it is the environmental factor of Ngoc’s sister showing her the behaviours and Ngoc learning them through observation; again following Bandura’s theory (Bandura 1961) and supporting the Nurture side.

Some images of typical scenes in rural Vietnam

Ngoc continued to develop in a physically conventional way for a child in Northern Vietnam. She relied on a diet of mostly rice and insects and some local vegetables grown on the farm. This could have had a psychological effect on Ngoc as well as the physical effects discussed in the pre-natal stage. “Children who do not have access to proper nutrition are much more likely to suffer from psychological disorders, such as anxiety or learning disabilities.” (Children’s defence fund 2017). This can be seen to support the Nurture side of the debate as the person may develop a disorder due to their surroundings. It also may allude to being on the ideographic side of the Nomothetic Ideographic debate. This is due to the development of the disorder being specific to the person rather than it being of a more holistic prevalence within the community.

Middle Childhood (6-10 years) 1953-1957

During this stage of her life Ngoc began to excel in her schooling. The school system in Vietnam took on a more communist approach than the previous French system and was tailored towards the support of communism in particular in the Northern region of Vietnam. Ngoc began to use her enjoyment of nature and animals to her advantage and excelled in the fields of science and maths. This supports the argument of Open Ended development as it can be seen that this is the origin of an interest that would develop throughout Ngoc's life. This could equally be seen as supportive of a continuous approach to development as this interest in nature and animals would go on to become a continual source of motivation in Ngoc's future.

As Ngoc developed further she began to have more involvement with other children at her school. During this period she began to become influenced by social factors of her peers. Some of these include the effects of peer pressure. A specific example of this is when Ngoc was climbing a tree with a small group of her peers during a break at school. She was smaller than most of the people she used to associate with as they were all her sister's friends. They all had climbed the tree and were pressuring Ngoc to do the same. In the attempt that Ngoc made a climbing the tree she misplaced her foothold and fell six feet down breaking her wrist. It has been seen that in females peer pressure is perceived as stronger than in males (Brown 1982). Ngoc did however benefit from the slightly older friends she had developed as it meant that she matured quicker as she both consciously and subconsciously was mimicking her sister. This adheres to the Nurture side of the debate. This is due to the environmental impact that Ngoc's sister had on her development and her behaviour.

Adolescence (10-18 years) 1957-1965

In 1955 the Americans began their intervention into the spread of communism in Vietnam formally. This was first with the use of soldiers and police to train and supply weapons for the South Vietnam security forces.

By 1962 the number of American troops increased to 9,000. They began engaging in more supportive action to help the South Vietnam Army deal with the Viet Cong (Vietnamese Communist) soldiers.

By 1965 the Americans started engaging in combat with the Viet Cong and brought 82,000 combat soldiers to Vietnam with the promise of 175,000 more.

The US soldiers began to fight on the ground in the South but they maintained an air campaign of bombing runs on the North code named Operation Rolling Thunder.

Operation Rolling Thunder began in March 1965 and the US began with targeting specific places in North Vietnam with Hanoi and Haiphong being major targets throughout.

During this stage in her life Ngoc's intrigue in nature and animals became her main focus in life. She made the decision that she wished to become a scientist. She worked very hard at school but still had to work on the family farm in the evenings and weekends as was the custom in Vietnam. Ngoc continued to develop and grow normally until when in 1963 when she was 16 she met Chinh Dang a boy from her school whom had just moved to the area. She quickly became friends with him at school and they even began to see each other after school. Chinh would come to the land around the Nguyen's farm and spend time with Ngoc helping her with her jobs. They continued to spend a large amount of time together. This can be seen as developing Ngoc's social capital (Putnam 1995). Social capital can be seen to further a person's development in line with the Nurture argument, as it causes people to develop through stimuli from their environment. This can however be negative as social capital more so the amount can cause both positive effects and negative affects especially on a person's physical and mental health. (McPherson et al 2016).

Ngoc began to date Chinh in 1964. This went on until March 1965 when they were arranged to be married as per Vietnamese customs. Ngoc was 18 and Chinh was 19 and their families agreed the appropriate sharing of land and money as was customary. They began their lives on the farm of the Nguyen family. This can be seen to be adhering to the Nomothetic side. This is due to the common social and cultural themes of Vietnam being followed by all the people involved.

EARLY ADULTHOOD (18-40 YEARS) 1965-1987

Ngoc and Chinh lived happily on their family farm for 6 months until when in August 1965 a fleet American F-105 Thundercats went over head carpet bombing the countryside with incendiary bombs. Ngoc’s entire farm was destroyed. The livestock were killed and more over her mother, father and husband were killed in the air raid. It turned out the American’s thought they were bombing an area of land that the Viet Cong soldiers were training. The only people to survive were Ngoc, and her sister.

Ngoc and her sister were forced to look for somewhere else to live. After they travelled to the Demilitarised Zone they were offered a place in a refugee camp near Saigon in the South. This was a better alternative than living in the North. Ngoc lived in the camp for a year living off of the food that the camp offered. She decided that she wished to become a doctor. At the age of 19 Ngoc met Joe a soldier from America at the refugee camp. She was weary of him at first and he sister was completely against even talking to him. Ngoc began talking to this soldier every time he made a delivery to the camp. Eventually she learned he was from California and that he had been drafted to the army against his wishes. He told her that he felt the Americans had no place interfering with the goings-on in another country. Ngoc got a job as an assistant in the theatre at the medical department of the camp. She began to learn about the ins and outs of working in medicine. In 1966 Ngoc decided that she would travel to America to become a doctor. She knew that she would be unable to do this without a visa. She therefore started seeing the American soldier. This went on and eventually they were married and Ngoc and her sister moved to America. Ngoc got a place at UCLA to study medicine. This could be seen as supportive of ideographic development as she did this independently and this was not a collective community based decision.

After studying Ngoc returned to Vietnam and worked as a doctor in one of the military hospitals near Saigon. Having grown up around war Ngoc was used to having the symptoms of what would later become known to be PTSD. However there was not a focus on the effects of psychological illnesses in the 1960's/70's. She coped with the trauma of war but did suffer some adverse effects on her mental health. Ngoc worked in the hospital as a doctor for the remainder of the Vietnam War. In 1975 when Saigon fell to the Viet Cong, Ngoc was transported back to America. She lived in Los Angeles with her husband Joe she was 28. When Ngoc turned 30 she fell pregnant. Due to complications during her pregnancy due to stress from her mental health issues, she suffered a miscarriage. However despite a period of depression where she was unable to work, Ngoc and Joe went on to try again and at the age of 32 and 34 had two boys, Joseph and Stephen.

They went on to have a fairly conventional life living in the suburbs. Ngoc however battled mental health issues due to her turbulent life. One can see this as being a supportive factor of the Nurture side of the debate, as it is the environmental factors that caused Ngoc to suffer. From the age of 35-40 Ngoc developed a dependency on anti-depressant medication. She was able to maintain her social standing, working and raising two children but was suffering psychologically.

Middle adulthood (40-65 years) 1987-2012

During this stage Ngoc was developing less herself and starting to focus on the development of her children. This selflessness goes against theory that due to maternal depression a child's development will be hindered (Cummings 1994). This supports an ideographic argument for development, as Ngoc thinks as an individual by putting her children before herself. She began to teach her children customs from her heritage while maintaining some US customs at the same time. Her aim being to have her children be as well-rounded and knowledgeable as possible as this was what had benefitted her so much. Despite her initial reliance on prescription medication Ngoc was able with some therapy to work through her PTSD to a manageable level. During the process of raising her children; in particular when they were growing older, Ngoc began to look back reflectively on her own life. She was starting to show signs of behaviour usually accustomed to the late adulthood stage. This could support the Open-Ended side of the debate as Ngoc is displaying behaviour outside of any predetermined stages. It also supports a more Dynamic style of development as it is again not rigidly sticking to stages but more fluid.

Joseph and Stephen moved away from home in 1997 and 1999. They went to college to further their education. Joe was not supportive of this as he had not been given the chance to go to college due to his service in the army. Ngoc was however very supportive of this and assisted both of her sons any way should could. This can be seen to support the Nurture argument as both Joe and Ngoc were brought up in very different settings and have different experiences, leading them to have different mind-sets on certain topics.

Joe and Ngoc began to travel after their children left home. They used money saved up from Ngoc's years of working as doctor and they lived off of Joe's army pension. They travelled the world for the most part of the early 2000's. Ngoc wished to return to Vietnam to see her family. They enjoyed their trip around the world and after visiting variety of countries they both retired and settled down in a suburb in Pasadena CA. This is supportive of conventional theories of development as most people will usually retire and do that which they wished to do throughout their working life. (Business wire 2017)

Late adulthood (65 years-Death) 2012-present

In her retirement Ngoc began to disengage with her social surroundings more. This follows a typical disengagement theory explanation whereby due to her age it is argued that Ngoc should be able to disengage and it not be considered abnormal. This however runs a risk of there being adverse effects socially and psychologically. especially for a person whom has suffered mental health issues in the past. There can however be seen to be a benefits from this type of ageing as Ngoc may value the contact she has with others more and consider her interactions with people though limited more important. This kind of developmental growth fits into both a continuity approach and into a dynamic approach due to the behaviour change fitting into a predetermined stage, and due to it being the next progression from the previous stage.

Ngoc's life was one full of turmoil and adversity however she overcame this to the best of her ability and saw a range of positive and negative influential factors assist and hinder this.

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