In the realm of child psychology, development tends to go a certain way. The child experiences the world in a series of patterns, learning, and experiences that bring the child up in the world to be an adult. This allows for normal brain development - most children go through this in the quote unquote normal patterns (barring severe mental illness or developmental disorder).
People such as Piaget, Erikson, and other child psychologists have come up with theories to explain how the child learns and reasons their way through the years - sometimes literally measuring out their situation as they ”play” by themselves.
What happens, then, when you add the apocalypse into the mix?
Carl Grimes of The Walking Dead fame (borne of the comic book, and now made famous in Chandler Riggs’ portrayal of the character in the AMC television show) may be in conflict with Erikson’s theories of cognitive development, and might be running afoul of Kohlberg’s moral development theory stages.
Erikson designed developmental theory along the cognitive spectrum, also involving social groups (which neither Freud nor Piaget really touched upon) as a means of developing cognition and belonging withing the world around them. His theory is embraced by Social Workers (hooray!).
Carl Grimes seems in direct conflict with either of the two Erikson stages in which he could be standing in at this point (depending on whether he is 11 or 12 years of age). I will concentrate on the Industry vs Inferiority stage of development (see the stages here): existing between 6 and 11 years of age, where a child is typically in school. This stage of development usually has to do with a child’s sense of belonging, and their sense of doing what contributory in a social setting.
His sense of Industry is strong vis a vis The Group; however, in terms of his family, namely his father, his sense of Inferiority bears some weight. Whereas an Erikson Psychologist might argue that Carl’s continued success in terms of the group and continued growth would lead to his sense of Industry - Rick’s lack of attention to his son (due to Rick’s mental state) could have a lasting impression.
Which brings me to Kohlberg. Kohlberg was a developmental theorist concentrating on morality. He theorized 6 stages initially, eventually breaking it down to 5 practical stages in which human beings can exist. Children usually will go through these stages, as they age, sometimes stopping along the way.
Do we even want to discuss morality during an apocalypse where people such as The Governor seem to run the show?
Carl Grimes, at a re-glance seems to be doing relatively well. Existing while running along side of Stage Three of Kohlberg’s Moral Development (see the stages here.): Good Interpersonal Relationships - Carl wishes to be seen as a relatively good kid. He wishing to be seen as an asset to the group, and someone who has something to give. In other words, he means well.
The majority of the remaining members of the show, however, seem to exist along Stage Two of Kohlberg’s Moral Development line: Individualism & Exchange - the sort of “You Scratch My Back; I’ll Scratch Yours” mentality. The give and take exchange. Take that as you will.
In all, regardless of the show’s attempt to highlight Lori and Rick’s lack of parenting skills, Carl Grimes has shown himself to be a rather industrious and well rounded young man. How this affects him as he becomes older, remains to be seen. As an ensemble cast show, as The Walking Dead is, we may never get to see into the mind of an “adult Carl” as it were. And hell, I missed yesterday’s episode, so the kid may well not be in the show anymore.
What remains to be seen, if Carl is still in the show, is how he continues to react to the stimuli brought forth to him as the world continues to march on its literal death march. Continue on, Carl Grimes. Continue on.
DISCLAIMER: This is all said tongue in cheek of course, as I am not diagnosing someone in a television show, just waxing philosophic on child developmental stages in terms of a convenient apocalyptic example in Carl Grimes. This is not meant to be taken as any sort of truth in text, or any sort of hardline ‘gospel’ as it were. Whereas I am a mental health professional, I am discussing a fictitious character in a hypothetical situation.
None of this is should be taken as true. Just theory.
However, if you found it entertaining or a good read, and I hope you did. Thanks! I hope you have a lovely day.