In this case study we will examine cognitive and socioemotional development of Jayla, a 22-year old newly graduate student. In addition, we will analyze the progress of her development and modification of her religious views and perceptions from the perspective of Perry’s theory of Forms of Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years.

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Jayla had strong religious views that helped her to define her values, behavior, and life position. After entering college, she naturally faced the first stage of Perry’s scheme, which is called Dualism. At this stage, Jayla perceived knowledge and facts as a permanent universal truth. The student considered that the knowledge about her religion is possessed by somebody (the teacher or priest) and they are just revealing this knowledge to her, so all she is left to do is memorize it. She also perceived her religion and worldview as a right answer and way of living life and all other opinions and religions to be false. However, whenever a teacher asked to derive her own conclusions out of a parable or a religious text, Jayla thought that the right answers and conclusions already exist, and she just had to think and suggest what it could be and was confused about what the teacher wanted to hear from her. Once she was facing more and more religious dilemmas and multiple opinions, she realized that there is no 100% of answers known by the teacher to all of the questions and at least some areas were not explored by the theologians, philosophers, and scientists. This was the time when Jayla entered the second stage named Multiplicity.

At this stage Jayla realized that there is no such a thing as right answers written somewhere but there are a lot of opinions and each person including the teacher has their own. During early multiplicity stage, Jayla discovered that there are many perspectives and most of them are legitimate. At this time, she accepted that here are many religions and people have the right to belong to the religion other than hers. Late multiplicity stage signified that the lady concluded that there are stronger and weaker statements, and she will have to do some research in order to find out the strongest option (solution) without guidance. By discovering that there is a whole variety of opinions and alternative ways of thinking, the young lady moved on to the next stage.

During the stage of Relativism, the student learns to evaluate different opinions, distinguish between poor and strong formulations, and understand the holistic meaning of knowledge and learning. Describes the core idea of this stage by the following statement: ‘Thinking people are often troubled by answers to questions they ask. Like psychoanalysis, education helps to make you more rational, not necessarily happier, helps you to struggle better, if not always to succeed.’ (Kloss, 1994, p. 157). At this point the problems and statements become more complex and require careful investigation. Jayla eventually came to the conclusion that knowledge itself is contingent and any assumption made by any personality is derived from his own perspectives and subjective views. Thus, there is a chance to assess all the opinions based on evidence. At sixth stage called Commitment Foreseen, Jayla learned to perceive her religion from another perspective by learning how to appreciate it while knowing that there are other religions as well and they are still legitimate.

Finally, she understood that she is the one who should make the choices for herself, search for the answers, make choices and commitments regarding her religion and other aspects of life. This is the time when the student reached the final stage Commitment in Relativism. Now she learned to perceive her own religion in the context of all other religions, practices, opinions, and worldviews that currently exist as Jayla wants to follow her religion, yet be tolerant to the people who belong to other religions or are atheists.

Jayla also got engaged into socioemotional development by attempting to maintain romantic relationships with 23-year old Elijah. The ultimate goal of Jayla is to develop secure attachment prototype characterized by high level of trust between the partners, sense of worthiness and mutual acceptance and attachment since she has strong feelings of appeal and love towards the young man and wants to maintain their relationships. However, their relationships are far from being called secure as Elijah is experiencing avoidant attachment prototype by fearing that Jayla might leave him at any time, being afraid to engage into the state of strong attachment with her, and suspecting her in cheating. It seems that the gentleman is afraid of being rejected as this might be his first serious relationship. He might have a feeling of romantic sympathy towards Jayla but he is still afraid to trust her and he is trying to protect himself from getting engaged with her and then losing her on subconscious level. As this fact upsets Jayla, they still cannot move on to the secure attachment prototype until they talk about it, develop mutual trust, stop accusing each other of cheating, and believe that their relationships will last for a long time, since secure attachment type requires strong commitment of both parties.

Finally, it is worth admitting that secure type of attachment is the best attachment prototype, which should be an ultimate goal of the romantic relationships as by reaching this stage the partners feel comfortable with each other, experience mutual trust and appeal, and they are not afraid that their partner will deceive them. In contrast, avoidance prototype that characterizes Elijah’s feelings, requires a lot of work on the relationships in order to eliminate suspicions and fears and gradually move on to the secure attachment prototype.

  • Bartholomew, K, and L. Horowitz. (1991). Attachment Styles Among Young Adults: A Test of a Four-Category Model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61 (2), PP 226-244.
  • Kloss, R. J. (1994). A Nudge Is Best: Helping Students through the Perry Scheme of Intellectual Development. College Teaching., 42 (4), PP 151-158.