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The ‘Girlhood’ documentary highlights the plight of girls in juvenile centers with some psychological disorders. The girls have traumatic experiences that affect their relationship with others. The documentary follows the plight of Megan and Shanae (Garbus, 2003). This paper provides a social psychological review of Megan and Shanae from an ecological point of view as well as an attachment perspective.


Ecological Framework
After watching the documentary, it is easy to see that Megan’s environment has contributed greatly to her childhood and ultimately her adult life. As a child, her mother was absent. She had lived in an environment that was full of disruption. She had many problems communicating with her foster parents, and she ran away ten times before she had even been arrested for aggravated assault. The disrupted attachment led to a paradoxical relationship with the caregivers in Waxter (Shaffer & Kipp, 2010). She is often well behaved, but she still shows bouts of mischief. However, Garbus suggests that this is due to the lack of adequate recreational activities in Waxter (Garbus, 2003). Megan is not malicious, and her mischief is probably a cry for attention. In one of the scenes, she even says that no one loves her. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

Similarly, she seems to suffer from ambivalent attachment because she is always distressed when she is unable to receive affirmations from her mother. In the documentary, she is always trying to contact either the mother or the grandmother. In the second segment, she runs away from foster homes to try to live with her mother. However, her mother is a struggling drug addict who is unable to offer the care and support that she required. When she grows older, it is clear that she is still affected by the feeling of neglect and she believes nobody is looking out for her interest (Garbus, 2003).

Strength-Based Approaches
One characteristic of resilience that Megan portrays is her perseverance. She tries to reach out to her mother multiple times despite being disappointed numerous times. Additionally, she still struggles after growing up, but she ensures that she never becomes an addict (Garbus, 2003). She perseveres through challenges in life. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

Megan also shows that she has self-efficacy. As she grows up, she realizes that she cannot rely on anyone and starts to take better care or herself. She gets her place to live. Even though she does not get the chance to further her education, she avoids returning to a life of crime (Garbus, 2003). She does become bitter in her adult life, but she is self-efficient.

Impact of Trauma
In the lower security facility interview, Shanae reveals that five men gang-raped her when she was young. Even though she has been through the trauma of murdering another girl, it seems like the rape ordeal was the first trauma that led to the myriad of deviant behavior (Garbus, 2003).

Shanae’s development has been disrupted. She portrays this by her apprehensive response that she gives to her parent. She receives more family support than Megan is, but she does not seem to reciprocate it at the beginning of the film. This paradoxical relationship with her parent is evident (Brody & Dwyer, 2016). Even though her parent is giving her support, she was still scared of Shanae. Shanae had to go to a lower security facility before her mother was convinced that she was rehabilitated. Second, she is unable to regulate her emotions (Garbus, 2003). She angrily lashes out at the girl, but shows no remorse when she finds out that she died. Her emotional responses are not well adjusted.

Shanae shows certain resilience characteristics that help her reform her life. First, she has goals and aspirations. With the help of her mother, Shanae can graduate from high school. Furthermore, at the end of the documentary, she enrolls in a community college nearby. Second, Shanae develops a positive outlook. Unlike Megan, who ends up bitter, Shanae has a positive outlook that things will become better. Third, Shanae becomes emotionally expressive. In the beginning, Shanae is not remorseful for committing murder (Garbus, 2003).  However, after the collective effort from her mother and rehabilitation officers, she becomes emotionally expressive. This leads to her eventual rehabilitation from delinquency.

Challenging Attachment
The domain that best explains Megan’s attachment issues is the ambivalent/resistant attachment. The first example is how wary she is of strangers (Eysenck, 2015). In the documentary, we learn that she runs away from foster care eleven times, ten before Waxter and once more after leaving Waxter. It indicates that she is wary of strangers (Garbus, 2003). Second, she is distressed when her mother leaves. Even though her mother has a problem with drugs and prostitution, she is distressed when she does not receive visits or calls from her.

Other aspects reveal themselves when she grows older. The third is her reluctance to become close with others. As the documentary end, it is clear that Megan is afraid to trust others. This may be a psychological scar due to her relationship with her mother. Finally, she becomes distraught when her relationship with her mother ends. Even though there is an intense argument, after she tells her mother never to talk to her again, she has a nervous breakdown (Garbus, 2003). Her cousin has to console her. The lack of a proper support system is evident because she does not achieve as much as Shanae who does not falter when her mother dies. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]


Brody, R., & Dwyer, D. (2016). Revise AS Level Psychology. New York: Psychology Press.

Eysenck, M. (2015). AQA Psychology: AS and A-level Year 1. New York: Psychology Press.

Garbus, L. (Director). (2003). Girlhood [Motion Picture].

Shaffer, D. R., & Kipp, K. (2010). Developmental Psychology: Childhood & Adolescence: Childhood and Adolescence. New York: Cengage Learning.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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