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Personal Development in the “49 Up” Documentary


Starting from the opening scenes, the plot of the documentary 49 Up reveals various factors that can influence human lives directly. The main purpose of Michael Apted as the director of these series was to prove that not only childhood background but also other environmental factors can have a significant impact on personal development. Previously, it was hypothesized that children having different social backgrounds could have similar life paths in the future.

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However, the findings of the latest studies have demonstrated that social class, financial well-being, and education can dramatically influence the process of personal development and play an important role in the formation of a personality. Tony, Bruce, Suzy, and Nick as the participants of the study and the characters of the documentary under consideration faced certain challenges in their lives. The documentary reveals the personal changes in these characters under the influence of their struggle against their life difficulties.

Stability of personality versus personality change

Career development and professional realization are among the main influential factors affecting personal stability as it is shown in the documentary under analysis. Another influential factor, which should be taken into account when discussing personal stability, is background experience. Therefore, the stability of personality can be defined as the personal confidence or courage required for facing certain challenges.

Personal abilities to face difficulties are mostly influenced by personal self-perception and personal beliefs. In the documentary under analysis, some characters are bound with their prior experience and cannot find the strengths for changing their lifestyles. Their personal beliefs become the barriers that do not allow them to change their lives for the better and realize their potential to the fullest. The parameter of personal stability is dependent upon the level of self-confidence and is specific for every individual character.

As opposed to the stability of personality, the concept of personality change is sequential and systematic. Individual changes can take place over time and undergo the influence of internal and external factors. Changes can take place in personalities due to certain shocking events in real life. Tony, Bruce, Suzy, and Nick have been dramatically changed over time (49 Up). The deaths of their parents and other close people hardened these characters as compared to their behaviors in childhood.

Lacking the moral support of their dear and near people, the characters had to become more independent and undergo certain mental and emotional changes for facing various life difficulties. These factors affect individual changes in the personalities of the discussed characters.

Five-factor model

The five-factor model can be applied for analyzing the individual development of each of the four main characters under analysis. Suzy can be categorized as an upper-class kid who is rather self-confident and can make plans for the future. This factor as observed from the documentary refers her to the first factor of the model that is an openness to experience. Additionally, Suzy was always ready to learn, and being a smart thinker, she was able to forecast future changes and take appropriate measures for adapting to the anticipated challenges. Tony, on the other hand, demonstrated the agreeableness factor of the model.

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Since his childhood, he was a lively and enthusiastic boy. His ability to build a positive relationship with different people explains why this character is connected with this factor of the model. Bruce is a young boy who goes up and down and changes his position in the school social hierarchy. These personal changes allow linking this character to the conscientiousness aspect of the model because he demonstrates a high level of self-discipline and relative insensitivity to the environment. Nick in his turn as a middle-class kid with profound intellectual abilities can be classified as a highly-disciplined person as well.

Environment Factor

Analyzing the plot of the documentary, it can be stated that the environmental factors had a significant impact on the personal development of each of the four characters. The processes in real life and corresponding changes in their environment influenced the formation of their personalities. Some of the environmental processes can be referred to as visible or invisible, depending upon the direct or indirect influence of aspects upon characters. The environmental factors could have either a positive or negative impact upon the character’s development, depending upon the peculiarities of their temperaments and personal reactions to the surrounding.

Maslow, Horney

Maslov’s and Horney’s theories of personal development can be applied for analyzing the inner processes taking place inside of each of the four characters. For example, Tony’s liveliness and ability to build a positive relationship with different sorts of people can be viewed from different points of view. According to Horney’s theory, his traits can be regarded as the consequence of his childhood experience.

According to Maslov’s theory, Tony’s traits open up opportunities for his professional actualization affecting his further development. Using the same theories for analyzing Bruce’s personal development, it can be stated that the problems from his childhood became the hindrances for his professional realization and future success. Suzy as an upper-class kid had everything in her childhood which became a substantial basis for her future development. Comparing the development of these characters to Nick, it can be stated that his life problems were partially preconditioned with his social class and childhood experience.


Therefore, analyzing the life paths and personal development of the four characters of the documentary 49 Up, it can be stated that the childhood experience and other environmental factors dramatically influenced their personal development, preconditioning their chances for achieving success.

Works Cited

49 Up. Dir. Michael Apted. Perf. Bruce Balden, Jackie Bassett, Symon Basterfield, and Andrew Brackfield. BBC One, 2005. Film.

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"Personal Development in the “49 Up” Documentary." StudyCorgi, 29 Apr. 2021,

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StudyCorgi. "Personal Development in the “49 Up” Documentary." April 29, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Personal Development in the “49 Up” Documentary." April 29, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Personal Development in the “49 Up” Documentary'. 29 April.

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