The Lifespan Development and Personality of Diana, Princess of Wales

This paper focuses on the life span development and personality of Diana, Princess of Wales. Diana Frances Spencer, the third daughter of four children born into British aristocracy by her parents, Frances Shand Kydd and John Spencer was born on July 1, 1961. Her parents separated in 1967 and the children remained living with their father. Upon the death of her paternal grandfather, Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer in 1975, Diana’s father became the 8th Earl Spencer. She became Lady Diana Spencer and the family moved to the family’s sixteenth-century ancestral home of Althorp (Wikipedia Contributors, 2007).

Six years after becoming Lady Diana Spencer, at age of 20, she married the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles who was 13 years her elder. The ceremony was one of the century’s grandest royal weddings and she became HRH The Princess of Wales. The following year she became mother of Prince William and two years later she became the mother to son Prince Harry. In December, 1992, Diana and Charles separated and divorced in 1996. In July, 1997 she was in a tragic fatal automobile accident.

Impacts on Her Life
Childhood is the development in one’s life between infancy and adolescence. Diana was born into a family of privilege and royal descent where money was not an issue. She was home schooled until the age of nine. She was a quiet and reserved child living a happy life until her parents divorced when she was eight. Shortly thereafter she became visibly depressed.

Adolescence is a period in one’s life in which major physiological, cognitive, and behavioral changes take place. The actual age may vary but generally occurs somewhere between the ages of 12 through 18. This is a critical stage where a child attempts to become independent, wants to establish their identity and there are noticeable changes in their behavior.
Adolescence occurs when a child begins physical and psychological development from the onset of puberty to maturity. Several changes occurred in Diana’s life during these phase. Due to the death of her Grandfather, she gained the title of Lady. She also began attending boarding school of which was a bit difficult for her along with the fact that she academically struggled, became lonely and homesick.

Adult Development
Adult development was again a difficult stage in the life of Lady Diana. She became engaged and later married Prince Charles thus becoming known to the world as HRH The Princess of Wales. Out of the marriage were born two children. From the onset of the engagement, she became a target for the media and was considered the most photographed woman in history and was always in the public eye. Shortly after the marriage, her and her husband grew apart. She became extremely lonely, depressed and diagnosed with bulimia, a psychological eating disorder characterized by abnormal perception of body image, constant craving for food and binge eating, followed by self-induced vomiting or laxative usually affecting female adolescents or young female adults (Schimelpfening, 2007). Ultimately, the two divorced in August, 1996 and she became Diana, Princess of Wales until her untimely death one year later.

Influences of Heredity and Environment on Psychological Development
Being born into a family with noble ancestral heritage, certain influences significantly impacted the psychological development of Diana. Her moral development was greatly enhanced by the heredity and environment as a child. Upon entering adulthood, the moral development was further enhanced while expectations became greater nearing the title of the HRH The Princess of Wales; however, her emotional development was always a difficult process for her.
From the time of her birth to around 8 years old, she maintained a relatively normal lifestyle. The divorce of her parents was of course, difficult and preparing to live a fairy tale life was difficult as well primarily when the fairy tale life was falling apart. The difficulties in her marriage seemed to make her stronger and more visible in terms of charity work and media. The support systems for her played a reverse role whereas she focused on helping others to make her the happiest.

Theories of Personality
Erickson’s theory is that development extends throughout the life-span and is divided into periods or stages. The amount of conflict in each stage determines whether the positive or negative pole is learned. Each stage is marked by a conflict, for which successful resolution will result in a favorable outcome. Stage five – Adolescence: 12-18 years, where the conflict is identity versus confusion was difficult for Diana, resulting in loneliness and depression. Her title, identity and expectations changed a couple of times throughout this period in her life and the direction her life was taking in becoming the wife of Prince Charles was exhausting. Stage six – Young Adulthood: 18-40 years, presents conflicts in intimacy versus isolation as part of her failed marriage. The media also rumored her as having several love relationships, yet failing at those as well. During this stage of her life, she became extremely lonely, depressed and was diagnosed with bulimia.
Another personality theory which can be applied to Diana is humanistic psychology which is known to be difficult because there are no agreed-upon definitions of what constitutes a humanistic personality theory. The following four elements are central to the general viewpoint to which the “humanistic” label is applied: (1) an emphasis on personal responsibility, (2) an emphasis on the “here and now,” (3) a focus on the phenomenology of the individual, and (4) an emphasis on personal growth. In giving a brief description on each element listed, personal responsibility strictly means that one is ultimately responsible for what happens to them, the “here and now” perspective means an individual should focus on what is going on with his or her life at a specific point in relationship to time opposed to reminiscing about the past or daydreaming of a future event. The phenomenology of the individual basically means that individuals know themselves better than anyone else does and the personal growth element means that there is more to life than simply having immediate needs met and that people are not content when their immediate needs have been met. Rather they are motivated to continue their development in a positive manner. Diana excelled on the elements one, three and four primarily when it came to her ambassador role and helping in the over 100 charities.

Best Theoretical Approach
There is no best theoretical approach to Diana’s individual behaviors and achievements. Each stage of her life based on Erickson’s theory is clearly identified and marked with conflict which is basically textbook Erickson. The humanistic theory holds three of the key ingredients to Diana’s uniqueness; however, she does not in my opinion meet the criteria of element two. She gave her time and herself to raise millions of dollars for many causes. These causes primarily would benefit the sick, homeless and the poor. Many examples exist of her physically touching HIV/AIDS patients, sitting with children dying of cancer or personal visits to homeless shelters and leprosy wards or. “She was known to take her sons, Princes William and Harry, with her to poverty-stricken areas of South London to meet homeless people camped in cardboard shelters. She ministered to the children and adult victims of unrestrained landmines. To outsiders, her life began in a fairytale fashion; yet she rose to demonstrate to the world that one can overcome adversity and leave a meaningful legacy. She restored a sense of mission and humanity in a stodgy institution, the monarchy of England” (Nieboer, 2007).

Diana will be remembered not for just one of her accomplishments, but for many from birthing the future King of England to showing kindness to the sick, to touring an Angolan minefield, to being identified as the “People’s Princess”. Her personality was caring and giving, but did not come without struggles from within herself. Amongst the sadness in her life, Diana developed into a highly respected woman and was noted for her sense of style, charisma, humor and high-profile charity work. She developed into not only notable leader, but an inspiration for many people throughout the world. Upon her death, the world was greatly saddened by the loss. The loss generated an intense outpouring of grief and widespread public mourning throughout not only Britain, but the world as well and created an unprecedented event of social psychology in terms of mass mourning and outpouring of emotions.

Nieboer, S. (2007). Diana, Princess of Wales. Learning to give. Retrieved May 12, 2007 from Website:
Schimelpfening, N. (2007). Depression. Retrieved May 12, 2007 from Website:
Wikipedia Contributors (2007). Diana, Princess of Wales. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 12, 2007, from Website: