Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Augusten  Burroughs

Kelly  Cody 

The Life of B.F. Skinner: A Radical American Behaviorist

The Results of Childhood Trauma in the Works of Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughsí amusing memoirs trace the authorís personal development as a child who was pushed into adulthood too quickly. In doing so, Burroughs expresses his alienation from mainstream society as he struggles with alcoholism, relationship issues, and accepting the troubling experiences of his past that haunt him. These experiences include being adopted by his motherís psychiatrist whose family is dysfunctional, living in fear of his alcoholic father, and the unhealthy relationship Burroughs has as an adolescent with a thirty-year-old man. Burroughs learns to isolate himself at an early age by spending most of his time focusing on himself, away from the arguments his parents engage in at home. At the same time, because he has always lacked his fatherís approval, he seeks validation elsewhere, from other older male figures in his life. By the end of each of his memoirs, Burroughs reflects on his transformation from someone who uses the difficulties he has faced as a crutch to isolate himself from society, to a man who has come to terms with his childhood and is able to move forward as an adult.

B.F. Skinner, one of Americaís most famous behaviorists of the twentieth century, changed the field of psychology through his open-minded approach, advanced education, and passion for learning and experimenting. Skinner created his own inventions, and studied the different behaviors of animals he found in his backyard, which led to a life full of adventures and challenges. Although Skinnerís first passion was literature, he quickly learned that he could not succeed in it, so he went to graduate school at Harvard to study psychology. While Skinnerís education was progressing, his personal life was empty; he struggled with establishing a long-term relationship. His life improved when he met his future wife, Yvonne, married, and started a family. Becoming a father led Skinner to create the Baby Tender, aimed to simplify the care of a baby. Skinner received criticism for the controversial invention, because he experimented on his own daughter. Skinnerís open-minded, independent, and untraditional approach made him one of the most controversial and ground-breaking twentieth-century American psychologists.

Major Works Consulted:

Bjork, Daniel W. B.F. Skinner: A Life. New York: Basic, 1993. Burroughs, Augusten. Running with Scissors. New York: Picador, 2002. --. A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father. New York: Picador, 2008. Skinner, B.F. Particulars of My Life. New York: Knopf, 1976.
Photo Credit: Thompson, Clifford. Current Biography Yearbook. New York: H.W. Wilson, 2004.