Britney Spears

By: Priya Tharakan

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Britney Spears is known as a famous pop star of the twenty first century. She was born on December 2, 1981 and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana by James and Lynne Spears. Britney Spears is the second born of three children. Britney’s passion for entertaining began as a young child. Britney was a contestant in the entertainment competition known as Star Search, where she was able to present her singing abilities among an audience and panel of judges. At age eleven, Britney became apart of The Mickey Mouse Club, which was a hit Disney channel show of many talented children that performed musical and dance acts. After the show’s cancellation, Britney moved back home to continue pursuing her life long dream of becoming a pop sensation. In 1997, Britney was signed to the music label known as Jive Records. Her debut album, Baby One More Time, was released in 1999 and became a commercial success. Britney also acted in her first starring role in the film Crossroads, in 2002. Britney has released seven studio albums and has sold over a hundred million records worldwide. Britney Spears is widely recognized for her success through the numerous awards that she has received and the endorsements that she has been associated with.
Psychoanalytic PerspectiveThe psychoanalytic approach was discovered by Sigmund Freud. This approach focuses on understanding an individual’s personality. Freud states that there are three structures of an individual’s mind which consists of the id, ego, and superego. The id functions under the pleasure principle which strongly emphasizes the significance of satisfying one’s drives and needs. The id focuses on lessening an individual’s internal tension and to ultimately acquire one’s motivations and desires. The ego is another structure of the mind, which operates under the reality principle. This part of the mind focuses on solving real life problems. The ego is effective in balancing both the id and the superego. The superego is the last structure of the mind, which is activated under the morality principle. An individual with a superego will abide by rules set by the society and authoritarian figures.
From evaluating Britney Spear’s personality, Freud would state that Britney is actively utilizing her id under the pleasure principle. There are many cases where Britney gratifies her impulses without considering the consequences of her actions. For example, Britney first illustrates signs of impulsive behavior when news came out that Britney had eloped with her childhood friend, Jason Alexander, during a trip to Las Vegas in January of 2004. This marriage was annulled fifty five hours later and is widely publicized as the shortest lived nuptial. It is apparent that Britney was experiencing a moment of spontaneity at the time.
Another controversial episode occurred when Britney Spears completely shaved her head at a local hair salon in California. Esther Tognozzi, the owner of the hair salon, stated that Britney showed very little emotion but had tears in her eyes because she feared her mother’s reaction towards her newly shaven head. Shortly after leaving the hair salon, Britney went to a tattoo parlor to receive two new tattoos. According to Freud, Britney was not handling her problems realistically and instead lashing out against society. Britney was in total control of her primitive drives which is clearly demonstrated through her erratic behavior. It is evident that Britney did not care about abiding by the rules or morals of society. In February of 2006, Britney was caught driving with her son on her lap. This incident brought much attention because the public viewed Britney as an irresponsible mother for not protecting her son’s well being.
According to Freud, psychosexual development occurs in the oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital stages. During these psychosexual stages, the libido is transmitted to different areas of the body. Freud would conclude that Britney is stuck in the oral stage. At the oral stage, infants strive to attain their basic hunger and thirst drives through oral intake. Freud states that conflict arises when infants have to give up breast feeding which results in fixations. The oral stage displays fixations such as preoccupation with oral intake and poor attachment styles which Britney strongly presents. Britney Spears is known for receiving pleasure through smoking cigarettes, biting her nails, and strongly depending on her relationships with others. Britney constantly seeks security and love which must have resulted from her need of satisfying her oral drives as a child.
In addition, Sigmund Freud would insist that Britney Spears exercises defense mechanisms in order to protect her self concept and self esteem. Defense mechanisms allow an individual to distort reality and in turn protect themselves from the truth. Britney’s meltdowns were outrageous but she acted liked everything was fine to protect her ego and to primarily prevent anxiety from occurring. The truth hurts and it was clear that Britney was escaping from problems by partying, drinking, taking illegal substances, and hanging out with the wrong people. Defense mechanisms permitted Britney to hide from her feelings and in turn, run away from the pressures of the real world. Freud would conclude that Britney believed that she could do anything virtually impossible when dealing with difficult situations. However, this is untrue because this only shows a misrepresentation of reality.
Trait and Skill PerspectiveThe trait approach was designed to portray an individual’s personality through the use of adjectives. Gordon Allport believed that all individuals in a population share the same common traits. The Big Five lists five dimensions of personality which are extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Britney Spears displays characteristics of extroversion because she is an energetic individual who loves performing and interacting with her countless number of fans. Britney does not shy away from the stage and instead shines in the spotlight with her vibrant personality. However, Britney said to Glamour Magazine, “I don’t like going out…I love my home and staying in bed and watching Dancing with the Stars or reading a Danielle Steel novel. I'm kind of boring.” This statement illustrates that Britney can also be private and less outgoing depending on the circumstance. I would rank Britney in the between range for extroversion, because she is not completely timid or extremely sociable.
Agreeableness is a dimension which displays qualities such as cooperation, trust, and warmth. According to Allport, Britney would fall under a low range of agreeableness. At the time of her meltdowns, Britney was uncooperative, unkind, and argumentative. For instance, Britney displayed low signs of agreeableness when she refused to give up custody of her two sons to former husband, Kevin Federline. Britney was very uncooperative to police orders. Britney exhibited her refusal to the authorities by locking herself in a bathroom with her younger son Jayden.
Conscientious individuals are known for being dependable, hardworking, and responsible. It is evident that Britney was careless, undependable and unorganized at the time of her meltdown but, overall I think she is a conscientious individual. As a musician, Britney strives for excellence through her determination and persistent effort. Neuroticism is a personality dimension which portrays individuals as anxious, moody and high strung. Gordon Allport would rank Britney on the high dimension of neuroticism due to her emotional instability and anxiety that she encounters in challenging situations. Lastly, openness is a personality characteristic that Britney attains due to her musical creativity and her willingness to experience life. Britney tours around the world which allows her to form connections with people from different ethnicities. This exemplifies Britney’s openness to experience various cultures.
In addition to the trait and skill approach, Henry Murray states that individuals have motives. Motives are psychobiological forces which stimulate a particular action or behavior from an individual. Murray believes that there are four needs of an individual which include achievement, affiliation, dominance, and exhibition. Britney Spears displays the need of achievement because she tries to maintain success by rising on top of the music industry with hit records. Britney also has the need for affiliation because she constantly seeks relationships for the sole purpose of affection. Lastly, Britney Spears illustrates the need for exhibition by entertaining her fans through singing and acting.
DiscussionThe psychoanalytic and trait and skill approach provide deeper knowledge in examining Britney Spear’s personality. The psychoanalytic approach presents a detailed account of why Britney’s id overpowers her ego and superego, as well as in describing her fixations within the oral stage of psychosexual development. By analyzing the defense mechanisms, we can see how Britney avoids anxiety provoking stimuli by distorting reality to her own terms. The trait and skill perspective demonstrates how high and low Britney lies within the five dimensions of personality, as well as in describing the essential needs that Britney applies to her day to day life


A&E Television Networks. (2011). Britney Spears Biography. Retrieved from

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Marikar, S. (2007, February 19). Bald and Broken: Inside Britney’s Shaved Head. Retrieved from