By: Samantha Garber
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“Drew Barrymore progressed from precious child star to wild child to award-winning actress and one of Hollywood’s most successful female producers.” (Dailymail.co.uk)

Born on February 22, 1975 in Los Angeles, California (biography.com), Drew Blyth Barrymore was thrown into the spotlight from the very beginning. She was born into a powerhouse family of actors and actresses; her father, John Drew Barrymore Jr., was an actor along with her mother, Ildiko Jaid. Her grandparents, John Barrymore and Dolores Costello were both actors as well as her great-grandparents, Maurice Barrymore and Georgiana Drew. Drew was also the godchild of famous director, Steven Speilberg (biography.com)
Drew Barrymore’s childhood was one extremely different from those of other children her age. Her father, John Drew, was absent most of the time. He left Drew and her mother when Drew was a baby, constantly in and out of jail due to drug charges. He later died of cancer, but not before Drew had a chance to reconcile with him (dailymail.co.uk). Drew’s mother wasted no time in getting her daughter involved in the “Hollywood scene”. She began taking Drew to auditions when she was just a baby; Drew appeared on television for the first time before she was one year old in a Puppy Choice Dog Food commercial (biography.com). At age seven, she appeared in the hit movie “ET” (1982) and soon after became the youngest-ever host of “Saturday Night Live” (Biography.com). Acting was not the only thing Drew’s mother was getting her involved in; Jaid began taking her daughter to night clubs at a very early age, some including: Studio 54 and China Club (Biography.com). These places are where Drew Barrymore grew a liking for alcohol and drugs. She reports having her first drink at age nine, beginning smoking marijuana at age ten, and taking up cocaine at age twelve (dailymail.co.uk). By age thirteen, Drew was already in and out of an intensive rehabilitation treatment for her four-year drug and alcohol addiction (Barrymore, 2). At age fourteen, her autobiography, “little Girl Lost”, where she told the story of her troubled family and childhood, was published.
During her teenage/early adulthood years, Drew Barrymore was a rebellious young woman. She legally emancipated herself from her parents, never finished high school, had numerous encounters with rehabilitation, posed nude for playboy magazine, exposed herself on live television, and had a number of short lived, impulsive relationships (Barrymore, 3). In the 1990s, she starred in a series of films that brought to life her wild child image, including: “Poison Ivy”, “Guncrazy”, and “Amy Fisher Story” (biography.com).
Drew Barrymore’s luck began to change in 1995 when she founded her own production company, Flower Films. She had many successful films that she produced and starred in including: “The Wedding Singer”, “Charlies Angels”, “Donnie Darko”, and “Whip It”. In addition to an award winning actress and producer, she is also a successful model, and the face of cover girl cosmetics (biography.com).

Behaviorist Perspective:

The behaviorist view of analyzing personality deals with the concept that peoples’ behaviors are completely controlled by their environment (Friedman, 190). John Locke, an early behaviorist, presented the idea of Tabula Rasa, which states that all people start of with a blank slate and that “the experience of life would write their tale” (Friedman, 190). Using this idea, Drew Barrymore, like everyone else, started out with a blank slate; it was her exposure to drugs, alcohol, and dysfunctional relationships that lead her to behave in the ways she did. Drew had problems with drugs and alcohol before the age of thirteen, which is very young compared to most of the population. She developed these risky behaviors by watching the people around her and by being exposed to situations in which these activities were being carried out. Drew’s childhood was full of people influencing her in negative ways. Her mother was taking her to clubs as early as age eight where she was exposed to drug and alcohol intake. Her father also had an alcohol problem and would smoke marijuana in front of young Drew. “I liked when my dad would walk around in bare feet, stoned, and talk about how the blades of grass felt on his feet, and how he could tell which ones were hurting and didn’t want to be stepped on, and I thought, ‘wow that’s my dad; he’s really trippy and cool’” (Drew’s comment during an interview: telegraph.com) During an interview on the “Wogan Show” in the early 90s, drew explained the drugs and alcohol as being normal because everyone around was doing it. Drew was also exposed to her parents’ dysfunctional relationship when she was just a child. She told W magazine her feelings about how her father was never around; she described him as being unattainable and always off doing his own thing. This has affected her own relationships with men; she has had a series of impulsive short relationships and has been married twice, but none have lasted; she cannot seem to commit and rely on someone in that way. This idea is similar to Bandura’s theories on modeling and observational learning. These ideas deal with learning by observing, without being rewarded or punished directly from the behavior (Friedman, 243). Bandura would conclude that Drew learned to pick up her bad habits by watching those around her do them.
The behaviorist view also includes Pavlov’s concept of classical conditioning, which explains associations between certain behaviors and rewards and punishments (Friedman, 191). In Drew Barrymore’s situation, she learned to associate drinking and drug use with positive feelings such as stress relieving and socializing with friends. Because of these associations, she created a liking for drugs and alcohol, which is a behavioral reaction pattern that is explained by classical conditioning. Extinction is an idea associated with classical conditioning that explains how associations can weaken and eventually disappear over time. This happens when the pairing of the stimuli stops (Friedman, 192). Over time, Drew’s drug and alcohol use was no longer being connected to positive actions, because of this, her association diminished over time, which stopped the behavior.
Drive conflict is another important aspect of Behaviorism. Behaviorists would say that Drew Barrymore had an approach-avoidance conflict. This is the idea that she is drawn to a sexual object while also being drawn away from that same object; this can result in anxiety and neurotic behavior (Friedman, 210). Drew was addicted to the drugs, she wanted to take them, they made her feel good and relieved her stress; at the same time she also was drawn away from them, they hurt her and were hurting her career. This conflict caused Drew anger; in her autobiography, “Little Girl Lost”, she expresses how her problems after rehab affected her personality: “I erupted into a rage, a huge, horrible angry outrage that evidenced the dark and temperamental side I inherited from my Barrymore Ancestors” (Barrymore, 3)

Humanistic Perspective:

Humanistic approaches to personality deal with the creative, spontaneous, and active nature of human beings. They focus on the human ability to overcome hardship and despair (Friedman, 297). Erich Fromm, a well known humanist proposed the idea of dialectical humnism; this idea tries to reconcile the societal pressured and biologically driven sides of humans with the concept that people can overcome these forces and become creative and spontaneous (Friedman, 299). Drew Barrymore had much hardship in her life; her troubled childhood and drug problems took over her life at one point. Although she was caught up in troubled behavior she was able to overcome that part of her life and move on to become a successful actress and producer. Drew says that she is happier now than she has ever been, “Although I still have my dark days, I am generally an optimistic person” (interview with Lina Das). Drew talks about how her past hardships help her with her acting and producing. Shortly after her film “Whip It” came out, she talks about her relationship with her mother and how it helps with her producing. “In my new film, a lot of pain in the relationship between the mother and daughter came from my own experiences… The great thing about film is that you can do whatever you want with it, so I tried to create the kind of relationship that I would have wanted with my own mother.”
Responsibility is a huge aspect of the Humanistic approach; people are responsible for their own life and maturity. Carl Rodgers, a humanistic psychologist, believed that people have an inherent tendency toward growth and maturation, but first people need to gain self-understanding and must strive to take responsibility for themselves (Friedman, 301). Drew Barrymore matured out of her rebellious, destructive behavior. She grew up and realized that she was responsible for her behaviors and that she needed to do something about them. She cleaned herself up, went to rehab, and after a couple attempts and hard work she overcame her problems. Because she took responsibility for her own actions, she was able to move on in life and become successful. In an interview on the Wogan Show, she talks about her experience after rehab: “At first I was clean and off drugs but doing the same behaviors, and that’s when I really got clean, when I realized I just wasn’t doing it right”. She took responsibility for her actions and strived to correct them; she was successful.


Drew Barrymore is a strong successful person who has been through a lot in her life thus far. She struggled with family issues, became caught up in drugs and alcohol, and was able to overcome these obstacles and pursue a fulfilling career in Hollywood. When analyzing the kind of personality Drew Barrymore has, it is beneficial to examine all of the aspects of personality rather than just one. In order to successfully explain and examine why Drew does the things she does and what kind of person it makes her, you need to look at more than one way of explaining. The behavioral aspect examines ways in which the environment around us affects one’s behavior and how we learn through our observations and experiences while the humanistic aspect focuses on a person’s inner ability to mature and overcome obstacles that are standing in their way. Each perspective bring something different to the table; by examining Drew’s personality through different lenses, it is easy to understand her personality, traits, and lifestyle.


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