(a) Demonstrate your understanding of potential psychological theories and ideas that help to explain the issues being experienced by Steven. Refer to the literature, theory, research evidence and the case study in your answer
Master’s in child, Youth and Family Studies
A. Case Study (35%)
B. Response (15%)
A. (9th December)
B. (24th March)
- Choose one of the following case studies:
A personal account:
I remember [Mum and Dad] happy but also remember them pissed off at each other all the time. I think I must have been three or four [years old]. There were a lot of arguments. When it was good it was really good; when it was bad it was really shit. My nan split up with one of her boyfriends and my nan was staying round the house and her boyfriend came round and kicked off and tried to beat my mum up and he pushed my mum. I think my mum says I attacked him. I threw something at him and basically didn’t do much. I was only a kid but I threw something apparently. I was defending my mum. My mums quite a fiery woman, quite passionate, very angry. When she gets in a mood she’s very tough. And my dad’s got quite a temper on him as well. So it’s going to cause tension isn’t it? I used to play football with my dad out in the back garden. That used to piss my mum off because I used to break the shed window but other than that it was alright, but at the same time I remember, my dad used to come home pissed, just more drunk, and my mum would kick off and they’d start arguing about two or three in the morning. And then there’d be fist marks in the doors, coffee stains, alcohol stains all up the wall there; people had been throwing drinks around, plates. I remember one time my dad broke the door; he just ripped it off the hinges. They’d fight, my dad would leave but the next day they’d be back together again.
I remember being spoilt a lot. Dad went away to work for a couple of months at a time and he’d come back with a present, I had every single Power Ranger. He was always in trouble so he’s disappear for a couple of months to either [another country] for a while or he’d go back to jail. It happened regularly so it was nothing out of the blue. I remember the police kicking the front door down or just banging on the door asking for my dad. He’d hop the fence and be gone.
Just before primary school my dad moved out, my mum and dad split up. Then they were back together for about two weeks. Then another really bad argument and my mum found a loophole. The house was under her name so she rang the police and said ‘oh I’ve been kicked out the house’ by my dad, and my dad was on bail at the time. Basically by doing that, my dad would go to prison because he didn’t have a bail address. That night after we returned to the house, after the police had come and taken my dad away we realised he had thrashed the house. Every room except mine. It took my mum four or five days to clean it up.
My dad’s always struggled with drink and drugs and my dad’s dad is an alcoholic, he used to beat up my dad, he used to rape my aunties. It was a long time ago. Nothing happened to me thank god. Well my grandad hit me a few times, but my dad always defended me. I don’t speak to him. Only if I ring up my Nan, because he beats my Nan up regularly. He put her in hospital the other month, but what can you do?
I was always set in my ways, because I was stubborn. I could speak my mind, I used to get in trouble when I was at school for doing it, and the teacher would tell me off and I’d be like ‘No’. I was very argumentative even though I didn’t know what I was talking about. Mum got another boyfriend and by this point I’d progressed through the school, I slowly started getting into more trouble. I’d get in trouble for fighting at school. Not doing my homework was always big thing [with] me, I hated doing it. I got in a lot of trouble once when I flipped a desk and threw a chair at the teacher.
My dad came back into my life and wanted to get clean. He did 12 months of a 12 to 18 month program. He did well for about 2 months and then everything went downhill. I got heavily involved in drugs at this time and I started drinking and smoking weed. I remember this one time, it sounds bad, you know, we were both drunk and we were stoned but one of the best times I’ve ever had with my dad. We were there playing the PlayStation – James Bond – and I couldn’t even do the first mission. We were just off our heads, but we were just sat there talking.
I used to stay out on the estate, literally thirty of us. We were all just like drunk, drugs, just walking around all the time. All of my friends were always older than me, they were always about 15, 16. But because I was out, because I was drinking and smoking, they kind of took me in. To get money we’d be thieving from the shops, a burglary here and there. Sometimes during [the] day we’d be bunking off school, just hijack the shops. My dad knew I was up to little things like that but I think he viewed it as if, as long as he’s not being stupid and going out selling drugs and things like that. And then obviously he went to jail and I done a whole lot worse. I was out every day just thieving, taking drugs every day, drinking.
There was about 10 or 15 of use and we’re all on our way back to the estate, and we were in the park just having a little breather. Some guy that we knew, we knew his brother, he’s just been remanded for a series of cocaine sales. He walked through on his own and we were taking the piss out of him and threw a couple of beer cans at him, empty ones. And he was like ‘yeah, you think you’re hard, you lot’, and then we all just got up and just formed a massive circle around him. I just ran up and banged him, I punched him straight in the back of the head. Then someone else clocked him and everyone must have hit him about 10 times. The next day I went to the prison to visit my dad and I told him about it, he just started pissing himself laughing.
In school I had a physical altercation with a teacher, he pushed me first and we ended up on the floor throwing punches. I had issues with other students, as soon as I’d look at them I’d fly off the handle.
At this stage I’m 13, my dad is back in jail and I’m in trouble a lot. I was in court all the time, police were always knocking on my door. One time after being arrested at home, I later found out that my Mum had rung the police ‘yeah he’s home now, come and nick him’. I didn’t trust my Mum after that. I moved in with my Nan, things got worse. Yeah, fighting, drinking, drugs I was on cocaine, I was taking cocaine every time and I was taking speed every day, ecstasy all the fucking time, drinking every day. Because I had more freedom with my Nan. Then she accused me of thieving from her, even though I didn’t I know where the boundaries are. Then I moved in with my aunt. One day she grabbed me by the throat, scratched me and hit me in the stomach. She was drunk and just spazzed out really. After that she started drinking a little bit more and then in about a month or so I moved in with [my cousin]. I celebrated my 14th birthday there and that year I was convicted of murder. [After the offence of murder was committed] we were all remanded for a year. They ask you to stand before they give you the verdict. When they said guilty my knees went weak and then I had to hold myself up but no-one really said anything. And [one of my relatives in the dock] didn’t say anything to me when I walked past him, he didn’t say anything when I was convicted and neither did anyone who was up in the gallery, none of my family who were up in the gallery. It was kind of like ‘Oh well’. (Adapted from “My Story” Grimshaw, Schwartz & Wingfield, 2011)
Question 1: Demonstrate using examples from the case study and literature research what potential risk factors are relevant to this case. (20% - 2000 words)
Question 2: Taking into consideration the specific circumstances of this example, analyse and assess the most appropriate interventions that could have been implemented. Answer must be based on international best practice and research evidence. (15% - 1500 words)
Adapted from University of Minnesota Children Youth & Family Consortium
Steven is now 15 years old. He lives in a small comfortable house with his dad, mom and sister. He is currently in 9th grade at a large public high school. His dad works for a large telephone company and his mother is a nurse in a local hospital. His sister, Becky, is 10 years old and a 4th grader. Over the past few months his parents have been concerned about Steven’s escalating behavioural problems and low mood. He has been called to the principal’s office twice in the past month and his grades are dropping. At home, he seems unhappy. Steven appears isolated and becomes defensive and confrontational when his parents try to interject in “his life”
Steven’s dad Bill has had a difficult life, his father (Steven’s grandfather) was an alcoholic and died in a car crash when Bill was only 16 years old. His mother was the primary breadwinner and insisted Bill earn his high school degree. She was the glue that kept the family together. Her death four years ago was hard on Bill. Nancy, Steven’s mom recalls a busy but happy childhood. She worries about her own mother and believes she has suffered from depression much of her life; her sister also suffers from depression and takes medication. Steven’s own family life is quite healthy. Nancy expresses concern about Bill’s drinking especially given the history of alcoholism in the family. Bill drinks most weekends, but more heavily during the weekends. He is quick to point out that his drinking has never interfered with his work or family commitments.
Steven becomes a brother (5-6 years old)
In the weeks leading up to Kindergarten, Steven could hardly talk about anything other than school. He was so excited. At the time Steven’s parents were slightly preoccupied, Steven was about to become an older brother. Just a month after Steven began kindergarten, his baby sister was born. She was a challenging baby, as she was colicky, Nancy and Bill did not sleep much. Steven appeared to be having a hard time adjusting to kindergarten and the new bay. Soon after she was born, he began displaying a wide range of concerning behaviours outside of school. Usually relaxed and mild tempered when he wasn’t experiencing a transition, Steven began talking back and screaming at his parents when he didn’t get his way. He also went out of his way to say mean things, especially to Bill. When asked a simple request, Steven often became aggressive and dropped to the ground, threw toys and sometimes showed aggression towards his baby sister.
Elementary School (6-8 years)
After a bumpy start however the rest of kindergarten went well. Gradually he got used to his new position in the family – older brother. During first and second grades Steven was making progress. However his teachers expressed concern that he always seemed to be a step behind his peers academically. While he grasped concepts related to math and numbers, his reading and spelling skills developed more slowly. As he fell behind he became increasingly self-conscious in the classroom. While Steven was never rude or disrespectful to teachers, it was quite clear that he was tense. His tension was demonstrated through foot tapping, scratching along with some crying. Steven spent lots of time in the school nurses office. While the nurse was never able to pinpoint any real concerns, Steven often complained of stomach-aches and headaches.
After school, Steven rode the school bus to an after school program with many of his classmates. While Steven got along with is peers, he didn’t seem interested in participating in the group activities. He usually played games on the computer, or watched the other children in the gym. Steven was relatively well behaved at home, but Nancy worried about how much television Steven watched. Nancy asked Bill to enrol Steven in some youth sports leagues. Bill, a strong athlete was excited to teach Steven about football, basketball and baseball. However Bill was still working late many nights and worried about having time for these activities. He promised Nancy he’d enrol Steven the following year.
Intermediate School (8-11 years)
In third grade Steven wasn’t the most popular kid in the class, but he wasn’t the target of teasing or bullying either. He spent most of his time with his best friend Max. Outside of school, Steven and Max would go exploring outdoors, secretly played with Legos and action figures and they loved video games. They didn’t enjoy sports like many of their peers. This was a constant source of conflict between Steven and his father. Bill was very frustrated that Steven wasn’t excited to participate in the leagues. Although he didn’t seem to notice, Bill and Nancy worried that Steven didn’t have more friends. Steven was generally well behaved in school, but he was always tense. While Steven’s teachers acknowledged Steven’s anxiousness, they were most concerned about his below average academic skills. Mrs. Wildman told Bill and Nancy that Steven might have a learning disability and would benefit from some extra academic support.
Middle School (11-14 years)
As Steven prepared for 6th grade Bill’s mother died. Following his mother’s death, Bill stopped working such long hours because he “didn’t have the energy”. He also began drinking more regularly after work. Middle school was demanding for Steven and he was just barely “keeping up”. He maintained a C average, but Bill and Nancy complained that Steven wasn’t motivated and didn’t spend enough time on his assignments. From Steven’s perspective his teachers didn’t even care if he learned anything, as long as his assignments were turned in. Steven grew more cynical and disrespectful in school. At a parent-teacher conference, one of Steven’s teachers told Bill and Nancy that Steven “seemed depressed”. According to the teacher, Steven was usually inattentive, tired and withdrawn.
Summer before high school (14 years old)
Bill and Nancy had been arguing more over money and Bill’s drinking. After 14 years Bull lost his job at the telephone company. He was unemployed for a couple of months but then gained reemployment. Steven tried to avoid his parent’s arguments by going to his room and listening to music. He hated that his parents argued so much and worried that they might get a divorce. Over the summer holidays Steven started to hang out with a couple of his old neighbourhood buddies, Tom and Mike. They were older than Steven and didn’t have much in common with Steven but he appreciated having someone to hang out with. They even invited him to a few parties when their parents were away. At the parties Steven smoked cigarettes, drank a few beers and even tried marijuana. Steven kind of liked the buzz beer gave him and he occasionally drank his dad’s beer when his parents were gone. However he didn’t really like how the marijuana made him feel. Bill and Nancy were glad Steven was interacting with peers again. The family went away for a holiday and were surprised by a phone call from the local police department. Over the summer Steven had met a girl that he really like but never got the courage to ask her out. According to the police officer Steven (along with Tom and Mike) had left offensive and sexually explicit messages on the girls Facebook page. While the female and her family decided not to press charges, they wanted to inform the boy’s parents. Steven was prohibited from seeing Tom and Mike and as the summer drew to a close he worried about making friends in high school.
Steven starts high school (14-15 years old)
Even more than Steven expected, high school was overwhelming. The classes were larger and hallways constantly packed with students. He tried to keep up in class, but missed most of the notes and assignment directions. After a couple of months, he had fallen so far behind he became overwhelmed every time he tried to sit down and try to catch up. To make matters worse, his teachers were constantly harping on him about missing assignments and his low grades. Steven couldn’t stand his teachers. When they confronted him he would make nasty remarks under his breath and occasionally snapped back with sarcastic and critical comments. Steven didn’t really make any friends during the first few months of ninth grade. Steven mostly hung around a group of students from his middle school, although Steven didn’t consider them close friends. But at least Steven could identify with them. Like Steven most of these students were disengaged from school. They were in the building but rarely participated in their classes. During the first week of school Steven attempted to eat lunch with a group of students that he didn’t know. Not only were the students uninviting but one of the boys teased Steven about the Facebook incident, calling him a “stalker”. This experience summed things up for Steven. Regardless of how hard he tried, he wasn’t ever going to fit in. And now everyone in the school must know about “Stalker Steven.” At home Steven became more irritable and withdrawn. Steven never seemed to sleep well and would wake-up throughout the night. In the mornings, he was still exhausted and impossible to get out of bed. Despite their best efforts, many mornings Bill and Nancy just let Steven walk to school late or skip the day completely. In the evening Steven would move into his bedroom before his parents got home from work. Nancy worried about Steven’s diet and usually insisted that Steven eat at the table with the family. Since starting school, Steven had unintentionally lost 10lbs. Steven and his parents argued through much of dinner about his school performance and failing grades. Steven got caught smoking a cigarette on school property, since he started smoking with Tom and Mike her now had 2-3 cigarettes a day to relax and “fit in”.
15 years old
At 15 Steven was due for an annual check-up. After receiving some preliminary information from Nancy, the doctor requested a meeting with Steven to discuss his mental health.
(a) Demonstrate your understanding of potential psychological theories and ideas that help to explain the issues being experienced by Steven. Refer to the literature, theory, research evidence and the case study in your answer (20% - 2000 words).
(b) Using research evidence and international best practice, identify and evaluate relevant interventions that Steven could explore based on the specific circumstances discussed above (15% - 1500 words)
Controversial statements/arguments will be presented to you. You must choose one of these statements and write a response back to me (agreeing or disagreeing) using literature support and research relevant to psychology to support your own argument (1500 words worth 15%).
1: Conduct disorder is not real it is just bad parenting.
2. Sex offenders cannot change.
3. Concerns about mental health and children today is over the top, “generation snowflake” is nonsense, and young people are hysterical cry-babies.
4. People who are disabled are courageous for facing each day.
5. The use of apps such as ‘kurbo’ are helpful intervention strategies.
6. Some children are just attention seekers and its best to ignore them.
7. There is a limit on the level of achievement we can expect from a person with an intellectual disability in an educational setting.
8: Mindfulness techniques taught in the workplace are a good place to start in helping to prevent work related stress.
9: As the Irish Institute of Public Health in Ireland has shown that over a third of 15-24 year old drink sugar sweetened drinks the new sugar tax will promote healthier attitudes toward the amount of sugar we consume.
10. More stick and less carrot is a better approach to motivating employees.
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