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Report – Case Study Chris

This report will focus on the case study of Chris in which I shall apply my understanding of psychological perspectives of human growth and development. I shall be concentrating my understanding of psychological theories of human development.

Significant History

Chris is white British male 26 years of age.

10 and 17 years he was looked after by the local authority as mother could no longer cope with his behaviour.

Involved in a local gang.

Two girls pregnant

Age 14 spent 2 years in a young offenders institute

Father left at the age of 2 and has no contact

His mother has 2 other children with Chris’s step-father who are 5 and 7 years younger than Chris.

Chris is no longer allowed to visit home after he hit one of his step brothers

Currently lives in a squat, sleeps rough or uses night shelters.

Current Situation

According to Eric Erikson (1902-1994) Chris is at the young adult stage in psychosocial development. This is intimacy versus role confusion. Chris does not appear to be negotiating this stage very well as he has “got two girls pregnant” and does not “trust adults”.

By unsuccessfully negotiating this stage can mean isolation for Chris and the forming of shallow relationships which may already have happened with the two girls that are pregnant. Chris however may at any time look towards revisiting challenges or crisis that was unresolved from previous stages, in doing so he may successfully negotiate further stages as he gets older.

“….Thus the young adult, emerging from the search for an instance of identity is eager and willing to fuse his identity with that of others…..even though [this] may call for significant sacrifices and compromises”

(Erikson 1995 [1951]:237 as cited in Beckett & Taylor 2010:118)

One reason for Chris unsuccessfully negotiating Erikson’s psychosocial stages may be due to Chris’s early attachments. According to John Bowlby (1907-1990) secure attachments during childhood make a person feel secure. The first two years of a child’s life is the most important, believing that at this age as this age and stage if close relationships with a child’s care givers are not formed, they may in later life be at risk of social and personality problems – something Chris appears to be struggling with in the past and at present.

“The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals [is] a basic component of human nature, already present in germinal form in the neonate”

(Bee & Boyd 2003:128)

If we look at John Bowlby’s patterns of attachment Chris is showing signs of anxious avoidant and anxious resistant patterns. Chris expects to be rejected by his mother and therefore by forming an attachment with the gang he is trying to be emotionally self-sufficient belonging to a ‘family’ and possibly a ‘sense of identity’.

It can also be said that Chris has developed passive aggressive behaviour towards his brothers after hitting one during a visit. Due to this behaviour Chris has shown towards his brother is step-father has excluded him from the family home. Chris may see this as another form of rejection.

Chris has no attachment with his father from the age of two, however studies using fathers and their attachments to their children have found a reaction to his presence or absence can be similar to that for the mother. According to Kotelchuck (1976 as cited in Atkinson et al 1993:497) “…attachment to the fathers develops more slowly”.

Chris finds it hard to make friends and does not trust adults from the history we can only surmise that this is due to the lack of secure attachments he had in his informative years of childhood. It has been found patterns of attachment have a bearing on how children cope with new experiences during crucial years of development.

“Attachment behaviour is held to characterise human beings from cradle to the grave”

(Bolwby 1979:129 as cited in Parkes et al 1991:33)

If we look at a humanistic approach to Chris’s situation and Carl Rogers (1902-1987) theory, in which he emphasises the positive nature of human beings and their potential towards growth and self-actualisation. Rogers believed it is the freeing of individuals from any “barriers within themselves and between the self and the external reality”. Therefore we can surmise how Chris may view himself and his environment, rather than just focus on his behaviour. (Nicholson et al 2006:30)

From the history we can look at Chris’s self-concept of himself. His ideal self appears to be incongruent to the person Chris actually is, based on the way he conducts himself. Chris is not functioning and reaching his full potential and the negative behaviour it would appear Chris has not had much empathy or positive regard by anyone by not showing Chris any of this no one has experienced what Chris is feeling. By someone showing unconditional positive regard to his situation he may then discover his potential for growth in doing so take a more reflective look at his life.

“The best vantage point for understanding behaviour is the internal frame of reference of the individual himself”

(Carl Rogers 1951 as cited in Atkinson et al 1993:545)

Another theorist in humanism is that of Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) he developed a hierarchy of needs and believed everyone can self-actualise and described this as the ultimate goal of human life.

Chris is currently within physiological needs as these are currently being met. His safety needs are not being met as yet as currently lives in a squat and frequently sleeps rough and occasionally has help from a night shelter.

Chris has a lack of stability in his life. However he is on the local authority waiting list for accommodation. Once Chris has his own place and stability he may then look towards Maslow’s next stage of love and belonging.

It considered that all behaviour whether normal or abnormal is learnt through the process of classical conditioning through association.

B.F.Skinner (19041-1990) developed operant conditioning which is reward punishment or reinforcement. Chris has had no positive peers or role models to look up to and aspire to be like according to Skinner behaviour modification can be used to change challenging behaviour. In order for Chris to correct his behaviour it would be necessary to find the reinforcer and remove it. Without the reinforcement, the challenging and attention seeking behaviour he shows may be extinguished. On the other hand Chris must be rewarded for any positive behaviour he then shows. If Chris had formed solid attachments to any of his carers or peers the time may have been taken from an early age to encourage his positive behaviour and therefore Chris may have felt more empowered and then may take a positive approach to life.

“In both operant conditioning and the evolutionary selection of behavioural characteristics consequences alter future probability. Reflexes and other innate patterns of behaviour evolve because they increase the chances of survival of the species. Operants grow strong because they are followed by important consequences in the life of the individual”

(Skinner, 1953:90 as cited in Beckett & Taylor 2010:81)

If we now look at Chris’s communication we can look at Eric Berne (1910-1970) transactional analysis which is based on transactions between child, parent and adult ego states. His theory not just centres on personality but a person’s social interactions.

Based on this Chris is acting in his child ego state this is causing crossed transactions. Chris is behaving through his thoughts and feelings internalised from childhood. This can explain Chris’s behaviour and reaction to situations such as hitting his step-brother. Chris’s child-like dysfunctional behaviour can be defined by Berne’s interpretation of ‘games’ appears to be how Chris is dealing with situations in order to gain ‘strokes’ however it is just reinforce negative feelings and self -concepts masking the direct expression of thoughts and feelings . The game Chris is playing is in order he receives ‘positive strokes’ however his behaviour is having the opposite effect and is receiving negative reactions which may be frustrating him even more. (Berne 2009)

Chris’s ‘lifescript’ is dysfunctional and is the result of decisions made during childhood in the interest of his survival such as his illegal activities and gang involvement. In order to receive ‘positive strokes’ Chris needs to look at changing his life scripts to gain positive recognition in order to improve his decisions and interaction’s with those around him.

“As the complexities of compromise increase, each person becomes more and more individual in his quest for recognition and it is these, differentia which lend variety to social intercourse and which determine the individuals destiny”

(Berne 2010:14)

Conclusion and Recommendations

It is quite clear the importance of attachments in an individual’s life in having a bearing on a way a person conducts and grows in life. Important attachments had Chris formed them this may have had a different impact on his life.

Chris would benefit from some form of counselling, especially a client centred approach in which he would be shown unconditional positive regard and empathy. With this approach the therapist would show transparency to Chris without judgment on his life. This type of therapy would concentrate on the here and now and not so much of the past. Believing it is, the life choices that Chris has made, that is having a bearing on his life.

A humanistic approach will enable a warm relationship with the therapist which will enable Chris to explore problems from his “own frame of reference”. Chris would be shown some attention have someone actively listening to him and allow reflection of his thoughts and feelings. By communicating in this way Chris may begin to problem solve, understand his actions, thoughts and feelings and therefore start to feel more empowered about his life. (Seden 2003:38)

Cognitive behaviour therapy could also be looked at in order that Chris can look towards changing learnt behaviour and understanding that his actions are having a negative impact on his life.

The use of this therapy will help Chris to identify stressful situations that produce his physiological or emotional symptoms and alter the way he then copes with each situation. He would then begin to reflect as to why he reacts to situations and question why he behaves in a certain way.

“Promoting opportunity for people to use their own strengths and expertise to enable them to meet their responsibility, secure rights and achieve change”

(CCETSW 1995 as cited in Seden 2003:38)

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