Tag Archives: Family Systems Theory

What Effect Does Violence have on Kids? – Practical Application of Stanley Greenspan’s Theory of Emotional Development to Violent Behavior


I have chosen to apply the Theory of Emotional Development as seen by Stanley Greenspan to violent behavior.  I can see where this theory can explain how violent behavior gets embedded into a person, especially when the behavior is experienced from birth or from a young age, either by witnessing or by being victimized by violence.

Greenspan’s Theory assumes that children learn behavior by experiencing it.  The behavior would then continue into adulthood unless something drastic affects them.  It would have to be to the point that they feel they need to change the behavior.  In the case of violence, this drastic happening could be, going to jail or prison, going too far with the violence, or even being injured bad enough to be hospitalized for a while.  This of course depends on the person.

There are several assumptions from the theory that I will compare to the affects of violence on children.  I will also compare the milestones within the stages of emotional development to the stages the children go through when submerged in a violent environment.

There are also several reasons why violence would be someone’s first reaction to any situation.  There are many signs that a child could have violent tendencies, we could see these as they grow older.  Some children show behavioral problems at very young ages, their mental health status could grow worse and there are often problems academically and behaviorally throughout adolescence.

It seems that how often someone is exposed to violent behavior and the age at which they are first exposed determines the severity of the violent actions the child may eventually commit.

If a child is exposed to violence through a victim standpoint, it is most likely that as parents, the violence will be committed against their immediate family, but it is also likely that violence will be committed against outsiders as well.

If a child is exposed to violence through a witness standpoint, negative results could include becoming aggressive and having developmental challenges. Also, some criminal behavior could be seen.

There are many long-term effects that can take hold of a person when they are exposed to violence, especially if it was for a very long period of time.   These effects include depression, antisocial behavior, and substance abuse.  The child also learns to associate a positive attitude to violent behavior, if they are continually exposed.  They end up feeling as if the perpetrator is rewarded for the behavior.

In the Theory of Emotional Development one assumption is, “the capacity to organize experiences is present early in life”.  When violence is present in a person’s life, it is generally something that has been experienced from a very early time in their life.  Generally it is in the form of domestic violence toward a parent or themselves.

The violence that is experienced through the child’s life is organized when the child either accepts this behavior as normal or decides that the behavior is wrong and then fights against it.

This theory, “Assumes that initially organization is emotion based rather than cognition based”.  The research associated with violent behavior shows the learning of violence is cognition based.  It is a learned behavior in that, the more a child is exposed to various types of violence, the more likely they are to become offenders and the worse the offences become.

It also says, “Infants organize their emotions differently at different stages of ego development”.  Infants who emerge into life where violence is prevalent will organize their emotions accordingly.  These babies will startle easily, as loud noise and yelling does anyway, but then will grow into toddlers who may sense something is wrong, but will also be desensitized to the violent behavior around them.  Also, because of the actions that are prevalent in the home, they will see the violence as normal because they have no ability to compare it to others’ behavior.

This theory says, “With the maturation of the brain, interpreting progresses to higher levels of organization”.  As the child progresses into elementary school age, and they are exposed to other children’s life styles, they will begin to understand, maybe truly for the first time, that the behavior they are experiencing is wrong.

At this point, and as they grow, they will start to compare their own home life to their friends’ and then start to really organize how they feel as to whether the behavior is normal in other peoples lives.  Because they are starting to comprehend what’s happening in their household, they will generally devise a way to hide what’s happening to them in order to appear normal to everyone else.

This theory also states, “Emotional organization is acquired through relationships with those who care for the child”.  The child’s primary caretaker is generally their abuser.  Because of this, the emotions acquired in this relationship are generally those of confusion.  This is because the parent usually tells them that they are loved, but then the actions of that parent don’t agree with the words.  The child unknowingly learns to develop hate; sometimes toward the abuser and sometimes toward themselves because they feel they can never do what it takes to feel the love promised them so often.  These emotions carry through to adulthood and usually affect their own relationships, even as early as Jr. High or High School relationships.

Another assumption from this theory is, “Socialplay is the vehicle for promoting emotional organization”.  Children who live with violence in the home are more likely to try to stay away from the home as much as possible.  As soon as they realize they have an escape at a friend’s house they will make any excuse to try to go there in order to get away from either viewing the violence or becoming a victim of it.

Socialplay then becomes more and more about what their friends have access to that the child doesn’t feel they have.  These things do not necessarily have a monetary value, but emotional value.  Affection, courteousness, and other familial values are not found at home, so they take comfort in finding them in other people’s homes.

Greenspan also says, “Experiences must be age appropriate; have range, depth, and stability; and be personally unique.”  Unfortunately for children who experience violence on a daily basis there are not many age appropriate experiences.  These children quickly learn the keys to survival and how to fend for themselves.  These methods become intertwined into daily life and as the child grows, it becomes a way of life.  This is usually the start of the person committing violent acts when they are older.  It is not generally something they see as being a chosen action, but more something that just happens.

Greenspan has defined six milestones within the stages of emotional development. These milestones are self regulation, intimacy, two-way communication, complex communication, emotional ideas, and, emotional thinking.  Each of these milestones represents a phase or stage of a child’s life, and what they should accomplish during that phase where emotional development is concerned.

The first stage of emotional development is engagement.  This stage usually lasts from about three weeks of age until about eight months of age.

During this stage the “infants learn to share attention, relate to others with warmth, positive emotion, and expectation of pleasant interactions, and trust they are secure”.  This is the stage in which self regulation and intimacy are learned.  During these crucial early weeks and months of a child’s life, if they are involved in a violent environment, they would learn the opposite of what is involved in engagement.  They would eventually learn there are not many, if any, pleasant interactions and would not feel secure in their own actions.  In fact their first reaction to attention would come to be the flight reaction and then when older the fight reaction.

Two-way communication is the second stage of emotional development.  This stage usually lasts from about six months of age until about 18 months of age.  During this stage “infants learn to signal needs and intentions, comprehend others’ intentions, communicate information (motorically and verbally), make assumptions about safety, and have reciprocal interactions”.  This is the stage in which two-way communication is learned.  The children in this age group are still too young to recognize that the violence in their environment is not normal; yet, they are learning skills to survive there.  The two-way communication they are learning is how to signal their needs in the least threatening way.  Whether they are experiencing violence by witnessing it or are being abused, they learn the other person’s intentions could be painful and their safety could be compromised if not handled with care.  They carry this skill into later life when dealing with others.

The third stage of emotional development is shared meanings.  This stage usually lasts from about 18 months of age until about 36 months of age.  During this stage “children learn to relate their behaviors, sensations, and gestures to the world of ideas, engage in pretend play, intentionally use language to communicate, and begin to understand cognitive concepts”.  There are two milestones associated with this stage, complex communication and emotional ideas.  A lot of children who are exposed to violence from an early age end up learning things like complex communication at a later time than other children.  Because of this, these children sometimes develop learning disabilities which eventually become a sore spot for these children.  When other children don’t understand what is happening in that child’s life and choose to use that child’s slower development as something hurtful, the violent feelings tend to erupt as this is what that child has been taught at home.

The fourth and final stage in Greenspan’s theory is emotional thinking.  This stage usually lasts from about three years of age to about six years of age.  During this stage, “children can organize experiences and ideas, make connections among ideas, begin reality testing, gain a sense of themselves and their emotions, see themselves in space and time, and develop categories of experience”.  Emotional thinking is developed in this stage.  This is the age when children start to recognize that things in their home environment are not quite right.  They start to put together the fact that other children’s home lives do not involve violence on a regular basis.  At this point the child is still unsure of what, if anything, they can do about the violence in their own home.  This can be the turning point in a child’s life.

It can be when they subconsciously decide if they will incorporate the violence their caregiver has unknowingly taught them into their own lives and become violent with other people, or if they will become more docile and turn inward.

I feel that this theory, if taken further into research about violent behavior, would be a good one to look at in order to help predict violent tendencies in children.  If we do this we can try to incorporate treatment earlier and possibly cut out a lot of the violence we are seeing today.  The assumptions and the stages of the theory for emotional development are very helpful when looking at violence from an outside perspective.

References

Cullen, P.  (2009, May 21). Physical, emotional and sexual abuse was widespread in State institutions. The Irish Times p. 9.

Fagan, J.  (1996). The Criminalization of Domestic Violence: Promises and Limits
National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from LexisNexis database.

Nader, C. (2008, December 3). Death often tragic end to history of domestic violence.  The Age p. 11.

Murrell, A.R., Christoff, K.A., Henning, K.R. (2007, July 17).  Characteristics of Domestic Violence Offenders: Associations with Childhood Exposure to Violence.                                  J Fam Viol, 22:523-532

Appleyard, K., Egeland, B., van Dulmen, M.H.M., Sroufe, L.A. (2004. February 2). When more is not better: the role of cumulative risk in child behavior outcomes. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46:3, 235-245

Bergen, D. (2008). Human Development Traditional and Contemporary Theories. Pearson Prentice Hall.

Schizophrenia, Downward Social Drift, and Interpersonal Adjustment


Everyday social encounters present people with schizophrenia a considerable amount of difficulty.  They show significant impairment in both “instrumental relationships” and social-emotional relationships.  This impairment is demonstrated by “downward social drift” and, perhaps more importantly, the fact that the majority of people with schizophrenia never marry.  Of note is that interpersonal adjustment issues are much more prevalent in the male portion of the schizophrenia population that in the female portion.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Social competence is a global or “macro” measurement of social role performance.  Global social competence issues continue to be a marker not only for people who have schizophrenia, but for people who are considered “high risk.”  I still don’t quite understand the etiology of these social deficits however… which came first, the social deficits or the disorder?

Social skills are less global and more molecular, thereby representing skills that enable a person to competently perform a social task.  They include “specific verbal, non-verbal and paralinguistic (e.g., voice tone) behavioral components that together form the basis for effective communication.”  (Blaney & Millon, 2009, p. 335)  To my own personal delight, I really enjoy any opportunity to utilize role-play… and this is one of them.  Typically, people with schizophrenia will show weaker verbal and nonverbal skill development, they tend to be less assertive, and they tend to deny making errors or lie as opposed to apologize or explain.  I am really looking forward to utilizing role-play with this population, I believe it to be one of my strong suits (and one of the pieces I really enjoy).

People with schizophrenia can have remarkably impaired ability to solve social problems.  This might manifest in difficulty recognizing interpersonal problems, formulating solutions to that problem, or perhaps most importantly implementing a solution that has a probably degree of success.  They are generally less able to recognize poor problem solutions (e.g., solutions that are unlikely to work).

Gender is an often neglected variable when studying schizophrenia.  Female patients typically have later onset, shorter and less frequent psychotic episodes, and show better response to treatment when compared to make counterparts.  They are more likely to be marked, to live independently, and to be employed (despite having similar symptoms to men).  Women often require less antipsychotic medication to stabilize them.  This leads some authors to speculate about the neuroprotective properties of estrogen… interesting concept to say the least.  This might be off-base, but could this possibly explain the late life crisis that women often experience around menopause?

Positive and negative symptoms should not be viewed in the context of “good and bad.”  Positive symptoms are “added,” like delusions or hallucinations for example.  Negative symptoms are typically features that are removed, reduced, or blunted.  This typically manifests as emotional withdrawal or anhedonia.  Negative effects have been shown to predict both unemployment and reduced social network size.  In total, positive symptoms, negative symptoms, and “disorders of relating” represent three distinct dimensions of schizophrenia.  (Blaney & Millon, 2009, p. 340)

Of particular interest to me is the discussion on interpersonal stress, relapse, and the apparent foundation of the above in family systems theory.  Specifically, “the social environment into which schizophrenia patients were discharged after they left the hospital was significantly associated with how well patients fared psychiatrically over the next several months.”  (Blaney & Millon, 2009, p. 349)  Expressed emotion (EE) reflects the extent to which the relatives of a psychiatric patient talk about that patient in a critical, hostile, or emotionally over-involved way.  EE has been found to be a reliable predictor of relapse, and as a result, family therapy focused on dealing with living with a schizophrenic patient is definitely in order.  This can assist family members in overcoming their apparent difficulty in accepting, and understanding, the disorder.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Reference

Blaney, P. H., & Millon, T. (2009). Oxford textbook of psychopathology (2nd ed.). New York, New York: Oxford University Press.

Roles of the Counselor with Learning Disabled Clients and Families


Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Is there a counseling or therapeutic role in the context of these disorders, or is the role of the counselor primarily a social/educational one?  It’s a complex question regarding a complex disorder; there are no simple solutions.  Within the context of learning disabilities (LD) and mental retardation, there are a number of different roles we, as human services or mental health professionals, can fill in the multidisciplinary model of treatment for clients with LD.   Our expertise is needed not only by the clients themselves, but also by the families who endeavor to provide support for special needs individuals.  Finally, we should not discount our role in supporting other professionals, as we can have an impact, even if indirect, by allowing them to continue to function effectively in those sometimes challenging roles.

Direct treatments of clients with LD are most often focused on adaptation skills “since problems in adaptation are more likely to improve with remedial efforts than is the cognitive IQ, which tends to remain a more stable attribute.”  (American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 2000, p. 42)  Traditional interventions for children with learning and coordination disorders include: (1) general educational management of learning-disabled children eligible for special education services in the public schools; (2) specific methods of instruction; (3) cognitive-behavioral techniques to teach efficient problem strategies and to improve attitudinal/motivational problems, and (4) mental health approaches with children who have co-occurring social-emotional disorders.  (Netherton, Holmes, & Walker, 1999, p. 40)

A contemporary program that extends the boundaries of more traditional interventions is the “treatment mall.”  The programming (in the treatment mall model) is the result of a collaborative process involving the patient, his or her treatment team, a program design team (which has participant representation), and group facilitators from the many disciplines that practice in the treatment mall.  The emphasis of psychosocial rehabilitation programming is improving functional level, increasing capacity for recovery, and instilling hope.  Psychosocial rehabilitation treatment malls use a multidisciplinary team approach.  Nurses, psychologists, rehabilitation therapists, social workers, nutritionists, physical therapists, physicians, community college educators, and community support providers work together to teach patients with serious mental illness or mental retardation and developmental disabilities the skills and adaptive behaviors needed to live successfully in a community setting following discharge from the hospital.  (Ballard, 2008, expression Program Description)  The sidebar of the Ballard article specifically recognizes psychology staff as contributing to courses designed for short stay participants, including courses titled Legal Issues/Focus, Understanding Your Illness, Competency Restoration, Building Your Brainpower, and Building the Life You Want.  (Ballard, 2008, expression Sidebar)

Our contributions to the learning disabled community as mental health professionals are not confined to treatment malls.  High levels of frustration, with associated performance anxiety and depression, are not uncommon in LD children.  (Netherton, Holmes, & Walker, 1999, p. 45)  Accurate diagnosis provides a clear direction for interventions.  (Costello & Bouras, 2006, expression abstract)  Although substantially increased in recent years, research evidence about the prevalence of mental health problems in individuals with intellectual disabilities and the risk factors for developing specific psychiatric disorders is limited and often conflicting.  Most estimates of the prevalence of psychiatric illness in people with intellectual disabilities range from 10-39%.  (Costello & Bouras, 2006, expression Prevalence)  This suggests that our role isn’t simply confined to teaching problem solving techniques and life skills, but more importantly, addressing the underlying psychological issues that impact the learning disabled community as a whole.  Large numbers of individuals with intellectual disabilities living in the community exhibit psychiatric or behavioral problems arising from mental health problems.  Together the joint contributions of mental illness and intellectual disabilities indicate a group of individuals whose needs are considerable, and whose quality of life will be seriously impaired if the illness is not effectively identified and treated.  (Costello & Bouras, 2006, expression Implications)

So, to answer the question… Is there a counseling or therapeutic role in the context of these disorders, or is the role of the counselor primarily a social/educational one?  Yes, all of the above.  As we continue to define our roles, inevitably we will continue to develop new models of treatment and rehabilitation for our LD clients.  I contend that mental health professionals play a critical role at every point of entry, and should continue to play a significant role into the foreseeable future.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.

Ballard, F. A. (2008, Feb). Benefits of psychosocial rehabilitation programming in a treatment mall. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 46(2), 26-33. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1422243211&sid=6&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Costello, H., & Bouras, N. (2006). Assessment of mental health problems in people with intellectual disabilities. The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 43(4), 241-252. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/pqdweb?did=1254155791&sid=6&Fmt=3&clientId=4683&RQT=309&VName=PQD

Netherton, S. D., Holmes, D., & Walker, C. E. (1999). Child and adolescent psychological disorders: A comprehensive textbook. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.

Family Systems Theory


Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Although I wouldn’t have considered myself a family systems theory advocate prior to taking this course, I have becoming increasingly fond of the perspective.  I do not believe you can work with a client, either individually or in the context of family therapy, without attempting to understand the systems (family, work, community, church, and other relevant social systems) that exert influence on and ultimately play a role in the decision making of an individual.  Regardless of whether I intend to work specifically as a family systems therapist, I think a foundation in family systems theory is needed in order to ethically and adequately treat individuals.  It’s even more important when working with couples or families, but I believe that is implicitly implied when you apply it to the individual.    As an aside, this is a great entry point for our earlier conversation about multiculturalism.  Culture is, by definition, is a bidirectional system that both exerts influence on, and is influenced by, our clients.  So, since we have all agreed previously that culture is a consideration we need to account for when providing mental health services, we are by default systems theory advocates (even if it is on a macro level).

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine