The text discusses the analysis of the case study 'The Williams Family' (Appendix 1) using sociology and psychology to demonstrate their relevance. Sociology and psychology are fields that seek to understand how individuals behave in society and provide explanations or predictions. Psychology specifically examines individuals from a micro perspective.
Psychologists argue that individuals shape and influence society, while sociologists disagree and assert that society molds individuals. According to sociologists, it is the larger social structures, like the family or education system, that shape the citizens within it. Sociologists examine the Williams family and quickly assess their social class, economic status, and social structure. The Williams family is considered middle-class.
This information is derived from the National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC), which replaced the Registrar Generals Classification of Occupation in 2001. (www.ons.go...
v.uk) Please refer to Appendix 3.
Sociologists would argue that Terry possesses all the privileges necessary to be a valuable and useful member of society. Being white, he belongs to the dominant culture, which provides him with security. Additionally, being male grants him various social advantages.
In 1971, Shulamith Firestone discussed the sexual category system and argued that it served as the initial form of societal stratification. Firestone's ideas were influenced by her previous work, "The Dialects of Sex," published in 1970 and cited in Haralambos and Holborn.
According to Sociology Themes and positions (p.105), the dominant category is male. Terry's parents being in a relationship indicates that he belongs to an atomic household where the bond between husband and wife is highly valued (Nicholson 1997, cited in Haralambos and Holborn Sociology Themes and positions, p.471). The family is considered a primary socialization institution and is seen as one of
the main structures in society. Additionally, the nuclear family is an ideal model in our culture, providing stability and role models for the children within it.
The text highlights that child rearing practices vary across different civilizations, with the predominant focus being on European practices. It further suggests that the nuclear family structure, which is common in European societies, differs from extended family structures found in other parts of the world. This argument is supported by Laslett (1983, 1984) as cited in Haralambos and Holborn's Sociology Themes and Perspectives (p.475). Additionally, the information presented in the case study shows that both Mr and Mrs Williams are teachers.
This further provides Terry with a solid economic foundation. This is important for his chances of success because, thanks to his parents' financial status, Terry was able to attend a good school and receive a quality education. He also had access to proper nutrition and housing, which ensured his overall health. Being in the middle class also enhances Terry's opportunities for educational achievement. In a longitudinal study conducted by J.W.B Douglas in 1964 and 1970, 5,362 British school children born in 1946 were followed through the education system until they turned 16 in 1962. Douglas concluded that the most significant factor influencing educational attainment was the level of parental involvement in their child's education (J W B Douglas).
According to Haralambos and Holborn (p.629), Terry received a good education, as he continued his studies at university. Education is a significant institution in society, as it socializes individuals according to societal norms and values, and it plays a prominent role in this family's life. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that Terry's parents
believe he left university without any obvious reason from their perspective.
The exact reason for Terry's departure is unknown and it would be beneficial to understand why, as there may be factors that have been overlooked contributing to his behavior. It should not be assumed that aggression within this high-status family is unimportant or that Terry's actions are solely a result of how he was brought up. Terry has his own viewpoint influenced by Marxism, viewing himself as oppressed in the ruling class and appearing to disagree with society.
Being a Marxist, he holds the belief that social institutions such as education and healthcare are purposely designed to benefit the ruling class. He observes that the working class is being exploited and manipulated by those in authority. His radical perspective reflects his feelings of oppression and powerlessness within society.
Despite accruing a substantial amount of debt, Terry has not elected to withdraw from the capitalist economy but rather sought help from his parents to repay it. His parents belong to the middle class and can be viewed as belonging to Marx's 'ruling class', which contradicts Terry's Marxist Ideology. Psychologists propose that one of Terry's parents may have experienced mental health problems, potentially impacting the family during Terry's upbringing. Consequently, evaluating Terry's own mental well-being is essential in excluding any illnesses.
Research by R. Gross (2005) suggests that children in this country who have parents with mental wellness issues are more likely to experience similar problems themselves, with a 10-15% higher likelihood. Additionally, there are indications that Terry may be showing symptoms of depression or a form of simple schizophrenia. It is important to seek confirmation from a professional (see
appendix 2). Terry's evident anger and resentment towards his parents should be addressed by investigating the underlying reasons through questioning all family members and understanding the existing family systems. If it is determined that Terry does not have a mental illness, it would be beneficial to discuss his childhood experiences with him.
Given that both of Terry's parents are working professionals and one of them has mental health issues, it is logical to assume that his behavior might be affected by attachment problems. The World Health Organisation asked John Bowlby to study the consequences of maternal deprivation (Bowlby, 1951), partly due to the rise in women taking on traditionally male roles after World War 2. Research indicates that inadequate mothering can have negative effects on a child's social and emotional growth. Children who lack their mothers' presence are at risk of developing poor self-perception and low self-confidence.
Depressed female parents may have difficulty in communicating and interacting with their children, often displaying a 'blank face'. This behavior creates barriers for interaction and may result in a strained parent-child relationship due to lack of connection. These issues worsen Terry's social isolation. Establishing a therapeutic platform for communication between the depressed parent and the child can help address any underlying problems (Hammen 1990 cited in Rutter & Rutter 1993), especially in the case of boys (Howe 1999). Attachment behavior is evident when an individual experiences stress or anxiety. It can be argued that Terry experienced stress while in university, having to leave home, studying at a high level, and possibly facing pressure to succeed.
This paragraph explains the change in Terry's behavior. It is likely that Terry had a distant
relationship with his parents, given that both were working and one had mental health issues. The research suggests that Terry's isolation may be due to the combination of his parents' demanding careers and mental illness. Attachment disorders can manifest as antisocial behavior, delinquency, signs of dependency, and difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships.
According to Dwivedi, Brinley Harper, and A (1999), the existence of an identity crisis is a widely discussed topic, particularly in relation to adolescence. This stage is regarded as the transition from childhood to adulthood in all cultures. While some cultures have specific rituals to symbolize this transition, Western society views the adolescent years as a time for adjustment. Freud, Erikson, and Piaget have each developed theories to explain this period of transition.
According to Erikson (1963), each stage of life, such as transitioning from childhood to adulthood, entails a conflict between personality types that can either be adaptive/positive or maladaptive/negative. Erikson believed that healthy transitions require the adaptive personality type to outweigh the maladaptive one. The prevalent Western belief that adolescence is a period of immaturity can result in role confusion and hinder the development of individuality. Erikson claimed that this role confusion affects various aspects of a person, including intimacy. Terry may have developed a fear of close relationships due to a fear of losing their own identity.
This could explain why he is isolated. His loss of status could also be affected, making it difficult for him to plan for the future, and ultimately he may have adopted a negative identity. This would explain his drug use and risky behavior. Erikson argued that this negative behavior is preferred to the isolation and
loneliness that come with being unable to fulfill any kind of role within society, or that a negative identity is better than no identity at all. The thoughts and emotions that Terry displays certainly indicate that he feels emotionally angry and isolated. It is important to validate Terry's perceptions of his parents and his beliefs about their parenting methods, and it would be necessary to understand the dynamics of this family in order to possibly trace the origins of Terry's issues.
A comprehensive approach to intervention involves communicating with all members of the household to develop a clearer understanding. Rogers, a humanistic psychologist, was associated with the term "humanistic" coined by Cohen (1958) and considered the third major force in psychology after Freudianism and behaviorism. Maslow (1968) defined humanistic psychology as a more holistic approach that integrates both of these approaches. Both Rogers and Maslow agreed that individuals have the ability to grow and achieve self-actualization, or congruity, where one's perceived and actual selves are aligned.
According to humanist psychological science, Terry's perception of himself (Self) is not the same as his actual self, resulting in incongruence. Consequently, he experiences low self-esteem. It can be assumed that Terry has been exposed to acceptable and unacceptable behavior through his primary socialization within the family and secondary socialization through education. In order for Terry to achieve self-realization, he needs to receive unconditional positive regard. The provision of positive regard should not come with any terms or conditions, as it is within this non-judgmental environment that Terry can thrive.
Terry may feel that his parents assess him based on how he acts, and this belief will contribute to the continued inconsistency.
Furthermore, Terry also anticipates receiving unwavering respect and dignity from others. It is probable that during his upbringing, Terry only received conditional positive regard in regards to his scholastic accomplishments. He has adhered to the course his parents charted for him in order to gain their esteem and uphold a favorable self-perception. By conforming to their expectations, he has overlooked his own personal satisfaction, leading to notable difficulties in adapting.
In order to maintain a positive self-esteem that is not solely dependent on external validation, it is important for Terry to acknowledge and accept his own ideas and feelings rather than denying them. Social workers should treat Terry with unconditional positive regard in all interactions. While Terry holds the ultimate control over his own destiny and has the freedom to shape his life through choices, there is little debate that his reactions to society have been significantly influenced by his upbringing and socialization. It is undeniable that society exerts a powerful influence over all individuals, establishing regulations and norms expected to be followed.
Multiple factors contribute to the situation faced by Terry and his parents. As social workers, it is optimistic to aim for Terry's reunification with his parents and support the reconstruction of their relationship. This approach takes into account the family as a whole. However, we should not oversimplify personality's complex nature, influenced by genetics or upbringing. Our priority is always to prioritize clients' needs and respect their perspectives.
We should avoid judging or condemning the Williams household if they believe that relationships cannot be formed. We must recognize that their perceptions are valid and as social workers, our role is to promote change and growth,
even if it differs from our own ideals.
- Giddens H. Sociology 6th Edition. 2009. Polity Press. Cambridge
- Gross, R. Psychology The Study of Mind and Behaviour. 2005. Hodder Arnold.
Attachment Theory for Social Work Practice 2005. Palgrave. Basingstoke
Howe, D Brandon, M et Al. Attachment Theory, Child Maltreatment and Family Support. 1999. Palgrave MacMillan.
The Williams Family
The Williams household consists of Terry, aged 26, and his two parents. Both parents are university alumni and are still involved in the education profession, although one suffers from depression and "nervousness". They had hoped that Terry would also pursue a university education followed by a "respectable professional career." They were therefore disappointed when he decided to drop out of his studies at University after a short period of time without any specific reason evident to his parents.
Terry had a fantastic time at University, considering it to be like paradise. He wore bright colors, partied, and supported radical and popular protests. Once he graduated, Terry began experimenting with drugs as he made new friends. Gradually, he became more introverted, confrontational, and distanced himself from his old friends. Terry saw himself as an outsider and rebel against society's prevailing values such as consumerism, individualism, and competition. During this period, he directed his anger and feelings of alienation towards his parents for betraying their socialist and humanistic beliefs.
He accused them of surrounding and over
protecting him, denying him the opportunity to truly find himself and what he truly wanted to pursue in life. Because of Terry's lifestyle, identity issues, attitude towards work, and extremist beliefs, he ended up in significant debt assuming that his parents would always rescue him as they had in the past. Terry refused to find a job and viewed it as supporting the capitalist system with his labor. He often questioned the purpose of it all. Terry began making intrusive demands for more money from his parents and became abusive towards them and their friends. Eventually, Terry resorted to stealing from his parents and breaking into a neighbor's home, resulting in a brief prison sentence followed by community supervision.
Terry is currently leasing a room in a large house in Suffolk. He spends a significant amount of time isolated and is seen as puzzling, distant, and difficult to connect with.
Issue to Address: Action to Take
The desired outcome from each action:
Terry's social isolation and withdrawal from society. Refer Terry to mental health services to determine his mental well-being. If Terry has any mental health issues, they can be addressed through medication and/or therapy.
Determine Terry's past and current drug use. Refer to drug support services, including involving his parents if possible and with Terry's consent. Provide support and advice to Terry to prevent a relapse into drug use.
Identify Terry's motives. Speak to all family members to gather a history. Identify behavior patterns or reasons for his actions, such as insecure attachment.
Terry's lack of employment and opportunities. Discuss with Terry the possibility of returning to education or training. Gather information about training courses available at local colleges and provide it to him. Help Terry reintegrate into the workforce, boost his confidence and self-esteem, and facilitate social relationships as he currently feels isolated.
Familial alienation. Consider family systems therapy for the entire family.
To improve communication between Terry and his parents and provide support for him if possible, or to provide closure for concerned parties. Terry is experiencing anger issues and should be referred to anger management guidance. Provide Terry with strategies to manage his frustration instead of becoming aggressive.
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