“Theories of attachment appear to be central to social work practice with children and families. Most of the literature on attachment for social workers is Eurocentric and does not address issues of working with black children and families. Adams, Dominelli and Payne, 2002, pages 87 -88.
In attachment theory, children monitor their environment for signs of danger and threat. If a child feels frightened or distressed their attachment system is activated, triggering attachment behaviour. “Bryman (2004) suggests that theories are ways of describing and explaining the persistence of regularities in reality. In sociology there are three main types of theories:
- Grand Theories (also known as meta-narratives), as the name suggests, explores issues on a grand scale – that is the whole of society. Examples of grand theories are Marxism or feminism.
- Middle range theories explore the middle range of interactions between wider society and micro – or individual level, such as racism, unemployment or deviance. These operate in a limited domain and focus on a specific area of social life.
- Micro theories seek to explain individual or small group behaviour. Goffman’s (1968) study on asylums explored how a small group of people diagnosed with mental illness were stigmatized and treated because of this label.” Oak, 2009, pages 2 – 3.
A young mother has a child at the age of two. If the child becomes naughty and out of control the mum may feel anger and upset towards the child, as there is a possibility that the mum may feel that her parents did not protect the mum as a child. This could be a trigger point of abuse, both directly and indirectly towards the child. This example is the opposite of attachment theory, known as the psychodynamic approach. Although there isn’t a particular name for this it is clearly talked about and discussed in the psychodynamic approach.
Attachment is clearly influential in both professional and personal settings. As a Social Worker knowing about the attachment theory can help to make the right steps in order to protect the child and the family,
Attachment has been defined as “an affectionate bond between two individuals that endures through space and time and serves to join them emotionally” Kennell 1976. Attachment helps the child:
- Attain his or her full potential
- Sort out what he or she perceives
- Think logically
- Develop a conscience
- Become self reliant
- Cope with stress and frustration
- Handle fear and worry
- Develop future relationships
- Reduce jealousy
Fahlberg, 1985, page 7.
Personal growth is a psychological concept which has become increasingly popular since the development of Rogers Client Centred Therapy of 1940’s. For personal growth to occur the self concept, self esteem and identities must already be established, but in turn, personal growth alters people’s conceptions of their own selves.
Every individual has their own conditions of worth, which could include, good manners – saying please and thank you. Being loyal to family and friends – by being honest, being nice to others and having respect and also by being truthful and helping others. In order for an individual to be a likeable person the individual must be trustworthy, honest and by being able to give out respect to others.
During practice there is a chance that one may need to deal or work alongside people who have committed a crime that you don’t agree with, for example: sex offenders, child abusers or child murders. As a professional the worker is to act professional at all times and if struggling then to speak with colleagues and other services to signpost the service user in the direction of others that may be able to offer extra guidance and advice.
I have worked with a young 16 year old girl who has been in care most of her life due to sexual abuse from her step father. Her brother aged 10 committed suicide in the family home. The 16 year old did not know what to do, she mainly blamed herself for the abuse she suffered at the hands of her step father and also blamed herself for the death of her brother. Looking back at the theories used in this module I can see why the young person blames them self for the way they are feeling. They are not to blame but don’t feel that they could think it is someone else’s fault.
At the start of this module I was oblivious to the ongoing issues within the society relating to power, race and religion and difference is a white global issue. As a white woman brought up as a catholic, I realise and understand that there are other religions and cultures and different beliefs and values. I understand that Christianity is not the only religion.
At the end of the module I have realised that we all believe in different values and opinions, which all roll into the same answer, we are all human who have their own power and privileges to make their own decisions, to be respectful and non-judgemental.
A life event that has given me a deeper understanding of attachment was at the age of twelve when I lost my father. I grew closer to my mother, completing this module has made me aware of all the changes we go through as we grow older.
The diagram below is the Humanist Models by Maslow.
Cognitive development is about how a child’s thinking changes over time. Below we can see Piaget’s stages of cognitive development.
“The diagram below depicts a typical, successful interaction between mother and child. The interaction is initiated by the child’s need and consequent expression of displeasure and completed by the mothers’ response.
The Arousal Relaxation Cycle:
QUIESCENCE SECURITY DISPLEASURE
Fahlberg, 1985, page 16.
The Positive Interaction Cycle:
Parent initiates positive interactions with the child
Child responds positively
Fahlberg, 1985, page 18.
Erikson (1995) saw people developing their identity as they move through stages or ‘crisis’ points in their lives. Erikson saw individuals moving through the stages by virtue of increasing age, however, the successful progression through each stage, by the negotiation of the particular ‘crisis’ to a positive outcome, ensures healthy development. Erik Erikson had eight stages of development these were:
- First year
- Second and third years
- Fourth and fifth years
- Six to eleven
- Young adulthood (20s and 30s)
- Middle adulthood (40 to 60s)
- Late adulthood
Dominelli, Payne and Adams, Social Work – Themes Issues and Critical Debates, 2nd Edition, 2002
Cairns, Attachment Trauma and Resilience – Therapeutic Caring for Children, 2008
Howe, Child Abuse and Neglect – Attachment Development and Intervention, 2005
Oak, Social Work and Social Perspectives, 2009
Fahlberg, Attachment and Separation, 1985
Wilson and James, The Child Protection Handbook, 2008
Rutter, Maternal Deprivation Reassessed, 1972
Rogers, A Therapists view of Psychotherapy on becoming a person, 1986
Rogers, Client Centred Therapy, 2001
Wilkins, Person Centred Therapy in focus, 2003
Messer and Millar, Exploring Developmental Psychology – from Infancy to Adolescence, 1999
Crawford and Walker, Social Work and Human Development, 2nd Edition, 2008
Beckett, Essential Theory for Social Work Practice, 2007
Beckett, Human Growth and Development, 2007
Sugarman, Life – Span Development Frameworks, Accounts and Strategies, 2006
1st May 2009
Here's what a teacher thought of this essay
This essay aimed to discuss theories of human behaviour and how they are useful in social work practice. It was useful to have the context for the essay in terms of using it to check that what is in the main body matches what was written in the introduction. There is scope to improve the work. There was an example given of how attachment theory might work in real-life, but this was not related to the work of Piaget, Maslow or Erikson. In fact it was not clear why the writer included these theories as the information was simply presented and not linked to a case or social work practice. There were a few grammar errors which could be minimised by careful proof-reading, otherwise the writing style was good overall. Make sure the work finishes with a brief conclusion, bringing the key points of the essay together. 3/5