Case example exercise – attachment and social-emotional competence

*Chart Attached*

You are members of a therapeutic team at ResilExcellence, a child and family social service provider that has been contracted by the local school system to provide services to children in several elementary schools. ResilExcellence was founded on the principles of the resilience perspective.

Your team has just been assigned a new case. Following agency protocol, you have been asked to develop a pre-assessment based on a case summary forwarded to your agency by the school counselor (below). 

The purpose of this pre-assessment is to identify and explore presenting issues that are potentially related to two broad categories of developmental competence: attachment and emotional and social competence. The pre-assessment must contain the following components:

‒ Identify the issues that are potentially related to attachment and emotional and social competence.  For example, you might view a child’s behavior as evidencing insecure attachment.

‒ Develop a set of hypotheses about the underlying causes (i.e., individual, familial, extra-familial) of these issues. These hypotheses should explicate the links between the presenting issue (e.g., child behavior problem), type of competence (e.g., emotional competence), and antecedent circumstances (e.g., parental emotion talk). Note any assumptions you need to make about this case that are not evidenced from the case summary. Make sure your descriptions are as specific as possible so that they stand up to scrutiny.

‒ Based on the tenets of the social cognitive resilience perspective, develop a set of practice recommendations that pertain to each hypotheses; some of the recommendations will apply to more than one hypothesis.

‒ Record your conclusions in the ResilExcellence Pre-Assessment (Attachment and Social-Emotional Competence) Instrument

*** In order to ensure that you have time to work through each step, first identify one or two salient issues and develop your hypotheses and practice recommendations for these before you identify any other issues.


Case Summary (October 15th, 2021)

Will (male, age 11, 5th grade) and Loni (male, age 8, 3rd grade) attend a local elementary school. Both boys transferred to the school at the beginning of the school year. The boys live with the mother (Mila), father (Johnny), and baby sister Keely (age 9 months).

Beginning soon after the start of school, Will’s classroom teacher has expressed concerns about his behavior in the classroom. She reports that Will has difficulty controlling his emotions. For example, when other children have cut in line or taken classroom materials from Will , he has “melted down,” screaming and walking around very agitated. When asked about this behavior by the school psychologist, Will said that, “I just get so angry,” “other kids should know to act better,” and “I just explode.” Will has also has had a hard time making friends. Some of the other children report that Will is a “bully,” and will “ruin our games.”

Loni’s teacher has not reported any behavioral problems. However, she has reported that Loni’s only friend in school is a boy, Trevor, who appears to “boss Loni around.” There have also been some reports from the playground supervisors that the other children tease Loni at recess. The teacher reports that Loni is “very clingy” and “inappropriately affectionate” with her and the other teachers.

Last week, during parent-teacher conferences, the school counselor had an opportunity to talk with Will and Loni’s parents (Johnny and Mila). During that meeting, the parents brought Will and Loni’s sister, Keely (9 months); the boys were playing on the school playground.

The counselor first asked the parents about Will’s behavior. They reported that he exhibited similar behavior outside of school. They reported that he has always been “unruly” and “wild.” His father also reported that Will “cried too much.” Both parents expressed their desire to get Will’s behavior under control, with his mother saying at one point, “bless his little heart, but he just needs to man up.” Both parents expressed their belief that the world posed many challenges for young people, and that the best way to prepare a child was to be a “strict” parent. “I’m not his friend, I’m his father,” Johnny said.

Concerning Loni, Mila agreed that he was “very clingy,” which she said made taking care of the household difficult. Contrasting his behavior to Will’s, Mila said, “Will hardly ever seeks affection,.. he’s kind of a stone face, really.”

At one point, Mila wondered out loud whether their strict parenting might (somehow) be related to the boy’s behavior, at which point Johnny glared sharply at her and raised his voice. Mila the raised her voice, which elicited a sharper response from Johnny. Mila flinched when he did this.

During the entire meeting, Keely (age 9 months) was very fussy and “squirmy.” Mila said that all three children had been “colicky from the get-go.” “Our kids are not easy,” Johnny said.

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