Issues in Psychology: Hypothetical Case Study in Two-Stage Life Development
The psychological, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral crisis of traumatic interruptions during developmental periods in counseling and therapy, calls for the use of mental health support, assessments, and interventions. The present hypothetical case study seeks to direct (a) an explanation of two consecutive stages of mental development post-9/11 trauma for a male adolescent from 14 years of age to 28 years of age, (b) discuss overview of background of the case and situation, (c) scan the description, impact, and implication of client problem with inclusion of current state, (d) use of theories to compile the hypothetical case study from a perspective of a General Psychology understanding, for possible inclusion in a rubric entailing a longitudinal study for further research. Suggested therapeutic interventions are suggested supported by professional journal-level, peer-reviewed article inputs that align with ethical practices as condoned by the American Psychological Association. The assumption for treatment focus, and emphasis, directs guideline considerations to the first stage of life development of Walter, the adolescent period (12-17 yrs.), whereas the secondary stage of life development, thus forming the two-tiered psychological gaze, also takes into account any possible recommendations for persons experiencing similar trauma as Walter, whose troubles escalated as a result of a reaction from the events of September 11, 2001 while living in New York City with his mother and father, having lost his uncle who was a firefighter on the day of the terrorist tragedy.
Issues in Psychology: Hypothetical Case Study in Two-Stage Life Development
Walter is an eight-year male child, during the first stage of life development in New York City at Pine Fields Community Elementary School. Walter has grown up in a single-parent home since his mother divorced his father when he was three-years-old. Walter was born an extremely premie baby, clinically described as children typically born less than 28 weeks in gestational stages. According to Clark, Woodward, Horwood, and Moor (2008) certain developmental issues arise in terms of behavior and/or emotion with regard to strong “predictors of impairments in self-regulation” stemming from the “cerebral” tissue matter, thus possibly affecting a need for parent sensitivity in parenting styles for these situations (p. 1444). Walter deeply identifies with his uncle Simon, a New York City firefighter prior to his death in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Walter experience deep distress at the time.
Walter was 14-years old at the time of the event, and shortly thereafter left with his mother to temporarily live with Walter’s grandparents in Minnesota. His mother, Carroll, felt it would be a good selection for her son to regroup from the trauma of the catastrophe and especially from losing the main father figure in his life. Walter’s natural father is a merchant seaman, stationed in the far Asian Pacific. Before 9/11 occurred Walter had a few problems in early childhood with some spelling and word fluency areas, which were regularly tested. His assessments showed some decoding weaknesses, but overall deemed in the average range.
At 14-years-old, when 9/11 occurred, Walter engaged in some basketball sports activities and enjoyed swimming during the summer months. Walter experienced minor episodes of emotional upset when a couple of classmates teased him about being so skinny. Walter’s concern over this gradually dissipated, finding sports an effective outlet to enforce a positive self-image about his physical appearance. Occasional over-reactions to his mother’s requests for adhering to household rules, or criticisms, cropped up. Whenever these episodes happened Walter sought to assuage his hurt feelings, from his perception of being unreasonably controlled, by playing video games until after midnight with peers online. Sometimes Walter would sneak a drink of alcohol, since his mother always kept several bottles of wine in their home. Once 9/11 hit, Walter became increasingly anti-social, and what his mother, Carroll, considered as over-the-top narcissistic attitudes, verbalizing how he would be able to crush any terrorists because he could purchase silencers, and related firearms weaponry online. His mother was most disturbed by what she felt was impulsive behavior. Walter also experienced bouts of apparent depression, fluctuating back-and-forth with mood swings, and declining grades in school. After moving to Minnesota, Walter seemed to feel a little better and was well-liked by his new classmates. But gradually, Walter fell into his habits of staying up all night to sneak and play war-like video games. He got caught one night by his grandfather, looking in the bar cabinet, rattling around and foraging through bottles of whiskey and vodka. During stage-two of Walter’s life development, he had become an alcoholic, gotten two tickets for drunk driving (DUIs) and behaved in sexually promiscuous ways on occasion. Walter had several girlfriends up until age 28-years-old, but never settled down to marry.
Walter is ethnically classified as White, and his original neighborhood in New York City was primarily Italian-descendants of immigrants through Ellis Island. Walter had no pre-disposition of animosity or hate towards persons of other skin colors. In fact, Mrs. Grant, an African-American teacher of Spanish was Walter’s favorite teacher before leaving New York. In fact, one of the highlights of Walter’s middle-school events was when the class took a field trip to the museum, then attended an authentic Spanish restaurant in Manhattan where the children could practice their foreign language skills by ordering meals. Walter had told his mother how great this activity was, and it seemed to build stronger and healthy relationships with all his peers in school. The positive feedback seemed to keep the community together and parents happy that their children were receiving the best education they could afford.
Walter’s neighborhood in New York was neither wealthy, nor poor. His social status hovered between what most could consider as middle-class and lower-middle-class. Carroll often wondered about if Walter had befriended other children, boys in particular, who were also fatherless like Walter. She frequently questioned Walter about his friends, which felt like nagging to Walter. Carroll was concerned that other male kids at Walter’s school may not have any positive surrogate father-figure image like Walter. As Walter slowly began to play video games, that gradually became a serious problem (along with his sneaking drinking alcoholic substances), so his mother, Carroll, worried that the other boys her son associated with might be emotionally unstable with no father in the home. The biological roots of Walter having been born severely prematurely, might be an influence of just how strong Walter would be able to sustain any type of trauma in his life development, such as would affect: psychosocial, cognitive, or behavioral patterns. Given the instability that Carroll felt, in terms of emotional trauma herself having lost her brother (Walter’s uncle) in the fires of 9/11, she felt that her own difficulties in controlling her nightly bouts of crying would impact Walter. Several times since moving to Minnesota, Walter experienced night sweats, and what appeared to be flashbacks of nightmares, waking up screaming, then reacting in a robotic state the next day, reflecting emotional numbness. For months afterwards, Walter became obsessed with viewing the television footage of 9/1l smoke and devastation, vowing to “kill the bastards” – in his verbiage.
In Walter’s current state, beyond the stage-one of Adolescence (12-17 yrs.) now having entered the Early Adulthood (20 to 40 yrs.) moving past the earlier years of his trauma, some influences of adolescent alcohol abuse behaviors can be seen in retrospect. According to a medical-psychological expert research report by the Alcohol Research & Health journal (2004) personality problems were likely to emerge in that first-stage of development, reflecting the basic factor that “An almost universal theme whenever adolescent drinking is addressed relates to how adolescents think and make decisions about the world around them” (p. 144). These professional experts had gathered information from several researchers, including a bank of knowledge garnered from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine discussing a classical conclusion of Piaget theory, of ideological-based concerns as further demonstrating “social considerations” to potentially be an “important factor” during this first-stage so presented herein, whereby “adolescents are understood to be very interested in their social standing among their peers and therefore are more vulnerable to decisionmaking that relies heavily” on what other young folks are doing (Cognitive Development and Adolescent Decisionmaking, 2004, p. 144). Despite Walter’s branching out to harbor ideas of his own, such as thinking his drinking and late-night sessions of violent war-based video games could reliably inform the foundation of rational ideologies of the world around him, the first-stage did render him vulnerable to what his age group thought.
The same aforementioned report designated by way of suggestion, and inference, that adolescents were not fully capable of sound decisionmaking in the shadow of inappropriate sources – or base-rates – of information. Moving from this point onward, Walter’s adult personality of recklessness and increasing risk-taking began to emerge. Dealing with tremendous life changes, experiencing the emotional trauma of 9/11 overall coupled with the loss of his uncle, Walter struggled to arrive at a smooth transition to adulthood in terms of a fully-developed purposeful way of facing adversity, by evolving from the events of disturbing life-changing situations. Should the lack of constraint in the area of drinking alcohol continue in Walter’s life, from the first-stage of development into the bulk of his early adulthood, the outcome may not be favorable unless he is able to honestly face the fact that he has a problem, for which his mother is not ultimately responsible.
According to the well-known theory of psychology pioneer Erik Erikson, perhaps the 9/11 trauma event when Walter was living in near York City so close to ground-zero at age fourteen, severely affected his self-identity aspects. In other words, the applicability of Erikson’s theory to Walter’s situation placed his confidence and security of feelings at risk, somehow warping a grounding of his beliefs wherein he felt confused about how the future might turn out. Walter’s current state is one in which he supports himself working as an assistant manager in a grocery store in Woodbury, Minnesota. Walter managed to receive his dual Associates Degree in plumbing and electricity, but never bothered to take the certifications or licensing requirements. Now, at 28-years-old Walter skates by, earning enough to pay his bills, and put some money aside for a small pension offered by his employers. Walter continues to drink, often engaging in bouts of depression, where he calls his mother and threatens suicide from time to time. Carroll inherited a small fortune from her parents, Walter’s grandparents in Minnesota now passed away, and has since returned to live in upstate New York purchasing a small 1700-square-foot home. Walter is considering to return, at the invitation and behest of his mother Carroll, who has a network of friends in high positions of management in several corporations. Her best friend specializes in management for technologies companies, in a consulting firm. If Walter can manage to quit abusing alcohol, he might be able to earn a Bachelor’s in business management, and move forward to stabilize his life. In this way, both had hoped for Walter to get a new start. Walter has admitted to his drinking problem, but has yet to enroll in a program to support getting off alcohol permanently.
Beyond these main features of Walter’s biological beginning, cognitive, social, emotional, and psychosocial development in both stages, some psychologists theorize that the involvement online among adolescent peers has affected wide segments of youth. The concern Shapiro and Margolin (2014) posit is especially valuable as a peer-reviewed current literature observation, as they think and state that their concern over electronic social networking that “has expanded and is now a primary way of communicating with and acquiring information about others” in their social circles (p. 1). Shapiro et al. (2014) also comment about the adolescent formation of friendships, and developmental relationships, via the social networking apparatus as a critical “interplay between the need for one’s own personal identity and the need for close personal ties” (p. 2). Walter is not completely antisocial, as he has had several close friends, including a few girlfriends since reaching his early adulthood stage. But Walter still entertains the idea that society is basically doomed, ever since his experience of 9/11.
Suggested Interventions & Data Collection
After consideration of the life event experiences of Walter in two stages of his life development, any suggested interventions would have a dual-possibility of scenarios. If treated as an adolescent while still in the adolescent stage, shortly after having been traumatized by the events of 9/11 as a stressor, obviously treatment at that point (before he came of age in early adulthood) would be different than any therapeutic treatment administered as an adult. For the sake of logical proceedings, interventions in the adolescent stage and early adulthood shall be mentioned since this hypothetical case study sits within the rubric of General Psychology, as the basis for longitudinal study investigations and further research. Green and Myrick (2014) in their journal article addressing the treatment of complex trauma-based realities in adolescents suggest that the identification of “effective mental health treatment protocols, are critical for trauma-in-formed play therapists to practice competently” (p. 131). In other words, a wrong approach in therapy could make matters worse, scarring persons such as Walter, for the rest of their lives. From a demographics standpoint, having pursued a cogent analysis of the situation, Green and Myrick (2014) say that many of these types of traumatized adolescents have been growing in numbers over the years, both in intensity and frequency indicating a need to mitigate improper treatment therapies, and to instill good, effective ones.
Suggested data collection would be a thorough review of Walter’s early life stages, and tracking of school performances and behaviors through his adolescent years. The intervention might also include an assessment of Walter’s current biological state, in terms of weight, food habits, how much he drinks, and if he smokes or abuses other substances. A medical-nutritional workup should be part of his protocol of treatment. In addition to a bio-medical treatment approach, Walter should have a therapist specializing in trauma-based events from adolescence in helping recovery once the individual has reached the early adulthood stage.
The medical professionals of the JAMA journal, Schlenger et al. (2002) designed findings in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks shortly after (and close to) the events, suggesting that indeed this occurrence represented “an unprecedented exposure to trauma in the United States,” thus concluding that the post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD) “prevalence in New York City metropolitan area was substantially higher than elsewhere in the country” (p. 581).
Thus, Walter requires a tailor-design of therapies which will serve as a model to help others of the same demographics, providing a fundamental basis for longitudinal study-research in contribution to the literature.
Clark, C.C., Woodward, L.J., Horwood, L.J., & Moor, S. (2008). Development of emotional and behavioral regulation in children born extremely preterm and very preterm: Biological and social influences. Child Development, 79(5), 1444-1462. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2008.01198.x
COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT AND ADOLESCENT DECISIONMAKING. (2004). Alcohol Research & Health, 28(3), 144-145.
Green, E.J., & Myrick, A.C. (2014). Treating complex trauma in adolescents: A phase-based, integrative approach for play therapists. International Journal of Play Therapy, 23(3), 131-145. doi: 10.1037/a0036679
Spies Shapiro, L.I., & Margolin, G. (2014). Growing up wired: Social networking sites and adolescent psychosocial development. Clinical Child & Family Psychology Review, 17(1), 1-18. doi: 10.1007/s10567-013-0135-1
Schlenger, W.E., Caddell, J.M., Ebert, L., Jordan, B.K., Rourke, K.M., Wilson, D., Thalji, L., Dennis, M., Fairbank, J.A., & Kulka, R.A. (2002). Psychological reactions to terrorist attacks findings from the national study of Americans’ reactions to September 11. JAMA 288, (5), 581-588. doi:10.1001/jama.288.5.581