Social Work Theories- The Cruise Family Case Study


Social Work Theories- The Cruise Family Case Study


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Social Work Theories- The Cruise Family Case Study


It is hard not to notice the positive contribution that has been made by social work in demystifying the dilemmas oft faced by societies. Theories have been devised to project an understanding into idealized conceptions and present amicable solutions to matters that derail relationships, communication, personality development, and other odes. Social work has been significant as a mediating factor for most problems that create factions based on gender, age, social status and the differences between parents and their children or even among siblings. As a social work enthusiast, I believe in detailed analysis of a problem to fully comprehend it before applying a theory appropriately to make an end to otherwise troubling situations.

The case study stresses a more common situation that has bedeviled relations in some families and could have been inspired by the poverty and squalor in which the family lives. It would be considered a common example, but if care is not given to the detailed analysis of the situation, a solution will not be eminent. I consider the cruise family to be average in size. In fact, it is even a small family. Considering that the family has both parents alive, and the small family size, it would be hard to comprehend the problem that has muddled their relationships. However, it is important to note that relationship complications stem from the mind and such calls for the attention of an expertise with the capacity to understand the psychological orientation in the family.

Theories that Offer an Insight into the Cruise Family Problems

In my capacity, there are numerous theories that would best provide an insight into the Cruise family problems. However, my pick on Attachment Theory, Feminist theory, and the Narrative therapy is dependent upon the fact that they each articulately address the situation from three angles; individual, structural, and postmodernism influenced angles respectively. My choice on the three has been influenced by some factors; the family’s financially crippled status, the age factors of the children, and the family’s willingness to seek help as a remedy to their problems. Theories play their greatest significance in providing an outline to an approach for understanding the family problems and guiding them to a permanent solution.

Attachment theory that is based on individual’s interactions is more comprehensive in deciphering the cause of the rebellious nature of the adolescents. It also significant in comprehending the attachment patterns within the family and the resultant repercussions of the attachment patterns on the children (Colmer, Rutherford & Murphy 2011, 19). The parents-children relationships at the younger stages of development has psychological impacts on the brain development. The characters that are exhibited by the boys appear to be psychological as they go to the extremes of calling their parents names. That is an occurrence that points to the level of dissatisfaction the children have with their parents parenting ability. Attachment theory will provide an insight into the aspects that were not applied to the children’s development and the factors that are still missing as their development is not complete and can be manipulated.

To analyze the structural influences that have contributed to the dilemma facing the family, I chose the feminist theory so as to analyze the structural relations in the Cruise family (Orme 2002, 220). That is because, to me, they appear to be gender based. The feminist theory would provide an insight into the negligence that has been applied to the entire family in providing care for the youngest of all in the family, the girl Lisa. It would also help us comprehend the different responsibilities that should be embraced by all family members in caring for their mother too. To my understanding, collective responsibility would improve communication, relations, and understanding. The feminist theory accords a specialist the chance to understanding the relations between the feminine characters, and the imbalanced nature that the family has adopted in exhibiting love toward each other (Orme 2002, 221).

The last theory, a projection of postmodernism, is important as it would provide an insight into the conceived perceptions that family members have developed toward one another. The development of events, the revelation of the family relations by the parents, the utterances of the boys to their father, are pointers to final decisions that have been made concerning the stories around them. I chose the theory because the family appears to have a great potential and drive, yet the stories they have chosen to believe have dressed them differently. The potential of the family could be realized if they were made to understand their actions or inactions and how to appreciate each other rather than bear tantrums in desperate attempts to solve their problems. The narrative therapy provides the insight into the reasons that define the family’s strenuous relations as provision of limited room to prove oneself, or explore potentially (Morgan 2000, 1).


Attachment Theory

Primary care giving should have intimate bonding and attachment given by the caregiver as the two are vital in manipulating and influencing the growth and development of a child’s brain. The attachment theory explains that children require to be loved and given attention by their caregiver so as to feel secure and explore their environs to develop effectively (Colmer, Rutherford & Murphy 2011, 17). The attention received, or even the manner of care, affects the children’s psyche and make them end up with different ways of relating to their family. A great bonding relationship established with a child supports their exploration and growth and the contrary happens in situations that bonding was inappropriately conducted (Watson 2005 218).

The classifications of behavior affected by bonding are; secure, insecure ambivalent, insecure avoidant insecure disorganized (Hardy & Prior 2001, 56). Secure children have been accorded adequate bonding and grow happy and attached to their caregivers. Insecure ambivalent children are rather unpredictable and feel security and insecurity in equal measure. This behavior stems from caregiving that is fine but inadequate, the kind that presents the child with love at times, but scolding or negative reactions at other times. Insecure avoidant children express no desire to spend time with their caregivers as they feel safer alone. Insecure disorganized behaviors are exhibited by children who have lived in troubled situations and have been accorded no attention whatsoever during their development. They often develop repulsive and aggressive mannerisms as they seek alternate attention or stand up for themselves (Hardy & Prior 2001, 56).

Feminist Theory

Feminist theory points to social roles that have been assumed by members of the society (Kemp & Brandwein 2010, 345). It seeks to overturn the notion that the masculine gender bears superiority over their female counterparts. That females should be relegated to the lesser roles and yet get overburdened with the social roles of caring for their families is a factor not given much consent by the theory. The theory also asserts that women are conditioned to think and act differently compared to men and so should be handled with care. Therefore, all matters that are centered around the actions or inactions of women do not bear the same volatility as with men.

As such, the feminist theory would point the structurally disjointed relationships in a family as the female gender is given less attention (Orme 2002, 224). The overburdening of the females with particular social roles even if they are not in handy situations also complicates the relationship in a family. The theory is relevant in pointing out the factors that lead to disjointed relationships that are gender based, and the factors that cripple communication in a household. It clarifies that collective responsibility would improve communication and the family relationship as well. A family structure is influenced by the gender-based relationship that the family adopts (Featherstone 2001, 1).

Narrative Therapy

The theory relies on the use of stories to analyze, comprehend and present solutions to families plagued with problems (Morgan 2000, 1). The stories that have been adopted by the clients are the are dominant stories and define their perceptions about themselves or other individuals. The stories are developed from a sequence of events that drive an individual to a belief. A social worker can help a client perceive alternate stories that have alternate plots to help the client point out factors that they have missed in developing their initial stories that led them to certain convictions. Alternatively, alternate stories can also come up as the turn of events convinces the concerned party to believe in matters contradicting the earlier perceptions (Morgan 2000, 1).

The theory points out that use of dominant stories often drive concerned parties to perceive what is termed as a thin conclusion (Morgan 2000, 1). Over-reliance on a single story (thin description), makes it hard to identify other factors in a relationship as reasoning is limited and even the conclusion predetermined. When questioned individuals realize that they have been misinterpreted, they resign themselves to fit the descriptions that they have been given as they commit to the thin description and conclusion. The impact of thin stories is an overstrained relationship that plunges the concerned parties into an abyss. Narrative therapy requires a social worker to assist a client to recognize the alternative stories and other positive aspects in an individual (Morgan 2000, 1).

Application of the Theories

Attachment Theory

The theory deduces that the relationship of a child and the caregiver greatly influences the primary development of the named child. Antony and Andrew have exhibited indiscipline toward their parents as they even engage with them in verbal exchange. Their withdrawal from the family and school and even participation in violent activities have defined them as children who missed an important element in childhood development. According to the attachment theory, they exhibit the insecure disorganized attachment classification. Having not taken notice of the problem that interfered with their children’s development, they seem to be letting the same kind of problem challenge the development of Lisa. Andrew and Antony seem to marvel at the company of their uncle John and have developed into bullies in the society, thus creating havoc.

The psychological conceptions that have been developed by Andrew and Antony point little caregiver attachment that they had when younger. The parents must have been preoccupied with some other issues or did not just adequately play their role as caregivers. This affected the development of their brains and because Lisa is equally receiving no attention, is also subject to developing in that very manner. Attachment theory explains that pathetic situations in a family can also greatly affect the development of a child (Hardy & Prior 2001, 58). Growing up in poverty stricken backgrounds, or a background mired up with complications like the poor health status of Jill, can immensely affect children. Problems drive the children into developing a cocoon as haven for safety. That explains the irresponsible and repulsive behaviors that have been exhibited by Andrew and Antony. Minimal caregiver attention also drives the children to seeking the missed attention elsewhere or by any means (Watson 2005 219). Caregivers should take their time to bond with the children to make develop with confidence and the feeling of security. Secure children explore their environs and grow with the belief in the relevance of good family relations.

Application of the Feminist Theory

Gender relations affect the structuring of every family (Kemp & Brandwein 2010, 350). Jill and Bob’s family is one such family that has not considered the factors affecting their relationships within the household as gender based. My interpretation is that Lisa is a loner in the family. The parents tend only to consider themselves and so are the boys. It seems like the family has developed the stereotype that girls should just stay at home and be silent. Not even Lisa’s yells are considered as a demanding situation that should be duly considered as the parents and instead, she is considered as attention seeking. Lisa is discriminated upon by the entire family, including Uncle John who instead of distributing his time equally for all the children, spends most of his time with Andrew and Antony.

Jill, the other female in the house, is also victimized to some extent. She has been unwell but seemingly, nobody seems to be interested in relieving her of the social burdens of family responsibility, or in adequately caring for her. If the family unites in caring for Jill and Lisa, the relationship in the family will improve and other factors that go with it like communication. The feminist theory intuits that women have a different voice compared to men. When they desire the ethic of care, the males will desire the ethic of justice (Featherstone 2001, 1). That explains Lisa’s yelling and the boy’s shouting and arrogance as they seek to justify the misery that has befallen their household. The theory will amend the problems that face the Cruise family as they try to consider a more improved relational capacity that befits all (Orme 2002, 220).

The Narrative Therapy

The theory’s principle is the use of stories to comprehend the matters that affect the relationships or characters of individuals (Morgan 2000, 1). When thin descriptions are used in a story, the conclusions are also oft thin and affect the relationships of individuals for the bad. A social worker would hence use a story for a therapeutic purpose. In the Cruise family, people have developed perceptions on each other guided purposely by certain events or occurrences that have set out to believe. Antony and Andrew have a negative perception of their parents and have labeled them losers, probably because their parents have survived of government aid support. On the other hand, Jill and Bob have labeled all three of their children also based on thin descriptions.

Lisa has been labeled as attention seeking and demanding because she yells a lot. Consideration has not been given to an alternate story that would portray otherwise. For instance, the parents have not considered her as strong and aggressive. I would be convinced so because her family is muddled with problems yet she seems less affected by the negative situation in her family. Her demanding status proves that she has a drive to have a normal family and is not happy that her parents have resigned to the misery. Andrew and Antony have also been labeled violent by their parents without considering alternative stories. The misery that looms over the family could have driven the boys to want to prove to their peers that their family is not entirely useless as it seems. Their engaging in violent activities has more to it than just the desire to do terrible things. They could have been overcome with the desire to prove to the world that they are capable of achieving something, unlike their dad who is dependent on government aid. However, developing thin descriptions has totally obscured the parents’ ability to recognize their children’s attempt to prove other aspects (Morgan 2000, 1).


Several factors contribute to the development of behaviors in a child. However, it is important to note that all these factors rely on the ability of a caregiver to interpret situations properly and change either attitude, or approach to a problem. Structuring of a family is reliant upon the relations that are developed between the adults and the young, among the young themselves or the perception that people have towards each other dependent on gender. The interpretation of a social worker before giving professional counseling should be comprehensive enough to cover the several theories so as to improve the relations in a family. Consider, for instance, that I had chosen the attachment theory and narrative theory alone, I would miss out on the factors that affect the family relations on gender basis.

To conclude, the Cruise family is one that is affected by so many factors and requires the initiative to backtrack on all of them. Recognizing that they have the problems would just be the first step, but as most problems have resulted from the parents, they should start by changing their perceptions on the family members. Application of the three theories makes it easier to point out all the factors that affect the family from the three angles I mentioned earlier; individual, structural and postmodernism. The family needs to restructure their relations, perceptions, and psychological setups to make a turnaround and rid of the problems that bedevil them.

List of References

COLMER, K., RUTHERFORD, L., & MURPHY, P. (2011). Attachment Theory and Primary Caregiving. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36(4), 16-20.

FEATHERSTONE, B. (2001). Where to for feminist social work? Critical Social Work, 2(1).

HARDY, C., & PRIOR, K. (2001). Attachment Theory. Occupational Therapy for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 48-66.

KEMP, S., & BRANDWEIN, R. (2010). Feminisms and Social Work in the United States: An Intertwined History. Journal of Women and Social Work, 25(4), 341-364.

MORGAN, A. (2000). What is narrative therapy? Retrieved February 27, 2015, from

ORME, J. (2002). Feminist Social Work. Social Work: Themes, Issues and Critical Debates, 218-226.

WATSON, S. (2005). Attachment Theory and Social Work. Social Work Theories in Action, 208-222.

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