Child Observation Paper Jason Betts Pacific Oaks College November 12, 2012 The purpose of this paper is to discuss and review my observation of a 7 year old African American male who is being raised by his grandmother (45 year old Bi-racial female who has 9 children of her own; 7 of the children are still in the house). During my observation of “Jackson”, I focused on the following domains of child development: * Physical * Cognitive * Social * Emotional I applied Attachment theory throughout the observations, which were completed at his home, at the park, and at the grocery store.
I was unable to observe Jackson at his school. Jackson is being raised by his grandmother because his mother is addicted to drugs, and is unable to provide a home for him and his 2 other siblings. Jackson has been raised by the grandmother since age 2. Jackson appears well nourished, dressed appropriately, but looks somewhat withdrawn, especially when interacting with other adults, and sometimes his own family members. Attachment theory is the dynamics of long term relationships between people. The most important relationship is the one between an infant and at least one caregiver.
The level of social and emotional development during the relationship is crucial, in order for normal development to occur within the child. The first to develop the theory was John Bowlby, who realized the importance of the child’s relationship with their primary caregiver (usually the mother), in terms of the child’s emotional, cognitive, and social development. The set goal of the attachment behavior system is to maintain the bond with an emotionally available and accessible attachment figure. On September 7, 2012, observation #1 was conducted at the park between 8:30am and 10:00am. I have personally known Jackson’s grandmother for 2 ears. Present at the park was Jackson, 3 of Jackson’s cousins (ages 8, 10, and 11), and Jackson’s grandmother. It was a sunny day, and the park was empty at first, but as time passed, a few other families arrived to play. I concentrated on Jackson’s social and emotional development with the use of Attachment theory. During playtime with his cousins, and a few strangers’ children, Jackson was able to play freely for a short period of time, and did not concern himself with the proximity of his caregiver (grandmother) and himself. When agitated for whatever reasons, Jackson was the physical aggressor.
This may be related to the ambivalent/resistant attachment he has with his maternal mother. Jackson quickly changed from being positive, to being negative, demonstrated bullying behavior, and his communication skills declined as demonstrated by the profane language he used when upset or agitated. It appears that Jackson has a low self-image and low self-esteem (Ainsworth Attachment Pattern Chart). I think this is why he bullies others. Although Jackson and his grandmother have a somewhat secure attachment, it is still an insecure attachment, and there are signs of an avoidant attachment pattern.
The grandmother has little response when Jackson is distressed, she discourages crying, and reminds Jackson to be independent, and a “big boy. ” On September 21, 2012, observation #2 was conducted at Jackson’s grandmother’s home between the hours of 2:00pm and 3:30pm. It was a sunny day, very hot, and present in the home were all 7 of the grandmother’s children (between the ages of 7-21), and Jackson’s younger siblings (brother-3 years old and sister-4 years old). I concentrated on Jackson’s cognitive and physical development with the use of Attachment theory.
Jackson was doing homework, and watching the other children play a video game. The grandmother was in the kitchen cooking dinner. Jackson appeared to be able to work on his subject material without assistance, but was unable to stay focused on the task. The grandmother stated that Jackson did not perform well in school. I asked Jackson if he received good grades. The other children added their grades to the conversation. They all said they received A’s and B’s. Jackson appeared withdrawn, and was somewhat embarrassed before stating that he did not do well in school.
Jackson knows that he can perform better in school. When the other children began to tease Jackson, he was ready to fight some of them. This is typical behavior for Jackson, and is also a pattern of disorganized attachment. Children with a disorganized pattern in infancy tend to show disturbed patterns of relationships, subsequently, their relationships with peers can often be characterized by a “fight or flight” pattern of alternate aggression and withdrawal. Jackson’s coping skills when upset, threatened, or embarrassed is fight, unless the person is physically bigger than him.
If this is the case, Jackson uses flight to cope, and seeks his grandmother for protection and comfort. On October 13, 2012, observation #3 was conducted at the grocery store and at a fast food restaurant between the hours of 3:00pm and 4:30pm. It was an over cast day, and present at the store and restaurant were 6 of the grandmother’s children (between the ages of 7-21), and Jackson’s mother. I concentrated on Jackson’s social, emotional, and physical development with the use of Attachment theory. Jackson’s mother arrived at the store, and met us inside.
I was surprised to see Jackson’s mother, and so was Jackson. The mother and Jackson did not communicate with each other. The mother got upset at the store with the grandmother, and stated she was going to leave, and take Jackson with her. The grandmother said “No. ” Jackson became very upset, and yelled, “No! ”……“I hate you! ” Jackson was able to calm down when the mother left the scene. This occurred in the parking lot at the store. At the restaurant, Jackson started bulling the smaller cousins. The grandmother did not correct the behavior.
The grandmother stated that Jackson was only playing. This lack of correction reassures Jackson that this behavior is appropriate; solving problems with his fists, and when upset or threatened, to fight his own battles. This is another example of disorganized attachment. Although Jackson is being cared for by his grandmother, in a loving home, due to the disorganized attachment he has with his mother, the maternal deprivation from birth to age 2 or 3, the abuse, trauma, and lack of stability throughout his young life, Jackson has to initially protect himself by demonstrating physical behavior.
Jackson uses physical aggression as a coping skill in certain situations. Jackson has been harmed by the abusive non- relationship with his mother, which may have internalized a negative self-image and negative expectations into his relationships with his grandmother and others. The grandmother’s avoidant style in the relationship has continued the mental abuse of Jackson. There is a lack of an intimate, enjoyable relationship between Jackson and his grandmother, which will continue to have a negative impact on the mental and social development of Jackson.
Jackson is seeking stability and appropriate responses to the experiences he encounters daily. Jackson and his family are good candidates for therapy; individual for Jackson, and family therapy for the rest of the family. Jackson’s mother needs drug treatment and counseling, in order to possibly repair the damaged non-relationship she has with Jackson, and with her own mother. According to Ainsworth, the early intervention for disorganized attachment, or other problematic styles, is directed toward changing the trajectory of development to provide a better outcome later in the person’s life.
Jackson is in great need of intervention. Without intervention, it appears that Jackson will continue his development into an angrier, emotionally unbalanced, young man. References Ainsworth, MD (1967). Infancy in Uganda. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press. Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and Loss. Vol. I. London: Hogarth. Bowlby, J. , Ainsworth, M. D. , ; Fry, M. (1965). Child care and the growth of love (2d Ed. ). Baltimore: Penguin Books.
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