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Parental Separation and its Effect on Human Development

Alex, the second child of Ernest and Isabel Palacio, a Cuban American couple, is a fourth grader at J.E. Kennedy Elementary School. He has one older sister, Paula who is in fifth grade, and a younger brother, Thomas, who is 4 years old. Until recently, Alex appeared to be a happy child and a good student in school. Although somewhat reserved, he interacted will with peers, was athletic, and was popular among his classmates.
During the year Alex was in third grade, the Palacios' marriage was seriously affected by Ernest's close relationship with a female coworker. Despite an attempt at counseling, the couple could not resolve their differences. During the summer before his fourth-grade year, Alex's parent separated. The children continued to live with their mother but maintained a relationship with their father, seeing him every weekend in the apartment he rented nearby.

Both parents tried hard to make this arrangement work for the sake of their children, to whom both were devoted. The fourth-grade school year began fairly smoothly and for Alex, who was happy to see his friends again after the summer vacation. His teacher, Mr. Williams, was regarded as tough but usually fair, and Alex seemed to make a good initial adjustment to his class. Ernest continued his employment with an advertising agency and paid for many of the family's living costs. However the expense of maintaining two residences quickly became burdensome. Isabel, formerly employed as a part-time library aide, needed to find a position that provided a large income. She began a job as a secretary shortly after the children began school in September.
In December, Isabel fell ill and needed to be hospitalized. Primary care of the children fell to Isabel's mother, the children's grandmother. Ernest took over as much of the caretaking as his work schedule would permit, but he feared that if he took off too much time for family responsibilities, his job was be in jeopardy. Because of these change in the family, all three children needed to adjust. It became much more difficult for an adult to transport the children after school to music lessons and game, so they had to drop out of some of their activities. As Isabel recuperated, she needed much more rest and general peace and quiet. She could not longer take the children on trips or allow groups of her children's friends to have sleepovers in her home.

Toward the middle of his fourth-grade year, Alex's grades started to slip, and he began to act up. Alex grew apathetic and sullen in class. Mr. Williams was a relatively young teacher in the school district. His first 2 years of teaching had been spent in the eighth grade of the district middle school. He liked teaching older students and reluctantly accepted the fourth-grade position because of his lack of seniority in the system. Mr. Williams, despite his youth, was a fairly traditional teacher. He believed in giving lots of homework and in placing high expectations for performance on his students. He ran a very disciplined classroom that was based on a system of winning and losing points for behavior. Because Alex did not participate actively in classroom exercise or turn in homework, he continually "lost points".

On one particular difficult day, Alex and one of his friends got into an argument. Alex accused his friend of picking on him and teasing him in the lunchroom. Mr. Williams tried to intervene by taking both boys out into the hallway and listening to each version of the problem. When the disagreement got louder, Mr. Williams told both boys that they would "just have to work it out." He told them he would take away points and was sending them both to the principal's office. Alex became very agitated and said to his teacher, "sometimes I feel like throwing my chair at you."

Mr. Williams began to see Alex as a threat and recommended to the principal that the incident be handled as a disciplinary matter. It was the teacher's belief that Alex should he suspended and then referred for special education evaluation by the school psychologist because of his "aggressiveness." He insisted that Alex not be returned to his classroom.

(1) How would you assess the problem?
(2) What are the different perspectives involved in this conflict?
(3) What actions would you take and what recommendations would you make as a counselor in this situation?

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(1) How would you assess the problem?

The problem appears to be multifaceted. Alex is responding to the separation of his parents and the major familial changes that have resulted out of his mother's illness and the effects of that on the extra-curricular activities the children once enjoyed and were an outlet for their emotions. All of these aspects combined with a difficult teacher who does not appear to be interested in getting to the root of the problem with Alex would likely result in Alex feeling frustrated and angry toward adults in his life for letting him down and making him feel as though he cannot win in any situation.
The issue with Alex finally acting out and making a verbal threat toward the teacher is not a result of Alex being unstable or having a mental illness, they are a result of Alex finally responding to the issues going on around him and the teacher being the person who received the brunt end at that moment. Psychological ...

Solution Summary

A discussion regarding a specific case study involving a young child who is experiencing some school disruption issues as a result of several life changes including parental seperation, moving, and health concerns. An assesment of the case study including how the problem can be assessed, the different perspectives involved in the conflict, and what actions and recommedations one could make as a counselor related to this situation. 624 words.