Case Study: Steven

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A case study on an individual with a horrid past and how his development suffered from his early traumatic experiences.

Submitted: September 25, 2014

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Submitted: September 25, 2014

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Steven was born in Moscow, Russia from an alcoholic mother and father. His parents left him at an orphanage located in Pechory, Russia. The orphanage was not equipped with enough staff and were unable to meet the needs of all the children. He spent most of his time restrained inside of a crib, along with other children. Even though other children were around him, they were restricted of any interaction. He did not learn how to speak until he was illegally trafficked into the United States at the age of seven. The purpose of this case study is to determine the factors during infancy and early childhood that prevented him in developing a healthy attachment.

According to Joan & Greg Cook (2007), attachment can be defined by, “An emotional tie to a specific other person or people that endures across time and space” (p. 180). In Steven’s case, both his parents and the orphanage did not provide him with basic needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, stable housing and nutrition are the fundamentals of reaching self-actualization. Without his basic needs being met, Steven was already at a disadvantage. He was severely malnourished as an infant and continued his emaciated state throughout early childhood. He never experienced contact comfort, therefore he did not know how to accept it or give it. According to Steven, his crib contained a plastic mat and restraints; no stuffed animals or cloth blankets were provided to substitute for contact comfort.

 In Harry Harlow’s research with Rhesus Monkeys, he concluded substitute mothers with soft cloth covering would provide the contact comfort needed. Without an animate, or inanimate attachment figure or object, he believed when a monkey tried to seek closeness and showed distress without receiving comfort, the monkey would develop a poor attachment (Joan & Greg Cook, 2007, p.181).This research relates to human infants, such as Steven, because he rejected any comfort due to never having a secure base of emotional comfort. Instead, he displayed severe signs of aggression and distrust.

According to Mary Ainsworth’s research on attachment, Steven may fall into the insecure-disorganized attachment category. According to Joan & Greg Cook, this category of attachment is defined by, “Unhealthy type of attachment indicated when infants seem confused or dazed or show contradictory behaviors” (p. 184). This attachment style has recently been added by more current researchers, expanding Mary Ainsworth’s findings. Steven displayed this attachment style by maintaining a dissociative state when around others, or acting violent out of nowhere. As a toddler, he would respond negatively towards staff that would occasionally bring him food by throwing the food back at the staff or on the floor, and even overindulging to the extent of regurgitating. It is important to note, Steven was restrained in his crib before violent outbursts were displayed, and therefore this constant restriction was a factor as he became older in forming a healthy attachment.

Steven’s caregivers were not sensitive to his needs; he would cry in his crib for food, and he from sitting in a dirty diaper for days. As he became older, he learned if he cried no one would respond. In return, he stopped crying and resisted any further interaction. Steven developed physical disabilities from being restrained in his crib for the majority of infancy and early childhood. He was unable to support himself while sitting up, and was unable to walk on his own.

Cultural factors are very important in Steven’s situation because he was born in Russia. The overall culture of society is far different than the United States; parents were able to drop off children at an orphanage if they were unable, or did not want the responsibility of children. Keep in mind, these orphanages are overcrowded and the laws did not protect children, they protected the parents. People would come in and pay cash for a child, then leave. In Steven’s case, he became a victim of human trafficking at such a young age.

John Bowlby’s Ethological Theory surrounded the idea that attachment is needed during infancy to increase chances of survival. Even though this case study is based on his experiences during infancy and how it affected him through early childhood, I think it is important to understand how his experiences during infancy influenced early childhood, and middle childhood. Unfortunately, Steven committed suicide at the age of twelve. Suicide was the devastating consequences of poor attachment in infancy and early childhood. If there were interventions put in place for Steven, maybe his life would not have been stolen by suicide. Not all cases end like this, but poor attachment is a serious issue, and very hard to treat even when appropriate interventions are put into place. According to the DSM V, cases similar to Steven may meet the criteria for Reactive Attachment Disorder.

From what you have read about Steven’s infancy and early childhood experiences, you should be able to understand how his circumstances were a cause, and poor attachment was an effect. I personally met Steven when he was trafficked to the United States at the age of seven; I was eleven. At times, when eye contact was made, he would react violently. He saw me as a threat, and there was nothing I could do to alleviate his fears. Steven hardly moved, he sat in a corner with his knees crouched towards his chest at most times. It was as if his body was still there, but the child within was unreachable.

Throughout this case study, you have read about Steven’s experiences during infancy and early childhood. Some of the factors discussed were environmental, parental/caregiving, infant factors, and cultural factors. There is no doubt these factors were intertwined and were a cause in Steven’s poor attachment, and eventual suicide. His physical development was restricted, cognitive development was delayed, and his overall socioemotional development was left with devastating effects from early traumatic experiences.  Keeping all of this in mind, it is important to remember the nature versus nurture debate. I do not believe it is nature versus nurture, but rather nature and nurture. It is impossible to isolate one factor that had the most impact. Instead, all factors are responsible for Steven’s poor attachment and eventual suicide.

When you are treated as less than important, you are still a human. When you are treated as less than worthy, you are still a human. When you are treated less than your title, you are still a human. But when you are treated less than the very thing you are born to be, you perish.”

-D. Andre Lampkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Cook, J.L., & Cook, G. (2007). Socioemotional Development in Infants and Toddlers. The World

Of Children (Third Edition., pp. 179-208). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). (2013). Washington,

D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Soy, S. (1997, October 14). The Case Study as a Research Method. Retrieved September 24,

2014, from https://www.ischool.utexas.edu

Welcome to the Purdue OWL. Purdue OWL: APA Formatting and Style Guide. Retrieved

September 24 2014

 

 

 
 


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