Social Work Practice with Children and Adolescents

Topic: BusinessLeadership
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Last updated: April 25, 2019

A first generation Mexican family living in rural North Carolina with a 16 year old daughter (whom we will identify as Marie) will be the focus of this paper.

  Marie and her family live in a trailer near the farm where her father works.  The assessment of Marie and her family will include: making predictions, planning interventions, evaluating overall situation, and implementing a treatment plan.  The family lives in a trailer, does not drive a nice car, and has limited financial resources.  How will these factors affect Marie as a first generation young adolescent immigrant (YAI)?  Unfortunately for girls in similar situations, this type of lifestyle is correlated with a high rate of “at risk” problems.

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  The probability of negative future events, abnormal behavior, and irrational decision making processes influencing Marie are high.  The major premise for this paper is lifestyle: Young immigrant adolescents are cornered in this situation because of poverty, substance abuse, and teenage pregnancy to name a few.The YAI situation is a minority developed condition that operates in a circular pattern that continues over time.  The YAI and their families leave their deprived country, come to America in search of a better life, and most, settle in conditions no better than they left.

  The procedure of relocating to a new country can cause cultural shock to a first generation girl like Marie. Latino family’s that end up in low SES neighborhoods usually have negative outcomes in related to their lifestyle.  According to a study done by Tama Leventhal & Jeanne Brooks-Dunn, neighborhood characteristics and child outcomes are related to achievement in high SES neighborhoods and residential instability and behavioral/emotional problems in low SES neighborhoods (p. 309).  For the most part, the explanation for this YAI condition is substandard living conditions.Before evaluating the factors why Marie is at a higher risk of negative influences, researchers consider the environment she lives in.

  Neighborhood influences and the implications for Marie are many, especially when considering the number of immigrant youth who drop out of school, become pregnant as a teenager, and become addicted to a substance in lower SES neighborhoods.  There is little uncertainty that high joblessness, poverty, and even death, follow people like Marie and her friends.  The hostile and sub par living conditions that Marie is subjected to are triggers that lead to the YAI circular lifestyle.Verifying the comorbidity Marie lives in is an important dynamic of her psychological situation.

  Cross-cultural studies in psychopathology have general conclusions that can be drawn about their mental state to Draguns, 1994: 1. All mental disorders are shaped, to some extent, by cultural factors.  2. No mental disorders can be traced entirely to cultural or social factors.  3. Psychotic disorders are less influenced by culture than are nonpsychotic disorders.  4.  The symptoms of certain disorders are more likely to vary across cultures than are disorders themselves (when viewed at the level of a syndrome) (Oltmanns, Emery, and Taylor, 2002, p.

18).  So, it appears that Marie is in danger of acquiring specific problems related to her cross-cultural lifestyle; however, the evidence suggests that Marie has little worry of attaining a psychopathological abnormal disorder.Mental state affects Marie in two ways with regard to her circumstances.

  Either the YAI determines that they must work harder to achieve a higher socioeconomic status, or the YAI is caught in their socioeconomic state and perceives they cannot get out.  In the first case, studies show that YAI who come from this category are in the minority. Jacquelynne Eccles volume Adolescent and Child Developments states that, “According to US census estimates for 2000, 44% of Hispanics age twenty-five and older do not have a high school diploma” (191).  Furthermore, Eccles goes on to describe high school graduates from cross-cultural families face low rates of educational achievement, high rates of poverty, and language barriers, leaving more Hispanic families to face under/unemployment. (191).  Living in this type of socioeconomic cross-cultural situation essentially decreases the adolescents chance to succeed from the beginning.  These YAIs have good rationale for believing they will have to work harder to achieve a high school diploma, but what about the YAIs who are not in the 44%?The previous results from Eccles’ study shows that most YAIs do not have the option to attend college.  In addition, most YAI are not in a sound financial setting to pay for post-secondary education.

  For them, and those who graduate high school without a scholarship, returning to their poor socioeconomic status is the only option, whether they have the required grades to enter college or excel in other fields of academia.  Moreover, job selection will limit the YAI to minimum wage and restrict future post-secondary advancement.  Some YAIs will not even hold a job.  The problem now begins to seem hopeless to the disadvantaged youngster.  Marie, with help from a supportive family, will have to decide at a pre-teen age if she wants to be in the 44% or the 66% group of YAI’s.

Some YAIs do not have the choice of which percentage they want to belong in.  The volatile socioeconomic situation of the YAI may predict the outcome for the youth.  For example, in Marie’s cross-cultural position she is at a high risk of becoming pregnant by the time she is 16.

 Furthermore, Rodney Goodyear states that: “Multiple pathways predicted the women’s choice of male partner.  Psychological distress was strongly related to choosing partners with negative relationships with women” (p. 187).  In other words, Marie’s choice of a male partner is directly related to her SES status and psychological state of mind. The lower her income, the more likely she is in psychological distress, and will choose an uneducated, abusive, male partner and become pregnant.  Another problem relates to substance abuse.

  As Marie’s opportunities in life go away and despair sets in, YAIs consistently turn to harmful alternatives to hide from reality. MarAa Ortiz’s study shows that environmental factors influence boys into substance abuse, while environment and demographics influence females into substance abuse (p. 27).  Although the odds seem to be stacked against the YAIs, they may find consolation in contemporary technology, better government programs and loans, and a proper family setting. While Marie’s circumstances once meant despair, disadvantage, and hopelessness years ago, it now seems that academic research and government programs are at least offering more options than in previous decades.Even for YAI’s with supportive family and programs, overcoming the negative influences in their lives can be hard.  YAIs are prone to inconsistent behavior patterns.

  Across time and situations YAIs frequently become troubled with what their socioeconomic status leaves them without.  Consequently, the recidivism is high for YAIs, and behavior is often radical over long periods of time and throughout difficult situations.  The average YAI will experience more physical, mental, and substance abuse exposure by the time they are 10 years old than most people in a lifetime.  Thus, inconsistent behavior becomes a pattern to fall back on in times of conflict.  The circle continues.The final socioeconomic reason of failure for YAI to consider in this paper includes personal lifestyle choices and social diseases.

  Even when YAIs are careful in pregnancy and substance use and take precautions, communal diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, and venereal disease rates are high and predominate in Male Hispanics and on the rise for female Hispanics, and a good number of these people are undoubtedly social service recipients (Mayes, Cochran, 1988, p. 949).  YAIs have few options to return to their families as an alternative to receiving welfare.  Most of their parents are living on welfare, or in the case of Marie’s father, working for casual labor that pays sub par wages.  In either situation, social diseases leave a single, pregnant, infected YAI at the mercy of their consequential decisions and society.  In her disadvantageous cross-cultural situation, Marie will have to have the perseverance of a Saint to make it.In order for treatment to take place a problem must be identified.  In Marie’s case many possible problems have been recognized.

  In the beginning, before negative situations occur, Marie’s parents should suggest school counselors help Marie identify her at risk behaviors associated with her specific socioeconomic situation.  Proactive prevention and counseling, such as school awareness programs for cross-cultural students, will give Marie a better chance at success.  Social work treatment is concerned with the commitment to action.  Treatment can involve schools, courts, prisons, hospitals, as well as other social agencies.Treatment affects YAI in a number of ways in regards to “at risk” behavior.  A good treatment plan should cover all potential angles.

  Before analyzing the treatment for the YAI problems identified in this paper, we will discuss prevention as a potential cure.  “The prevention and reduction of maladaptive functioning,” is discussed in Alan Kazdin’s (1993) study on Adolescent mental health: Prevention and treatment programs.  Kazdin suggests that, “Treatment could be reserved for those cases for whom preventative efforts failed” (131).  Short-term motivational therapy works well on people who do not think they have a problem.  In other words, social workers, psychologists, etc., should do all things possible to avoid letting a client reach the stage of treatment.

  In reality, we know it is impossible to prevent most cases from reaching the treatment stage.There are many therapies for helping the YAI if they reach the stage of self destruction.  Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is one of the most widely used and accepted forms of treatment in health forums today.  CBT teaches people to identify and respond to the situation that impulsively draws people into such things as drug abuse.

  Coping skills training is one element of CBT.  Social skills are identified in the person that will train them how to acquire problem solving skills, resist pressures of drinking and substance use, and formulate alternative courses of action.  Maladaptive responses are transformed into adaptive thoughts that are rehearsed.

Thus, negative patterns of the “self” and “environment” are attended to.Karol Kumpfer and Rose Alvarado did a study on Family-Strengthening Approaches for the Prevention of Youth Problem Behaviors and suggest three preventions in their article: Behavioural Parent Training, Family Skills Training, and Family Therapy.  The advantage an adolescent like Marie has in family centered preventions, interventions, and treatments is linked to cross-cultural acceptance.  The YAI can become familiar with there initial cultural surroundings while communicating with their family.  Less alienation from family should mean more confidence in making tough decisions.

Although not all aspects of Maries cross-cultural situation can be addressed in a short paper, the implications of the areas covered do highlight the major roadblocks she will face as a 16 year old, Hispanic, female, living in a rural American neighborhood.  It is the individual that is being asked to take the risks that cultural factors present.  The social well being of all American citizens must be cared for in our society whether we want to or not.  For Marie, and all YAIs, their future depends on it.

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