1. The first case study Maggie Scarf presents is of the Anderson family where the identified patient is 15 year old Dave. Using the concepts mentioned by Scarf and in the Learning Module, describes the family dynamics of the Andersons. Where are there some progress made, and where does the family remain stuck or even regress? What do the psychological dynamics of the Anderson family tell us about the nature of families?
Margie scarf concurs with Beaver’s System Model in analyzing families. This theory argues that there are some tenets or issues that all families experience and which determine the kind of family they become. ‘Families struggle with power and how it is to be managed, intimacy and how to attain it as well as conflicts and how to resolve them’ (Scarf, 1995). The Anderson’s family example as highlighted by Scarf is dysfunctional or severely disturbed. Dave, Ralph Anderson and Susan’s teenage son is admitted in a psychiatric hospital after he threatened his sister Cheryl with a family gun. To Scarf, Dave is the ‘symptoms bearer’ of the family and blows the whistle that the family needs help (Scarf, 1995). The teenage boy has been diagnosed with ‘oppositional defiant disorder’. He has exhibited defiant behavior, argues with adults, easily losses his temper and shows resentment. His academic performance has also deteriorated. Through therapy, it became clear that Dave’s father had another family on the side and, in fact, had a son, Dave’s age. There seems to have been an emotional triangle created by this side family. Dave’s mother, Susan whose father had failed marriages is clearly in pain, that his husband has another family. She seems to direct the same to his son Dave. Anderson’s family seems to be suffering from poor communication and every member seems to be in their own world. The family is disintegrated and seems not to be in a consensus of the family rules or virtues (Scarf, 1995). The frustration and pain in the family tends to be exhibited to others through anger and resentment. The psychological dynamics of Anderson’s family are a clear illustration that proper communication is vital in the family as it allows a safe way of one’s emotional expressions. The lack of a clear cut authority figure in a family who clearly demarcates power sharing is also necessary to enhance a functional family. Ralph could be having a tough time balancing his two families leaving Dave’s needs unattended (Scarf, 1995). Geographically relocation does not resolve problems but only works to cement emotional pain as is evident from Anderson’s family. Without proper control, chaos as evident in Anderson’s family are bound to occur. Conflicts must also be well addressed or resolved so that a family can move on in harmony. Failure to accept the need for therapy for a whole family hinders any progress towards normalcy in dysfunctional families.
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2. Every family Scarf declares is concerned with issues of power, intimacy, conflict and individuality. Discuss and evaluate W. Robert Beavers' five levels of family functioning. Describe each level, and why they are ranked in the order they are. How well do the Beavers levels account for family dynamics and the four issues all families face?
In his family system model, Robert Beaver identified five levels of family functioning, which can be termed as level 1,2,3,4 and 5. Beaver’s model has been used clinically to classify families’ health and competence. He argued that, despite the variances in family types, there is precision in the level in which families operate. To him, families are dysfunctional, tyrannical, rule bound and average or optimal (Scarf, 1995). In Level 1 or optimal families, the parents equally share power and in expression of intimacy all the family members can show varied range of feelings. In enhancing control, individual differences are well tolerated and embraced. In Level 2 or adequate families, the parents work as a team in power sharing. Unlike in Level 1, there is a higher degree of flexibility in terms of responses to life events in Level 2 families. Democratic approaches where rules can be questioned and altered also characterize control in Level 2. As far as intimacy is concerned, feelings can be expressed by the family members. Level 3 or the mid-range families are rule bound, and family members are governed by the set rules. Control in these families is by manipulation and intimidation and members feel guilty when they do not adhere to the rules. Family members know and adhere to the basic rules. However, these families underrate the fact that members can act out of own loving ways or for the other members well-being, but instead argue that all behavior is in adherence of the rules set. In the level 4 families also known as borderline or polarized families, intimacy is restricted and diversity of thought forbidden (Scarf, 1995). In terms of control, there is rigidity in enforcing the set manner of behaving. Power is purely by the tyrant or dictator in charge. To maintain their power, the tyrants in these families use intimidation, and control and their conflict resolution skills are wanting. Extreme control in families is only sustainable in the short run as people tend to rebel. The Level 5 families lack a clear cut authority figure in terms of power. It is severely disturbed and viewed as a ‘family in pain’. Control in the families is characterized by confusion and chaos and most conflicts and issues remain unresolved. Level 5 families tend to cement their status by pulling each other down. They lack consensus and coherence (Scarf, 1995). The ranking in Beavers scale from Level 1 to 5 is from the functional families to those that are deeply dysfunctional. All families according to this model have to address power and how to manage it, intimacy and how to achieve it as well as conflict and how to resolve it. A family’s level affect its member’s individuality as this theory assumes that family members are interconnected and affect each other. Beaver’s family model describes the family dynamics very well as it highlights the core issues that bind or disintegrate families. Through the varied levels families’ happiness or unhappiness can be determined depending on the way they address power, intimacy and conflict.
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