Simmons School for Social Work
The Basic Facts
In reviewing the case of Billy, a few things are clear: Billy’s father, Mr. Jamison, has been abusing his mother by raping her, bullying her, controlling and terrorizing her with threats using a gun. There has also been at least one incident where Mr. Jamison has been physically abusive and terrorizing by coercing Billy -- forcefully holding his head close to a light bulb -- until Billy fainted. It also appears clear that Mrs. Jamison, Billy’s mother, has parentified Billy to a certain extent: she leans on 8-year-old Billy emotionally, “counts on him for advise,” and otherwise appears to discourage Billy’s individuation by deeming it “perfect” that he declines invitations to play with friends but instead stays home close to her.
From the preliminary information that I have been privy to, it is also clear that Billy’s baseline prior to the “hostile divorce” of his parents, was different than his current baseline. The collateral information that I have gathered suggests that at his previous baseline, Billy performed better academically; he engaged and participated more in class. The information also points to the idea that at his new baseline, Billy can act in a more defiant manner and use a “disrespectful tone” towards teachers, while also gravitating to fraternizing with individual(s) considered a “bad influence.”
Given this marked change in Billy’s baseline mode of operandi, it stands to reason that the precipitating factor causing this shift in baseline is the “hostile divorce.” Mrs. Jamison has not been able to provide specific information of when the intimate partner violence began, if Billy has been witness to Mr. Jamison’s abuse of Mrs. Jamison or not, and she has also not provided clarity regarding the question of whether the incident where Mr. Jamison made Billy faint by forcing his head close to the light bulb was the first/only incident of physical abuse/domestic terrorism that Billy suffered at the hands of his father. Given the relatively recent and abrupt change in Billy’s baseline, the going assumption (that still needs to be examined) is that Billy’s exposure to the abuse was minimal, if even existent, prior to the “hostile divorce.” It is also not clear whether Mr. Jamison was abusive towards Mrs. Jamison prior to the aforementioned divorce.
Influence of Family Environment Billy exhibits both internalized, depressive symptoms as well as more externalizing symptoms, such as misconduct in the form of fighting. Keith Herman, et. al., (2009), in discussing the effects of the environment on the developing young child, citing Cole, et. al., (2001), states, “…Negative social circumstances including academic failure, peer rejection, and parent conflict [my italics] have a direct effect on a child’s mood during this period of development (Herman, Reinke, Parkin, Traylor, & Agarwal, 2009, p. 435). Billy, in the face of his parent’s “hostile divorce,” has certainly been exposed to parent conflict, and the social, Intrapsychic, and academic consequences are apparent – they make up Billy’s new baseline previously described. Herman, et al., go on to assert that the behaviors of the parents is the biggest factor related to successful adaptation and success in staying on track with normal developmental milestones (p. 455).
Attachment When attachment goes well, the parent(s) or caretaker(s) are able to regulate and calm the child. Mrs. Jamison’s presence does not appear to have this impact on Billy. This begs the question, how come? What does this say about the nature of their attachment and Billy’s internal working model? From the collateral data gathered up until now it is unclear what kind of relationship Billy had with his father up until before the divorce, whereas more information is available concerning Billy and his mother Maria – thus I will limit my discussion to that dyad, with the caveat understanding that