Psychodynamic Theories: Social Behaviour

Modified: 20th Apr 2017
Wordcount: 2289 words

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This essay uses the ecological and the psychodynamic theories to explain social behaviour, predict the outcomes and formulate the hypothesis thus making an initial assessment on the Banks family. The essay will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of the theories, the similarities and the differences between both of them and it will conclude that human life and behaviour is such a strong illustration that a single theory cannot satisfactorily account for all events across the life span. However, it will assert that in regard to the Banks family, the ecological model has an advantage over the psychodynamic theory because it holistically encompasses number of issues such as financial security, material benefits, housing, and parents’ history among others which do have effects on the risk of child abuse.

The issues identified in the Banks family include; Mark’s bullying, identity issues, and Ken’s negative early life transactions and his relationship with Mark.

To address these issues, the social work will use the ecological theory. The reason for choosing the ecological theory is because it is compatible with the assessment framework (2000)(DOH 2000a) as it links family history, genes, parents and their off springs relationship, economic factors, parental relationship experiences, individuals’ ability to cope or manage the stress and the interactive effect of risks (Ciccheti and Valentino: 2006). Therefore, basing on the ecological perspective, the social work will have to work within Mark’s ecology (Bilson &Ross: 1999 p.70-71) to find out the difficulties that the family might be facing and to also find possible solution (Ward: 1995). The social worker will explore the three ecological dimensions which are; Mark’s developmental needs, Mel and Ken’s parenting capacity and family environmental factors (D.O.H 2000a).

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The social workers will initiate an honest and open partnership with the family with an aim of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of Mark and his siblings. This will be for the parents to feel confident thus engaging in the assessment by providing relevant information about Mark, Mel and John, themselves. He should also endeavour to find out about Mark’s paternity and any genetic inheritance or temperament issues that might exist between Mark and his biological father (Aldgate and Bradley 1999).

The social work will explore the parents’ history by requesting them to describe who they are and the trend of their relationship with Mark. This framework will help the social worker to amalgamate the historical and current information about the family, its functioning, problems and relationships (Reder and Duncan: 1999 p.98-101) with the view of finding out what is happening to Mark in the context of the entire Banks family and the environmental factors and how they affect the family relationships.

Other issues that will have to be looked into are; the family income, neighbourhood and Mark’s friendships with his peers. This is because there is a link between the family’s economic disadvantage and the chances that children in the family will not prosper (Utting :1995, Jack: 1997)

It is also notable that Ken is securely attached to his biological children (Mel and John) and not to Mark who is his step-child. That should trigger the social worker’s curiosity thence exploring both the parents’ emotional availability, responsiveness, and their ascriptions to Mark and compare it with the way they interact with Mel and John. This can be done through direct observation, questioning and gathering testimonies from other significant people including professionals such as the general practitioner and the teachers (Department of Health 2000a).

The social l worker will also explore Ken’s childhood experiences because they might be influencing or causing effect to his relationship with Mark (Sroufe et al 2005: p.10). This implies that the quality of care that Ken is providing Mark might in itself be a product of his own developmental history which is characterised by having been in care during childhood, having no father figure, thus his strained relationship with his mother (Cicchetti and Valentino: 2006 p.148).

It is also notable that all Mark’s efforts to know his biological father proved to be futile. And because of this, Mark might be experiencing identity issues such as low self- esteem, poor self-image and a poor sense of belonging and acceptance by the family hence his negative behaviour (Draper & Draper: 1982, p.26). For this reason, the social worker should ensure that he gathers as much information about Mark’s biological father as possible just in case Mark expresses wishes to see or to know about him.

In regard to Mark’s bullying problem, the social worker would carry out direct work with him. In order to minimise the anti discriminatory and anti oppression practice, the social worker will have to consider his age, gender and culture, religion and any disability or developmental issues. He will have to acknowledge and respect Mark’s wishes, feelings and his understanding of the implications of the situation in which he finds himself thus making the assessment child centred (DOH 2000a). The social worker would also explore Mark’s friendships and how the interaction therein influences his negative behaviour (Rutter et al, 1998).

At the end of the session, depending on what the social worker makes out of Mark’s behaviour and his social-emotional condition he may refer Mark for psychological assessment to further establish his emotional wellbeing. The outcome of the psychological assessment will then be used during the core assessment to inform the appropriate plan of intervention to ensure Mark development, safety and wellbeing (Department of Health 2000a)

Advantages of the ecological theory.

The advantage of using ecological approach is that it focuses on the relationships in transactions between the systems in the ecology thus minimising the predisposition of the professionals to think exclusively in linear terms thus adapting a wide range of intervention hence exploring issues such as social support, social capital and socio-economic difficulties that people experience (Garbarino 1990).

The ecological perspective is an integrated model which acknowledges the effects of the biological, psychological social and economic factors that affect the well-being of individuals (Payne, 1994).

Disadvantages of using the ecological theory?

Despite all the advantages of the ecological approach, it is a long process for families or individuals who need quick solutions for their problems (Payne 1997).

The psychodynamic approach

Another theory that can be used to interpret the Banks’ family’s phenomena, predict the outcomes and formulate the hypothesis is the psychodynamic theory. The reason for choosing the psychodymic theory is that it emphasises supporting the ego which is a reality element of the mind hence providing stability and equilibrium to the service user. Through using this approach, the social worker will be able to support Ken and Mark to develop adequate ego strength which will enable then to manage their emotional conflicts and the snags that they may come across in the life span (Goldstein: 1984).

It is notable that both Mark and Ken do have unresolved issues or conflicts which do have roots from their individual childhoods. For that reason, the social worker will explore Ken and Mark’s conscious and unconscious parts of the minds there by making any reserved painful materials therein conscious hence realising their impact on their surface behaviour (Bee and Boyd, 2006).

By focussing on Mark and Ken’s past and present unconscious and conscious feelings, the social worker may to be able to predict and explain how Mark and Ken may behave during certain situations or conditions. This is underpinned by the psychodynamic principle that all behaviour is motivated (Bee and Boyd, 2006).

Due to the emotional issues already identified, the social worker may explore the how both Mark and Ken’s egos function and their defence mechanisms. Through respecting and working with their defences, the social worker is ought to recognise the threats that both Mark and Ken face in life and he will discuss the consequences and confusion of their feelings. The social worker would also find out how both Mark and Ken have already tried to resolve the conflicts before deciding either to look for other possible ways of dealing with it for example using sublimation or to modify the ways that they have already tried to use (Hollis, 1972).

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In regard to anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice, it is helpful to devote the assessment within the framework or perspective of recognising the implication of structural and individuals’ oppressive practice which leads professionals into an authoritarian and rigidly discriminatory practice (Davis, ed., 2000:12,14 cited in Becket & Maynard: 2005 p.158). This implies that during assessment, professionals are ought to listen and also respect and take into consideration the service user’s and carer’s views, choices, age, culture, religion and needs as this makes them feel valued and respected (Brandon, 1990: p.59 cited in Becket & Maynard, 2005: p.158).

Additionally, Payne (1997: p.89) advises that in professional relationship, social work values involve being tolerant to service users’ behaviour, promoting healthy client-social worker relationship, rather than personal emotional responses to service user’s needs. This may mean that professionals are ought to create professional instead of personal relationships with the service users which might negatively affect their independence and impartiality.

Advantages of the psychodynamic theory

The advantage of the psychodynamic theory in social work is that it recognises the impact of past painful life transactional processes and helps to create beneficial suspicions about them in relation to the current observable behaviours (Milner & O’Byrne 2009).

The psychodynamic theory also lays emphasis on modifying the ego through initiating good client-social worker relationship (Goldstein: 1984), thus improving people’s relationships within their environment (Payne 1997:80).

The disadvantages of the psychodynamic theory.

However, critics of the psychodynamic theory such as Dorfman (1998: P.70) contend that it is an andocentric theory. This implies that the psychodynamic theory is based on research that was done solely on males and then taken to mean all human behaviour which itself is a bias in favour of males and thus partial.

Similarity and differences btn the psycho and eco theory.

One of the similarities between the psychodynamic and the ecological theory is that both of them consider age and stage appropriateness of behaviour. While the psychodynamic theory takes into account the anal, oral and phallic stages of development, the ecological- transactional perspective views child development as a progressive sequence of age and stage -appropriate tasks in which success at each developmental level must co-ordinate and integrate with the environment and other issues such as emotion regulation, and formation of attachment relationships among others that emerge across the lifespan (Cicchetti and Valentiono 2006 p.143).

Although these two theories do have the above similarity, they also have differences. For example, while the psychodynamic theory upholds the concept of the existence of the unconscious mind or awareness (Payne 1997), the ecological perspective focuses on the principle of interaction among the individuals and it also depicts individuals as existing in relation to others in the ecology (Reder and Duncan 1999 p.98-101).

In relation to child abuse, Sidebotham et al (2002) argue that the psychodynamic models are deficient to give explanation in this regard and he calls for the use of the ecological models because they include a number of issues such as financial security, material benefits, housing, and parents’ history among others which do have effects on the risk of child abuse.


Given the complexity of the Banks family phenomena, the quest to explain the behaviour, predict the outcomes and formulate the hypothesis requires one to use theories otherwise; the assessment would be directionless and woolly. Therefore, this essay has used the psychodynamic and the ecological theory to discuss how an assessment would be done to support the Banks family. It has explored the ethical principle of anti-discriminatory and oppressive practice. It has also discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each of them before identifying the similarity and the difference between them and it has given the complicity of human life, all theories work in a complimentary way to give social workers an eclectic understanding of issues in the phenomena with one theory helping to explain certain issues more clearly than the other. And in case of child maltreatment, the ecological models has been has had an advantage over the psychodynamic theory because it has holistically encompassed number of issues such as financial security, material benefits, housing , parents history among others which do have effects on the risk of child abuse.


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