Alex grew up in a violent and abusive home. His father drank to intoxication each night and neglected Alex until he turned three, at which point his father began to physically abuse Alex regularly. Alex’s mother screamed at him any time he cried as a child, and she rarely held or tried to soothe him. What types of behaviors would one possibly see from Alex during childhood? Describe the possible effects of the abuse in terms of the HPA axis, including brain structures and neurotransmitters. How might a psychologist approach working with Alex to address any maladaptive behaviors you identified? When responding to your peers, think about additional issues that might need to be addressed when working with Alex.
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Reference Link: https://www.nctsn.org/
Alex might be afraid to show any emotions, he will most likely have a hard time being in relationships. He will find it hard to trust anyone. He may lash out or act out inappropriately when he feels threatened or unsure about his surroundings.
NCTSN states when children grow up in fear or are around stressful situations, their immune system, and the body’s response systems may not develop to its full potential. His brain and nervous system may be underdeveloped. The HPA axis is situated above the brainstem and it is in charge of a person’s stress response. He may not be able to problem-solve or may rational decisions. He might complain about not feeling good physically. Alex may react differently under stressful situations; he may overreact or not react at all when it would be normal to react. When Alex gets older, he could be prone to participate in risky behavior, indulging in drugs, alcohol, getting it fights or hurting himself. Alex may have problems managing his emotions. He may have difficulties relating to others when they are experiencing emotions. He may get upset easily or he may be withdrawn. Alex most likely will have poor self-esteem. He may appear hopeless and not look forward to anything in the future. He may have some chronic health problems down the road from not being able to handle his stress.
The psychologist working with Alex should use trauma-focused cognitive behavior therapy.
Depending on Alex’s age he could go into the integrative treatment of complex trauma for children or adolescents. It is a multi-modal treatment for traumatized children or adolescents and their families. He could also go into structured psychotherapy for adolescents responding to chronic stress, which is a group treatment that is meant to improve emotional, social, academic, and behavioral functioning. This is a therapy that helps the individual who may still be living with ongoing stress.
What types of behaviors would one possibly see from Alex during childhood?
Whether good or bad, parental interaction will influence children. Alex by far is dealing with a lot of abuse at the hands of his parents. Negative interactions such as the ones Alex has been through can lead to behavior problems. The abuse that Alex has endured can cause a negative impact on his physical, emotional, behavioral and social development (Costello, Moreland, Jobe-Shields, Hanson & Dumas, 2015). Alex is also at risk of psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, depression and conduct disorder (Normal et al. 2012). Alex may not be confident in himself and it can cause him to not be comfortable talking to other students and cause him to isolate himself.
Describe the possible effects of the abuse in terms of the HPA axis, including brain structures and neurotransmitters.
The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA) is the part that controls how the glucocorticoid is discharge. The limbic system is what controls the emotional side in the brain. According to Carlson & Birkett (2017), effects of abuse in the brain structures can cause a fearful response in individuals. With Alex dealing with abuse from both sides and these are the people who are supposed to love him the most it can affect how he trust and open to people. Having that fear of what is he doing wrong and the consequences that may follow play a part.
How might a psychologist approach working with Alex to address any maladaptive behaviors you identified?
In thinking about the approach to take with Alex, the first thing would be to have him removed from the situation. Once he has been removed, the therapy process will begin. As a psychologist, it would be important to gain the trust and ensure Alex that you are there for him. It would be a good thing to ensure Alex that he did not do anything wrong and it is possible to build and move forward. Alex may benefit from a support group of peers who might all experience PTSD. Alex might also find success in a Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) which is a step by step program to try and improve social and behavioral growth. There are options for Alex and if he is willing to take advantage of them and talk about the abuse he sustained I have no doubt he will be successful.
Carlson, N.R. & Birkett, M.A. (2017). Physiology of Behavior (12th ed). Boston, MA:
Costello, A., Moreland, A., Jobe-Shields, L., Hanson, R., & Dumas, J. (2015). Change
in child abuse potential as a predictor of post-assessment child disruptive behaviors after participation in PACE. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 24(10), 2989-2998. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1007/s10826-014-0102-6.
Norman, R. E., Byambaa, M., De, R., Butchart, A., Scott, J., & Vos, T. (2012). The long-
term health consequences of child physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Med, 9, e1001349.