Sample Case Study Paper on Social Work Theories and Case Study

Case Introduction

Jill Cruise’s family can be described as dysfunctional to a certain degree due to the presented case description. The family comprises of the husband and wife, Bob and Jill respectively and three children aged 15, 13 and 8 years old. Each of the family members has individual issues which can only relate to the family system. The eldest son, Anthony has been charged once with vandalism and committed to community service which he rarely attends, and has also been engaged in shouting matches with their father. Moreover, he is also reported to miss school at times. He is generally disrespectful towards both parents, a character that is being simulated by the younger brother Andrew. The last born, Lisa, is demanding and attention seeking at all times. The parents feel guilty about their inability to cope with Lisa. Another issue that comes up is the subject of Bob’s brother John, whom his sons say he does not know at all, while Jill feels he is not good for the kids and is scared of him. Jill herself is disabled by anxiety and panic attacks and is on pension because of this while Bob receives the carer’s support.

Theoretical perspective

Theories in social work help to explain behaviors that present without initially understandable reasons. In the case of Bob and Jill’s family, the most relevant theoretical perspectives that can help to understand the issues are the systems perspective and the cognitive behavioral approach. The systems theory provides a structural outlook to human problems. According to this theory, systems such as the family comprise of a set of things that constitute something whole (Parsons, 1951). This implies that each family comprises of different people (units) that constitute the whole. The objective of the family is that the system units should work together towards the achievement of a common purpose in life. Consequently, the family units cannot be distinguished from each other and any problems have to be solved in the family as a single element. According to Parsons, the family system operates through incorporation of principles in the minds of the constituents such that the minds of family members recognize patterns and perceive the need for unity. Each component of the family seeks to complete the family picture in his or her mind. However, this can fail when there is discord in the family. When the system fails to operate in harmony, the elements form incomplete pictures, which lead to the development of destructive patterns. The destructive patterns formed in the family can result in chaos which is a characteristic of systems’ entropy (Stichweh, 2011). Jill and Bob’s family is a unit that can be considered under the systems theory and addressed as a single element facing a singular challenge that comprises of various perspectives.

While the family as a system provides a somewhat clear outlook on the occurrences of Jill and Bob’s family, it is essential to note that the family elements are individuals who also face individual challenges and present individual social problems. To address the individuality in this family, the cognitive behavioral approach can be used to understand and intervene in individual issues across the family. The cognitive behavioral theory advances the belief that social learning can aid in the formulation of individual behaviors and that the personal beliefs, attitudes and emotions of individuals also influence their behavior in the social system. As such, recognition of behavioral patterns can help to change those behaviors through elimination of the causative attitudes and beliefs which are identified through self talk. The cognitive behavior theory can thus be applied in the context of Jill’s family to identify the problem behaviors in each of the individual members and to find ways of eliminating these problem behaviors in the individuals through self talk and belief modification (Shanaya et al., 2010).

Applications of the theoretical perspectives to the case
Systems Theory

The systems theory was selected for addressing the case of Jill’s family due to its suitability in systems. The system theory is relevant for this case since it focuses on the changes in the family system. The family is considered as a unit where changes can result in behavior modification among the members of the family. This theory can be applied in the present case to analyze the system behaviors of the entire family and to understand the how changing environments have created the individualities and the system of chaos in the family. Jill’s family exists first as a unit before the diversification of individual characteristics. The application of this theory to the case study will help to realize the characteristics of chaos created due to the system entropy. It will help to see the connectedness of the different elements of the family and their interdependence on one another. All the components of the system work together for common objectives and the theory will help to understand how Jill’s family can work together towards the accomplishment of common intervention objectives across the family.

While applying the concept of systems perspective to the case, it will also enable the social worker to understand how changes in any one part of the family can result in changes in other parts of the family (Luhman, 2013). For instance, it will be possible to understand how the conditions of Jill and Bob have contributed to the deteriorating behavior of the children. Moreover, this theory will also be applicable in determining how effectiveness can be obtained in intervention through various options of system intervention. The focus on changing systems will allow the social worker to determine the impacts of family changes on individual behaviors.

As the social worker assigned to this case, I will apply the systems perspective to the Cruise family in order to come to a conclusion on how changes in the family system can result in changes in the individual behaviors. Rather than focusing on the causes of the problems experienced in this family, I will focus on the changes that occurred in the family either immediately before the observed changes in children’s behaviors or after the behavior change observations. I will also focus on possible patterns in the family which may be the initiating factors of behavior modification among the children.

After determining the characteristics of the family system, I will steer the family towards working together for the achievement of the desired objectives. Understanding how the family system is designed in the Cruise family and how they work towards the achievement of common restoration objectives. Applying the principle of systems as employable in supporting service users towards the achievement of change is essential in the process of intervention for the Cruise family. Therefore, I will prompt the family members to determine their possible reactions to changes in the family and how those changes can also be used to achieve positive advancement in the family system. Secondly, I will also apply the principle of social construction in a system set up will also be used to understand how members of the family system influence the behavior of one another. For instance, in the Cruise family, I will aim at understanding how interactions between the children and their uncle John could have contributed to their change in behavior.

In applying this principle, I will also focus on how that relationship and their interactions can be modified to result in greater benefits for the children. Behavior change can be achieved through various methods which may or may not focus on system relationships. I will therefore aim at understanding how the relationships between the parents and the children have contributed towards the negative behavior trends among the children. Restructuring the relationship between parents and children can help to re-institute positive behaviors in the children. As system changes result in behavior modification, so can they result in behavior correction.

I understand that while working in the family context, I have to keep in mind the importance of system unity in problem solution. In this case, indifference to the family issues can result in poor communication and thus low success rates in intervention. I will therefore work through guidance by the principle of system unity, where the entire system works together for the achievement of common objectives and whereby all members identify the challenges and formulate common solutions to all the identified challenges. To achieve this, it will be necessary to incorporate the views of all members concerning the family problems and to apply these views in identifying the individual challenges of each member. The focus of this system perspective is the operation of the social system rather than the individual and the solution rather than the cause of the individuals’ problems. The aim is to consider the system as a whole rather than different parts since all parts are interdependent. For the individual challenges which require individual therapy and for the modification of unacceptable behaviors, the cognitive behavior theory will be applied.

Cognitive Behavior Theory

The Cruise family consists of members who exhibit individual behaviors that are contrary to expectations. This calls for the application of a non-structured individual intervention theory for the modification of unacceptable behaviors. The cognitive behavior theory is relevant in this context because of: it is effective over a wide range of issues, and can help individuals improve their problem solving skills (Seligman & Ollendick, 2010). The Cruise family is faced with a wide range of social issues which include Jill’s anxiety and panic attacks; Anthony’s engagement in vandalism, refusal to attend to community service; absence from school and disrespect for parents; Andrew’s disrespect and missing school and Lisa’s attention and screaming problems. Each of these issues has to be addressed somehow through recognition of patterns and formulation of potential strategies for behavior change motivation.

Besides this, the cognitive behavior theory is also relevant to this context due to its difference from the systems perspective. While applying the systems perspective to the Cruise family will yield solutions applicable to the whole system, the application of the cognitive behavior approach will help in the identification of the causative attitudes and beliefs of the problem behaviors (Shanaya et al., 2010). The system perspective does not consider the causes of problem behaviors but only considers the interactions in the family and how they result in behavior changes. It is therefore mandatory for the two theories to be applied in combination to yield more wholesome intervention results. Moreover, it will also be possible to balance the challenges faced with the resources at hand to ensure that the solutions obtained are sustainable.

In applying the cognitive behavior theory to the Cruise family, the target persons for intervention will be Bob, Anthony and Andrew. All these individuals have habits which can be changed if understood effectively. I will therefore refer to the principle that attitudes, beliefs and emotions can impact on individual behaviors either positively or negatively. To understand the specific attitudes, emotions and beliefs that have contributed to these clients’ behaviors, I will focus on the issue of self talk and compare the notes produced by the different clients concerning their behaviors have been shaped by those experiences. In the same way that self talk is said to initiate and advance irrational behaviors, I believe that it can also initiate and advance rational behaviors and thinking. I will therefore apply this concept in guiding the clients towards attitude change in order to achieve clearer thinking with regards to their issues.

Secondly, I will also allude to the principle that behavior modification can be achieved through reinforcements (Seligman & Ollendick, 2010). Despite the relevance of positive reinforcements to behavior change, the family reports that they cannot get too comfortable or else they would be eliminated from the social system. Consequently, the objective of using the reinforcements will be to identify other ways in which the individual behaviors can be modified. Positive reinforcement may not be sustainable due to the financial conditions of the family. However, negative reinforcement such as through grounding when problem behaviors occur can help to modify the behavior of Anthony and Andrew. The parents will be guided on how to take responsibility as the adults in the family, in guiding their children and ensuring they follow the right way. For Jill, behavior reinforcement strategies may not work. It will therefore be imperative to use other means of achieving behavior modification.

The ABC method for behavior modification has been found to be effective in cognitive behavior therapy. This method involves the identification of the behavior activating agents, followed by the beliefs that surround the propagation of such behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors. With a clear understanding of the concepts surrounding panic attacks and anxiety in Jill, I will be able to initiate belief modification through provision of alternative positive affirmations which can help to change attitudes that underlie the social problems at hand and thus encourage this system of beliefs in the clients. Jill will thus be encouraged to change his attitudes in order to achieve behavior change.


The systems theory is most applicable to family situations since the family is the smallest social unit. It is therefore essential for family issues to be addressed within the systems perspective, recognizing how interactions between members result in behavior modification and how such modifications can occur due to system changes. The Cruise family is a typical example of a system in which this theory can be applied. However, the shortcomings of the system theory such as its lack of focus on the individual and its failure to determine the causes of problem behaviors makes it necessary for another more individualistic theory to be applied in this context. The application of the cognitive behavior approach to the case can yield the desired results in intervention outcomes.


Luhman, N. (2013). Introduction to Systems Theory. Polity.

Parsons, T. (1951). The Social System. Glencoe.

Seligman, L. and Ollendick, T. (2010). “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders in Youth”. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 20, 2,217-238.

Shanaya, R., Peter, P. and David, K. (2010). “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Schizophrenia”. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33,3, 511-525.

Stichweh, R. (2011). Systems Theory. In Badie, B. et al. (Eds.) International Encyclopeadia of Political Science. New York: Sage Publications.