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The Mckinley Family: A Family Systems Approach, Essay Example

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The study presented regarding the McKinley family can be viewed using different theoretical perspectives, but systems theory seems particularly pertinent to the situation.  The case study includes generational subsystems, boundary issues, as well as real life environmental matters that are having an impact on this family system.  This paper will apply systems theory to the case study, after summarizing the theoretical perspective itself.

Systems theory views each system as a whole made up of interrelated parts, and emphasizes that each individual part of that system has an effect on the whole. According to this theory, all systems are comprised of subsystems, and within each system there are boundaries that define the identities of all the members of those subsystems (Hutchison, 2010.) In addition, the interactions that take place within, between, and among each member of the system can create tremendous and lasting changes. In McKinley family, many of the family members are committed to be present as much is possible in order to provide emotional support as well is to lend physical and economic assistance. However, in this situation, as with many caregivers the task can become overwhelming and emotionally draining; the financial pressures in the family have caused family caregivers to feel helpless, as well as leaving them with little time to appropriately finished personal responsibilities (Northfield, 2010.)

The McKinley family system has a strong intergenerational relationships, as indicated by the fact that all the family members rallied to care for their grandmother, Ruth, after she became ill following a stroke and cancer; they took out a second mortgage to remodel their home, and all of the family members engaged in working harder by taking multiple jobs to pay for the extra costs involved in caring for Ruth. This has created a tremendous hardship financially and emotionally, because of the economic downturn in the United States which has caused devastating and overwhelming losses. In fact, losses of jobs and homes are significant destabilizing events for individuals as well as families (Pomeroy, 2011.) The McKinley family is obviously overburdened financially: Stanley’s loss of a job, his wife’s injury leading to her being out on disability, and the risk of facing foreclosure on their house is undoubtedly creating tremendous stress for everyone. This situation exemplifies the way that a system is comprised of interrelated parts that affect each other; Ruth’s serious health problems have caused every member of the family to rally in order to support their roles as caregivers. Bethany suggests that she might be able to take time off from school and her education in order to care for her grandmother. Because Marcia is currently not employed, Stanley thinks that maybe he should take another job to supplement the family’s income. Family members become quite emotional when discussing the entirety of the problems that face them.

It is clear that the McKinley family has strong connections within their system, but what is not so clear is how and whether the family is connected in a healthy way to the outside world.  In the vignette, there is no mention of friends, extended family members, neighbors, or religious organizations (Hutchison, 2011.) Although it is obvious that the family is greatly by the outside system with its economic downturn and insurance instability, it is not clear whether or not they have appropriate connections to that outside world. The roles within this family have changed considerably, from wage earner to caregiver and back again for the last year. No longer is Stanley the provider of the family, as he has had to assume a larger role as the caregiver; when Marcia was injured, she became a receiver of care instead of a caregiver, and the roles of Bethany have included student, wage earner, and caregiver as well. The McKinley family is a wonderful example of a family working together, but who are unfortunately experiencing role overload because of the overwhelming forces that have altered their situations and relationships, and their feelings of helplessness, as expressed by Marcia, to gain control of their circumstances.

References:

Hutchinson, E. (2010). Dimensions of Human Behavior: Person and Environment. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Northfield, S. & Nebauer, M. (2010). The Caregiving Journey for Family Members of Relatives with Cancer. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing , 567-577.

Pomeroy, E. (2011). On Grief and Loss. Social Work , 101-105.

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