Consider the case of Mary Ellen Wilson discussed in Chapter 2, which resulted in the creation of
the child welfare system.
How can each of the following theories be used to better explain the conditions under
which she was found?
How can the theories be used to inform treatment of the child and family to mitigate
long-term consequences from the abuse and neglect?
(A) Social learning theory
Considering at that time there was no law enforcement for child welfare which made it
acceptable and normal to leave children wherever and let the families do as they see fit.
This theory describes how social behaviors are taught through observing and imitating,
which can explain why Mary Wilson was found with the biological father's ex-wife
abused and neglected.
This theory informs that if we uphold society's standards to stop abusive households and
provide assistance to children then it will influence their behavior to show more
compassion in the long term.
(B) Attachment theory
There was no doubt that Mary Wilson grew up in a nonsecure environment leading to
believe that there was no attachment between her and the caregiver. This creates
negative characteristics for the Mary such as being fearful, low self-esteem, and high
This theory shows that creating a secure attachment style with comfort and support will
help the child develop more properly with a better mentality of themselves and others
in the long run.
Family systems theory
It explains how there is a certain balance to maintain within every family as each has an
important role. Since neither the biological mother or father took any roles in Mary's life
it left all the responsibilities to the ex-wife who created a disturbing and harsh
With the information provided it explains how each parent or family member of the
child has an impact. Additionally, each member needs to take responsibility especially
the parents to care for the child.
(D) Ecological systems theory
This theory shows how it's multiple interactions between the child's microsystem,
mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem that can influence a child's development. The
caregiver who neglectful would be in the microsystem since they are the most directly
associated to the child, and luckily the neighbor who helped report the abuse would be
categorized in the exosystem. This shows the connection of how Mary was able to be
found by Ms. Wheeler in such a distraught environment.
Teaching this to families or others such as teachers or prominent organizations could
assist in educating people to look out for signs of abuse. This theory also explains how
every system plays a part in the child's development.
Trauma-informed theory and practice