It’s Not All About The Behaviors: Identifying and Addressing Relational Neglect in Adolescence within the Familial Environment
As an in-home therapist working with adolescents, the presenting problem in most of my referrals focuses on the adolescent’s behaviors and the negative impact on his or her family and community. The most common solution is to place the youth in an out-of-home placement. Here, I share some of my most poignant cases, in order to illustrate how some adolescents, labeled the problem, suffer from what I call relational neglect. It is a phenomenon I define as the absence of nourishing interactions of attunement and quality connection within the familial environment. The two adolescents in this paper were described as the problem at home because they demonstrated oppositional behaviors and poor attitudes. Caregivers were under the illusion the adolescents’ behaviors were created in isolation. I will utilize the cases of Mike and Michelle to join the debate on neglect, to challenge negative notions of adolescence, and to address relational neglect in adolescence. I will make a call to action for all clinical social workers working with families with adolescents to assess and treat relational neglect, which requires a focus on quality connections and the adolescents’ lived experiences, habits, and attunement with caregivers.
NARRATIVES OF PROFESSIONAL HELPING
Cleveland State University
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