Attachment Theory and Family System Theory: Conceptualisation of the Relationship Between These Theories and An Application to Permanency Planning

Shannon O'Gorman (2010). Attachment Theory and Family System Theory: Conceptualisation of the Relationship Between These Theories and An Application to Permanency Planning PhD Thesis, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland.

       
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s33489564_PhD_ShortAbstract.pdf Shannon O'Gorman Final Thesis Click to show the corresponding preview/stream application/pdf 42.44KB 5
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Author Shannon O'Gorman
Thesis Title Attachment Theory and Family System Theory: Conceptualisation of the Relationship Between These Theories and An Application to Permanency Planning
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Work and Human Services
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-11
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Karen Healy
Dr Paul Gibney
Total pages 264
Total black and white pages 264
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary A capacity to engage with theory is generally understood to reflect a marker of good clinical practice. In the event that a practitioner fails to locate a sole, discrete theory capable of adequately informing practice, it makes sense that knowledge may be sourced from multiple theories. Yet, the practitioner’s capacity to attend to matters of epistemology—specifically, the simultaneous application of knowledge from different theories—may be challenged by the immediate demands of case work. This thesis takes a position that both the separation of theory from practice and the application of theory in a confused manner represent two potential points of concern. In response, this thesis simultaneously discusses knowledge described by two theories—namely attachment theory and family system theory—with the specific intent of clarifying the nature of the relationship between these theories. This is a theoretical thesis that responds to the question, “how can the relationship between attachment theory and family system theory be conceptualised such that there is clarity with respect to the nature of this relationship, including a capacity to recognise the similarities and differences between these theories?” In responding to this question, the author engages with a general system theory/cybernetic epistemology as a means of structuring the construction of this thesis. Initially this involves an understanding that general system theory/cybernetics can be conceptualised as a metatheory, capable of describing the nature of the relationship between attachment theory and family system theory. In particular, the goodness of fit between these theories is defined using the constructs and language of general system theory/cybernetics including logical types, subsystems and the zig zag ladder of form and process. Ultimately it is suggested that attachment theory can be conceptualised as ‘nested’ within family system theory. The validity of this approach is described through a constructivist lens. The relevance of using both these theories in clinical practice is then illustrated through the direct application of attachment and systemic knowledge to the child protection practice of permanency planning. The process of deciding which theory is to be privileged in which juncture of each clinical case is addressed through a framework entitled ‘Towards a Second-Order Cybernetic Understanding of Change in the Child Protection Practice of Permanency Planning.’ Reflecting the context in which this thesis was written, specific reference is made regarding the child protection system within Queensland, Australia. This thesis is comprised of four major sections. Following an introduction, the initial section of the thesis is entitled Setting the Context and consists of chapters 1 and 2. This section provides an 5 overview of the literature describing attachment theory, followed by family system theory and general system theory/cybernetics. The decision to describe family system theory and general system theory/cybernetics in the same chapter is a reflection of the close relationship between these theories. The second section, chapter 3, is entitled Establishing Interconnectivity. It provides a description of key similarities and differences between attachment theory and family system theory. It is proposed that these theories share many points of similarity and that these similarities may be conceptualised as representing points of interconnectivity between the theories. It is also suggested that there are key differences between these theories that demand consideration and that the often complementary nature of these differences represent further points of interconnection. The third section of this thesis, chapter 4, is entitled Defining a Relationship. It begins with an overview of previous attempts to integrate and/or simultaneously apply knowledge from attachment theory and systemic theory before describing an alternative conceptualisation of the nature of the relationship and the goodness of fit between these theories. Specifically, it is demonstrated that the relationship between attachment theory and family system theory is characterised by differences in logical types and that attachment theory can be conceptualised as a smaller, discrete theory when compared with family system theory. The fourth and final section of this thesis is entitled An Application and consists of chapters 5 and 6. This section initially provides an overview of the specific child protection practice of permanency planning. This overview is followed by the application of attachment and systemic knowledge to a descriptive framework (‘Towards a Second-Order Cybernetic Understanding of Change in the Child Protection Practice of Permanency Planning’) that provides the practitioner with a conceptual and practice based framework that in turn allows the practitioner to locate themselves within temporary, stabilized but ultimately evolving systems. In summary, this thesis builds upon existing theory by providing a comprehensive theoretical description of the nature of the relationship between attachment theory and family system theory and illustrates the relevance of the selective, timely and complementary application of these sources of knowledge to the complex clinical matter that characterises the child protection practice of permanency planning.
Keyword attachment theory
general system theory
family system theory
permanency planning
Additional Notes Page 199: A3, landscape (to then be folded into the thesis)

 
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