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Case Study

Case Study Jennifer is a 29-year-old administrative assistant married to Antonio, an Italian engineer, whom Jennifer met four years earlier while on a business trip for her marketing company. The couple now lives in Nebraska, where Antonio works for the county's transportation department and Jennifer commutes an hour each way to her marketing office. They have been trying to start a family for over a year. Eight months ago, Jennifer miscarried in her second month of pregnancy. Antonio's parents love Jennifer and often ask her if she is expecting again, hoping to encourage her to focus on her next baby. Jennifer's mother passed away two years ago and her father's health is rapidly deteriorating. Jennifer faces the probability of placing her father in a skilled nursing care facility within the next few months, against his wishes. At work, Jennifer runs a tight ship. She is organized and prepares lists to assure that everything is done according to schedule. Everyone counts on Jennifer and she takes pride in never letting people down. Jennifer has visited her physician numerous times in the last six months, complaining of headaches, backaches, and indigestion. Jennifer insists that she is happy and is not feeling stressed, yet she finds herself making more mistakes at work, unable to keep up with housework, and feeling tired and overwhelmed; she has begun to question her effectiveness as an employee, wife, daughter, and potential mother. Her pains seem to be increasing, but her doctor cannot find a physical cause for her discomfort.

Scenario 1: 1.What are the causes of stress in Jennifers life? How is stress affecting Jennifers health? Any critical life changes, both pleasant and unpleasant can cause stress, especially if they require significant life changes and in this case, Jennifer is experiencing both of them. First Jennifer got married not all too long ago to Antonio an Italian engineer and now they live together in Nebraska, which in addition makes Jennifer commute an hour each way to her work. Getting married and moving to a new place are two very exciting changes, however they both need adjustments and therefore can cause stress, especially because this also includes for Jennifer to commute much more/longer. Therefore additional stress of commuting might now persist. Also Jennifer and her husband have been trying now for over a year to start a new family. Unfortunately, Jennifer miscarried eight month ago in her first trimester, not all too long before she lost her mother. So starting a new family might be very exciting, but facing two losses closely together means dealing with major negative life changes. Therefore, events like these that are sudden, undesired and without any control are the most damaging. In addition, Jennifer probably feels very guilty of the possibility of placing her father into a skilled nursing care facility, knowing that it is against his wishes.

Jennifer is also presented with family pressure from her in-laws. As much Jennifers in-laws love her as much they wish for a bigger family and they trying to encourage her trough asking quiet bit often if she is expecting again. On top of that, Jennifer has a lot of responsibility at her marketing office, especially because everybody is counting on her and she herself expect not to let anybody down. As we can see, there has been and is a lot going on in Jennifers life and most of these life changes (positive and negative) have been happening shortly after each other. Therefore, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant they all might be in the end all of these life changes need adjustment. So now, the stress is starting to affect Jennifers health and she is experiencing headaches, backaches, and indigestion. 2. How are these stressors impacting Jennifers self-concept and self-esteem? There are many varieties of self-concept and include physical self, social self and personal self. Therefore, self-concept is learned, reflects ones thinking about him or herself as a whole and includes such as fairness, competence, strengths, weight, and appearance. Self-esteem is the individuals overall sense of self worth, develops throughout our lives and the experience we make with all different kinds of activities and people. Therefore, the self-concept has a major impact on our self-esteem and peaks during childhood, drops during adolescence, rise gradually throughout adulthood, and declines sharply in older age. So any changes in physical, emotional, sexual, familial and health can affect our self-concept and self-esteem, like in Jennifers case. The impact that all these stressor are having is the way they influencing Jennifers health and making her also questioning herself. She begun to question her effectiveness as an employee (due to making more mistakes at work), she is questions her role of a wife (due to being mostly overwhelmed with certain tasks like, housework and being mostly tiered) and as overwhelmed she already feels, and she is also questioning her future role of becoming a mother. On top of that, she is doubting her role as a good daughter probably due to the fact of facing the possibility of sending her father away to a nursing home instead of her actually taking care of him. Therefore, at this point of view of Jennifers life all these stressors threaten to lower her selfconcept and her self-esteem. However, self-concept can be enhanced throughout support of learning to cope better with stressors and self-esteem can be changed/shaped especially if a better ability of coping with stressors is provided (some of the problem could also dissolved by itself). 3. How might Jennifers situation illustrate adjustment? How might this situation become an opportunity for personal growth? Adjustment is coping behavior that allows us to meet the demands of our life including the environment we are surrounded by. Therefore, Jennifer situation is illustrating adjustment by using ineffective coping strategies, like for example being in denial, pretending not to have any problems/not being stressed out and being happy.

Unfortunately, the facts speak for themselves and illustrating that Jennifer is not coping to well with certain situations (stressors) affecting her life, like for example the lost of a love one (her mother and the baby she miscarried). As in the end we can see that all these stressors are affecting her performance at work (making more mistakes), at home (unable to fulfill the needs of housework) and her health due to experiencing increasing pains. Adjustment requires changes so that we can meet the challenges and expectations of our own environment. Therefore, we are not only reactors but also actors and not only we react to our environment, but we also influence our environment. So whereas adjustment is reactive, personal growth is proactive. Therefore, this situation might become an opportunity of personal growth if we learn to become not only reactors but also actors to what we are facing (including stressors) throughout our lives. It is almost like being the director of the movie you are starting in. A combination of genetic predispositions, environmental influences and personal choice determine our traits, disorders and behaviors and as this is every human being possess the great ability of adjusting and choice. So personal growth is a never-ending journey and ongoing process of development in which we frequently inspect who we are, what we become and where we are heading off. 4. What defensive coping methods Jennifer using? What active coping methods might be healthier for Jennifer to use? Explain why you would recommend these methods. I believe that Jennifer is using denial as defensive coping method. Yes, she thinks and insists that she is happy and not feeling under stress at all, but the facts speak for themselves. She is making more and more mistakes at work, she feels most of the time very tiered, she cannot keep up with the housework, feels overwhelmed and experience also physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, and indigestion for which her doctor cannot find any physical causes. Therefore, defensive coping methods might and probably also will help temporary to reduce the stressor, however in the end, it might even harm that person more because of not acknowledging the real problems. Active coping methods are the right way of dealing with problems because they recognize stressors for what they truly are and that person will most likely face them. Trying not to take too many tasks (like at work) at the same time and categorize them by deadlines and importance. Developing good time management skills, cooperating better with co-workers by involving them more into certain assignments and at home asking her husband for help with the housework, because both of them are working therefore both should be also held responsible for housework. Jennifer needs also to take so time for herself, relax more, keep a balanced diet and maybe find some time to exercise. In addition, developing higher self-efficacy could help to withstand some stressors and boost Jennifers motivation to finish certain tasks, like keeping up with the housework. Psychological hardiness could help her to feel again in control of her life and withstand better stress at work and predictability and being in control would definitely give Jennifer the chance to moderate the impact of certain stressors like the pressure of her in-laws.

5. Select one theory of personality and use this theory to tell Jennifer how this theory explains her situation. The traditional learning theory, also called behaviorism believes that the environment influences and shapes our personality and that it is our outlook on life and the way we learn that influences our behavior. Therefore everything what Jennifer does is nothing else as the reflection of the environment that she has been surrounded by. So everything what has been going on in Jennifers life, positive as negative will in the end influence her behavior. To the traditional learning theory, we are who we are because of what we have learned in the past and the present time. Therefore, everything that Jennifer does or the way she reacts to certain things or stressors in her life is due to the fact that they were learned. They are not her free choices or the freedom of a direction she alone choose, no Jennifer acts and reacts this way because that is what she had learned. 6. In what stage of development is Jennifer and what factors about this stage might be impacting her perspective of this situation? Jennifer is in the stage of young adulthood where she is trying to establish herself as a person and develop her individuality. This is also the time where she is trying to fulfill her carrier goals and envision her life. In addition, she might be also questioning her life at itself and the choices she made (catch thirties). Therefore, also these factors could be influencing Jennifer in one way or the other. Yes, this is the time her wanting to reach certain stages of development, such as starting a family and becoming a parent, managing responsibilities at home and starting a carrier. However all these new life developments take a lot of energy, need time to get used to it and to become comfortable in it. So this is a new stage of life that needs to be learned and could impact her perspectives of the situation she is in. They might keep her just so busy and of the focus that she is unable to acknowledge her real problems influencing her life. 7. What relationship factors or considerations might be influencing Jennifers problems? The relationship factors or considerations that might be influencing Jennifers problems are definitely the wish for a new baby and the force encouragement from her in-laws to focus on the new baby and therefore move on faster as she might be ready from the past miscarriage. Then there is still the grief of losing her mother, which seems to very persistent and the guilt of not being able to take care of her dad the way she supposes to. However, her health, her busy schedule and her dads weak health make it impossible for her to do so. In addition, the long drive to and from work and her loving personality of wanting to support every coworker do not make her problems seem easier. Also not to forget her husband Antonio, who is an Italian, might provide additional problems that can influence her health significantly due to the cultural differences both might be facing from time to time.

References Nevid, J.S., & Rathus, S.A. (2005). Psychology and the challenges of life: Adjustment in the new millennium (9th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.