Emma’s Case Study
Emma is a 5-year-old Korean-American girl who started her studies in kindergarten recently. In kindergarten, it was noticed that Emma is quite introverted, and she has trouble socializing with her peers. Despite being conscientious and respecting her teacher, Emma avoided executing the teacher’s requests to communicate more with other children. The teacher fears that the girl’s behavior may be related to her parents’ recent divorce. At the same time, Emma does not have any noticeable problems with an educational program.
Emma’s parents decided to divorce and live separately several months ago and introduced their daughter to some outcomes of these decisions, but never shared all of the details and logic behind the situation. Emma’s father believes that children should not be involved in such issues as they do not fully understand the situation. Emma was not overly emotional or hysterical about the situation and accepted her parents’ decision, as she still had an opportunity to spend time with both of them. Still, Emma’s parents worry about the harmful effects of their decision on their daughter’s life and try to spend as much time with her as possible.
Emma seems to have social interactions issues manifested in the form of her reservedness. The paper demonstrates how Emma’s development is affected by all of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model systems. Moreover, Vygotsky’s development theory is used to assess Emma’s social interactions and their influence on her development. Furthermore, the paper suggests several interventions to improve Emma’s situation.
Present Challenges and Primary Issues
According to Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, a child’s development is a convoluted process affected by multiple layers of a child’s environment (Bronfenbrenner, 1977). A child develops through constant interaction with different layers of its environment. Bronfenbrenner divided the child’s environment into five interrelated systems – microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and the chronosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1977). The microsystem is the closest layer of the environment, consisting of a child’s direct interactions with such people as parents and friends. Within these relations, a child can be affected by its environment, but the environment is also affected by a child. There are different microsystems of interactions with her mother, her father, paternal relatives, kindergarten teacher, and other peers for Emma. The mesosystem is composed of interactions between microsystems; in Emma’s case, these include interactions between her parents, between each of the parents and her teacher, between the teacher and her kindergarten peers. The exosystem encompasses systems that indirectly influence the child; for instance, relations of Emma’s mother and her colleagues can influence Emma indirectly, as quarreling at the office can affect the girl through her mother’s emotions. The macrosystem considers the influence of culture on the child’s development. Two languages and two cultures – American and Korean, represented by different people in her life, influence Emma. Finally, the chronosystem is composed of all significant environmental shifts that happened over the person’s lifetime. In the case of Emma, there was one normal transition recently – she started studying in kindergarten and a non-normative one – she experienced her parents’ divorce. The results of this non-normative transition could be harmful for Emma in the short and long run (Kim, 2011).
Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development emphasizes the role of social influence on a child’s development process. According to Vygotsky, there is an essential concept of the More Knowledgeable Other [MKO]; in most cases, that is a tutor who can explain and demonstrate to the child how some processes are conducted and how some concepts work (Vygotsky, 1978). It was proved that the existence of such a person could increase the speed of a child’s development. For Emma, her parents and her teacher are these more knowledgeable others who contribute a lot to her development. The reduction of time that Emma spends with them may negatively affect her; therefore, her parents’ decision to spend as much time with her as possible after divorce may benefit the girl. Another essential concept within Vygotsky’s theory is the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development [ZPD] (Vygotsky, 1978). This concept illustrates the difference between what a child can achieve on its own and what it can achieve with external help – the zone of potential development of a child who has external assistance is much broader. Here, it is also important to note that not only MKO can play a significant role in a child’s development, its peers can also help the child to develop into the ZPD; thus, social interactions with them are vital as well.
Individual and Cultural Differences
Emma may have been experiencing socialization problems in her kindergarten due to her cultural background; therefore, her macrosystem influences microsystems. This may be the case, as according to research, there are notable differences in behavior patterns of Asian and American children. For instance, children from Asian countries can be on average more introverted and less expressive than children from Western countries; furthermore, new social situations can be more stressful for them, and they can prefer to engage in less sociodramatic activities (Chen et al., 2015). Emma’s father and his Korean relatives have had a lot of influence on her, and they promoted the Korean language and culture for the girl in different ways. As a result, Emma may have partially adopted the characteristics of behavior or Asian cultures mentioned previously. In that case, her behavior in the kindergarten is not a result of problems in her mesosystem – her parents’ relationships, but her macrosystem’s influence may, to some extent, explain it. In that case, there is no need to intervene and fix anything, as Emma’s behavior is considered normal within one of the cultures that influence her.
However, there is another aspect that is connected to Emma’s culture that is to be addressed. Both of Emma’s parents, especially her father, have been speaking to her in both English and Korean, while her paternal relatives mostly communicated with her in Korean. Therefore, it could be difficult for Emma to achieve proficiency in English, compared to her American peers, who spoke only English since birth. This lower mastery of language could have also partially explained Emma’s unwillingness to socialize with her peers actively. According to research, “low levels of language proficiency create high hurdles to engaging in everyday social interactions” (Isphording, 2015, p.2).
Various interventions can be suggested to solve Emma’s issues. Firstly, regarding the effects of divorce, there are prevention programs involving expert clinicians that include working with parents and children to reduce the risk of adverse consequences of divorce for a child. Such programs demonstrate effectiveness in the reduction of the likelihood of mental issues for children in the short and long run. For instance, according to Wolchik et al. (2002), mother programs and mother-plus-child programs that involved social learning and behavior-changing clinical methods proved effective in various ways. These programs reduced future drug and alcohol abuses, “reduced symptoms of mental disorder; rates of diagnoses of mental disorder; levels of externalizing problems” (Wolchik et al., 2018, p. 1874) for children. Therefore, it would be recommended for Emma’s parents to engage in such a program, even if Emma does not demonstrate significant issues in the short run.
Secondly, it is essential to note that Emma’s behavior that seems unusual for her teacher may be explained by her cultural background to some extent, as mentioned already. Due to the fact that for Asian cultures, it is normal to have on average more introverted and shy kids, this issue does not need intervention from a cultural point of view. However, it could be recommended to intervene from a linguistic point of view. Since Emma’s hesitance to interact with others may be partially explained by her lower language proficiency, it is recommended that her parents work on her linguistic abilities. It can be done in various forms, from increasing the role of English in everyday communications to assigning Emma to specialized language courses. These measures can increase her language mastery, and therefore make her socialization process easier.
This case studies a 5-year-old girl named Emma who has socialization issues while interacting with her peers at kindergarten. Her teacher believes that her problems may be connected to her parents’ divorce. This may be the case as children who experienced the divorce of their parents demonstrated reduced interpersonal skills, and it was more difficult for them to express emotions and information. One possible intervention includes participation in a preventive program, which can lower the likelihood of the emergence of mental issues for Emma. The child can get a better understanding of the situation, express her emotions and thoughts easier, and contribute to the problem’s solution.
Culture and language may both contribute to Emma’s reported shyness and reservedness. Regarding culture, on average, children in Asian societies tend to be less emotionally expressive, less extroverted, and more anxious in unusual social situations. While being raised in partially Korean culture and being influenced by Korean relatives, Emma may have adopted the mentioned traits to some extent. These traits are not necessarily negative; therefore, no specific intervention is required. Natural further immersion in local culture can result in the change in the mentioned traits. Regarding language, while Emma’s parents have been teaching her English, she has also been actively speaking Korean at home and with paternal relatives. Therefore, it may be difficult for her to communicate only in English with other children whose language proficiency is higher. Various interventions could benefit Emma in that case; for instance, her parents can shift the balance even further towards English in their everyday communications, also they can sign her for additional language courses.
Bronfenbrenner, U. (1977). Toward an experimental ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32(7), 513–531.
Chen, X., Fu, R., & Zhao, S. (2015). Culture and socialization. In J. E. Grusec & P. D. Hastings (Eds.), Handbook of socialization: Theory and research, (pp. 451-471), Guilford Publications.
Isphording, I.E. (2015). What drives the language proficiency of immigrants: Immigrants differ in their language proficiency along a range of characteristics. IZA, 177.
Kim, H. S. (2011). Consequences of parental divorce for child development. American Sociological Review, 76(3), 487–511. Web.
Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.
Wolchik, S.A., Sandler, I.N., Millsap, R.E., Plummer, B.A., Greene, S.M., Anderson, E.R., Dawson-McClure, S.R., Hipke, K., & Haine, R. A. (2002). Six-year follow-up of preventive interventions for children of divorce: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 288(15), 1874-1881.
Emma is a 5-year-old girl who has just begun kindergarten. While Emma is doing fine with the kindergarten program, she seems more reserved, cautious, and even shy than most of her peers. Emma’s teacher noticed that the girl hesitates to socialize with other kids and prefers to play alone. The teacher fears that this might be the result of a problematic situation in Emma’s family.
Emma’s mother was born in the US, while her father comes from South Korea. They met and got married in the US, where Emma was born later. Emma’s parents have been trying to raise her combining two languages and two cultures. Understanding the necessities of life in the US, Emma’s parents emphasize the English language, yet Emma has been incentivized to speak to her paternal relatives in Korean. Emma has been actively socializing with her paternal cousins and other relatives, who are more Korean-culture-oriented. Emma’s parents try to find some balance in terms of culture, as Emma mainly consumes content made in Western countries in the form of cartoons, but her father also tries to introduce her to some Korean content. Moreover, at home, Emma’s family has been integrating the habits and traditions of two cultures.
A couple of months ago, Emma’s parents decided to divorce. They did not talk the whole situation through with Emma, but they tried to explain to her some of the outcomes, such as the fact that she will see her father and other relatives less. Emma accepted the reality of her parents’ divorce without too much drama, but both of her parents worry about the effects that their divorce may have on her. Emma’s parents still communicate with each other but live separately, and Emma spends most of the week with her mother, while on weekends, she meets her father and his relatives.
In kindergarten, Emma is primarily quiet, and on average, she communicates with her peers less than other kids. This was especially noticeable when she just joined the kindergarten, as she mostly played alone or communicated with the teacher when approached. At the same time, Emma is diligent and she is respectful towards her teacher. Whenever the teacher recommended Emma to join other kids, she did so, but this brought only temporary results. The teacher is worried that while it is normal for kids to behave differently, Emma’s socialization issues may be connected to her parents’ divorce. The teacher talked with both of the parents about that issue. While Emma’s parents do not know how to resolve the issue, both of them try to spend as much time with her as possible. At the same time, Emma’s parents find it challenging to explain the whole situation to her in detail. Moreover, Emma’s father believes that the child should not get involved in such issues, as she will not fully understand and comprehend the situation.