The Applications of Attachment Theory

The Application of Attachment Theory for the Case Study of Brady

Attachment theory is a major factor in the development of adolescents, during which the majority of the behavioral and cognitive structure is established. Formulated by psychologist John Bowlby, it points out the fact that the deviations in social, emotional, or other development have their roots in an individual’s childhood. The relationships during childhood and adolescence shape the individual’s perception – namely, the first major relationship one has is with their mother. She is “the key to one’s development”, during the first stage, according to Erik Erikson (Sprouts, 2017, 0:39). The accuracy of this theory can be easily verified if one looks into the case study we have at hand.

Brady is a 15-year-old and lives with his father Steve, with whom they constantly argue, to the point of physical altercations. These complications started to show in their relationship, particularly after the death of Brady’s mother and Steve’s wife. Despite that some interventions were already made by the Child Protective Services, I feel that it is necessary to reinforce these measures to foster the desperate situation this family found themselves in. It seems that Brady can be characterized as having a detached attachment profile, as there are higher levels of delinquency (Withers, 2016, p. 661). Generally, in order, to give a final answer on any case, the social worker has to conduct a proper assessment procedure, which has been already done. This includes a face-to-face interview, as well as “self-observation, observation by others, family sculpting, individualized rating scales, rapid-assessment instruments, and standardized assessment tools”, among which constructing a genogram was employed (Springer & Powell, 2013, p. 73). Only after much thought and completion of the majority of the steps, the social worker should be able to come up with an intervention strategy.

One possible way of suppressing further deterioration of this family’s situation should be continuous appointments with a family psychiatrist. Brady’s detached attachment shows through his low self-esteem and disinterest in learning activities, as he exhibits below-average intelligence. Taking into consideration the fact that Steve had previously rejected the psychiatrist referral, the social worker is obliged to consider the perception of their clients. One needs to remember that the treatment strategy needs to be established “collaboratively between the social worker and the adolescent”, balancing the client’s acceptance of it and the social worker’s perception of effectiveness (Springer & Powell, 2013, p. 88). Thus, the general advice of an intervention strategy could be formulated as such: Brady and Steve have to work collectively towards a healthier and more accepting relationship to prevent negative outcomes in both of their lives.

Application of Developmental Theory on Case Study: Tiffani Bradley

In the following discussion the case of Tiffani Bradley, a 16-year-old prostitute will be under review. Her case is of particular interest because it can be illustrative of a negative developmental vector that was initiated by the child’s parents. Tiffani, despite still being fairly young, is in a very unique situation – she is in the stage of identity vs role confusion. In her mind, however, she has been trying to leap into the next stage by engaging in an unhealthy relationship. The time of adolescence is characterized by the presence of non-conforming actions that may appear pathological; therefore, it is most likely the case that the girl is experiencing an identity crisis.

It is clear that the girl had experienced multiple forms of abuse on a number of occasions. It all started with her parents’ drug usage progressively getting out of hand, the sexual molestation she received from the ‘friends of the family, to her running away from home and getting into the hands of a pimp named Donald. As a result of her actions, she has gotten an identity detached from reality. As she is still a teenager, she was much easier to manipulate Donald, moreover, her very brain structure has not fully developed yet. It has been established that the prefrontal cortex, “helps you think about the consequences of your actions before you do them”, while also being responsible for behavioral and emotional regulation (TEDxYouth, 2:23). Therefore, a young woman like Tiffani was easy prey for emotional manipulation.

To relieve Tiffani of the consequences of the situation she was committed to for the last 2 years, it is crucial for a social worker to organize more collective sessions for Tiffani and her family. Since she is still at the stage of role confusion, it would be immensely beneficial for her to address the source of the trauma directly. That is – the behavior of her parents, the neglect of which was a catalyst for Tiffani’s own failures. According to Withers et al. (2016 p. 23), “healthy parent-adolescent communication may be a protective factor against negative adolescent mental health outcomes”, which in this case, can be utilized as a post-factum measure. Therefore, since the details of Tiffani’s childhood are known, as well as the incidents that led her to such a dark place, what is left now are interventions based on her needs and confronting the psychological trauma with her mother.


Gross, J. T., Stern, J. A., Brett, B. E., & Cassidy, J. (2017). The multifaceted nature of prosocial behavior in children: Links with attachment theory and research. Social Development, 26, pp. 661-678.

Springer, D. W., & Powell, T. M. (2013). Assessment of adolescents. M. J. Holosko, C. N. Dulmus, & K. M. Sowers (Eds.), Social work practice with individuals and families: Evidence-informed assessments and interventions, pp. 71–95.

Sprouts. (2017). 8 stages of development by Erik Erikson. YouTube. Web.

TEDxYouth. (2013). Insight into the teenage brain: Adrianna Galvan. YouTube. Web.

Withers, M. C., McWey, L. M., & Lucier‐Greer, M. (2016). Parent–adolescent relationship factors and adolescent outcomes among high‐risk families. Family Relations, 65(5), 661-672.

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PsychologyWriting. "The Applications of Attachment Theory." September 18, 2023.