The Grape Family

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The Grape Family
Anne Reynolds
SOWK 545
February 14, 2013
Victoria Winsett

The Grape Family
Family Composition
The Grape family in the movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” consists of five siblings: Larry, Amy, Gilbert, Arnie, and Ellen. The mother and father are now deceased. The father committed suicide sixteen years ago in the family’s basement at the age of forty. The mother recently passed away from complications due to morbid obesity, her age unknown.

This is a Caucasian family that was raised in Endora, Iowa. The older brother Larry has moved away and disconnected himself from the family. Amy and Ellen recently moved to Des Moines Iowa leaving Gilbert and Arnie still living in Endora. Family Problems

After Gilbert’s father committed suicide his mother went into a deep depression and could not cope with the day to day activities in her family. It was during this time that Gilbert became the head of the household and the primary caregiver not only to his younger siblings but to his mother as well. In dysfunctional families with deficient parents, the children are often robbed of their childhood and learn to ignore their own needs and feelings (Forward, 1989). A complete shift in roles took place because his mother was mentally not capable of giving her children the needed protection, support, or care. According to Minuchin, (1974), the role reversal develops when families are unable to maintain hierarchical generational boundaries in which the parents’ guide and nurture their children and the children seek comfort and advice from their parents.

Arnie was diagnosed with mental retardation/developmental disability and was not expected to live past the age of ten. Mental retardation is significant subnormal cognitive functioning with a deficiency in age appropriate adaptive behaviors such as communication, social skills, and self-care (Papalia, 2008). It is estimated that less than one percent of the population is diagnosed with mental retardation/developmental disability (Papalia, 2008). Having survived to the age of eighteen, Arnie’s primary care is given by his brother Gilbert.

The presenting problem in this family is that Gilbert is experiencing caregiver stress syndrome. Caregiver Stress Syndrome are actual physiological, psychological, and emotional symptoms that is a direct result of emotional strain of attending to the all the needs of the dependent child or adult (England, 2000). Gilbert gets frustrated with his caretaking responsibilities of Arnie to the point he has physically assaulted his brother. Both brothers also have unresolved grief from the suicide of their father and the recent death of their mother. Both sisters also moved away immediately after their mother’s death leaving Gilbert without support in the caretaking of Arnie. Family Strengths

Resiliency can be defined as the ability to recover from adversity stronger and more resourceful (Walsh, 2006). Resiliency is the common theme throughout this family as they have endured the father’s suicide, the mother’s depression, morbid obesity, and subsequent death, the loss of their “old” mother, the disconnection of family members, and Arnie’s disability. Although there is dysfunction in this family, they work hard to sustain what they have. There is a strong bond and commitment to take care of one another. When the mother was still alive there was a connection between all siblings to take care of her and to make sure her needs were met. There was also a commitment to make sure Arnie stayed out of trouble and did not hurt himself. They tried to provide Arnie with some kind of normalcy in his life, i.e. throwing him an eighteenth birthday party. External and Internal Family Resources

While there is turmoil and stress in taking care of Arnie, he is an internal strength for this family. In looking at this family through the Bowen Family Theory, triangulation is formed between two antagonistic individuals also,...
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