Down in the Delta: Family Theory Approaches
Family Theory Observation Paper
Through assessment of the overall themes, trends, and patterns of the nuclear and extended family, the Sinclair family has been through many conflicts and stresses, and each family member has fought hard to maintain and keep the family connected together, despite long distances, separation, addiction, developmental delays, aging, and many more stressors. Though there are many theoretical approaches to take with the Sinclair family at any given point in “Down in the Delta”, including Family Development Theory, Family Systems Theory, Family Crisis/Stress, or Social Exchange Theory. This paper will focus on Structural Functionalism Theory and Symbolic Interactionism Theory. While observing interaction with the Sinclair family from a therapeutic lens, Uncle Earl and Rosa are the two main adults in the family featured in the film who feel a strong obligation to continue to maintain deep family heritage and traditional connections, while meeting the needs of each seemingly challenging individual in the family. Family Development Theory can be used to engage this family by pointing out how deviation from the norm can cause family stress. For example, a family trying to maintain deep connections from past, present, and future will have a huge stress when they are split apart due to slavery, societal injustices, and a civil war. To add to that tension, physical separation in different parts of the country severs relationship and family customs. Rosa fights hard for her daughter, Loretta who has been a deviance to her immediate family, to be a good mother and stop using, by helping her care for her children, encouraging her to get a stable means of income and a job. Rosa goes to the point of giving Loretta a demand to either take the kids down South to Uncle Earl's for the summer, or she can relinquish them to social services. Rosa shows her commitment to keeping her family connected and stable by pawning the family's most valuable heirloom in order to pay for the bus tickets. Loretta struggles because she expected to have a father to her children, but he left after her youngest daughter, Tracy, was born, leaving Loretta a single mother of two children with an addiction. Tracy adds stress to the family because of her “diagnosis” of Autism and the severe behaviors the family tries to manage, and at times ignore her, to stay sane. The nuclear family has learned to adapt to these stresses and crisis by means of protecting themselves and their family. Rosa sees the importance of teaching her daughter to be a mother, but understands that Loretta cannot mother while she is addicted in an unhealthy environment. Rosa adapts by selling “Nathan” to pay for the bus ticket to help her daughter and grandchildren. Loretta accommodates to stress initially by rebellion through deviant behavior and innovation by using drugs to deal with her situation, then eventually realizes her coping skills are not healthy and she claims her fighter role in her family to keep them together. Thomas deals with crisis by hiding money to care for he and his sister, getting a camera and taking pictures of tourists on the streets to make an income, showing a signs of a child who has had to grow up to be the adult quickly, and occasionally he uses the power of his voice and feelings towards his mother. In a few instances in “Down in the Delta” he screams angrily, “You are NOT my mother,” during an argument and when she finds where he's been hiding his money, he calls his mother out on her inability to parent and the survival skills he has learned to keep his family together. Tracy has learned that in order to get her needs met, she screams to communicate, and often was ignored. She appeared to be a “crack baby” to some family members, but given her circumstances of severe neglect and her potential signs of Autism behaviors, she learned...
Bibliography: Boynton, S. (2007). Blue moo. Workman Pub Co.
Angelou, M. (Director) (1998). In Gobel, M. (Executive Producer), Down in the Delta.
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