The Cunningham Family And Intergenerati

Topics: Family, Drug addiction, Family therapy Pages: 11 (2029 words) Published: November 13, 2014

The Cunningham Family and Intergenerational Poverty
Brian Byerly
SW 5010 – Human Behavior and the Social Environment I

The Cunningham Family and Intergenerational Poverty
This review of Rosa Lee Cunningham’s family system utilizes an eclectic point of view and incorporates aspects of object relations theory, behavior theory, and multi systems family theory. From the micro level, an intervention will primarily follow a behavioral model due to the breadth of negative reinforcers, behavioral patterns, and cognitive abilities that are displayed within the household. A circular process flow will be used to prioritize current and ongoing needs for various members of the family. This may help guide the social worker in linking the Cunningham’s to an array of community based services. These services may include social work case management, transitional housing options for trauma survivors, integrative primary healthcare as the family medical home, formal and informal substance abuse treatment, basic vocational rehabilitation skills training, family therapy, and faith based supports. At a macro level, there is ample evidence of inadequate processes and systemic failure of multiple public agencies (Besharov, 1996). They did not properly address the myriad of social and legal concerns surrounding the Cunningham household through the years. Despite Rosa Lee’s success in securing certain resources for her family with limited education, financial support and transportation; the Cunningham family are unfortunate examples of people and circumstances who have “fallen through the cracks” within the human services network. Both Rosa Lee and Patty dropped out of school at 14 and had babies out of wedlock. Patty never made it past the fourth grade. Her prostitution at age 11 resulted in gonorrhea (1996). Although she spent a number of days in D.C. General Hospital, no report was made to the authorities (1996). For most of the Cunningham children, the school years were characterized by spotty attendance, misbehavior in class and illiteracy (1996). Despite all of her previous charges, D.C. courts gave Rosa Lee custody of her granddaughter when Patty went to jail (1996). Patty’s son Junior, when he was age 10, was arrested six times in 10 months (1996). The failure of various macro-level organizations to respond to the way Rosa Lee, Patty, and other relatives were conducting their lives is a major factor when analyzing this case of intergenerational poverty (1996). Significantly, the only two of her children who made it were supported by adult mentors from outside the home (1996). Eric and Alvin went on to have jobs, families, and own their own homes (Dash, 1996). Nine people of three generations in one public housing apartment are an extension of Rosa Lee Cunningham’s upbringing. Rosetta, Rosa Lee’s mother, gave birth to 22 children, of which 11 lived until adulthood (Dash, 1996). This mode of living was relatively natural for Rosa Lee and reinforced the enmeshed attachment patterns and blurred psychological boundaries that are common in poor black households (Carter, 1989). During the timeframe of Rosa Lee’s childhood, it was very common for black females of southern descent to start early training for domestic work. This training instilled by her mother in an authoritarian manner served Rosa Lee well in maintaining this incredibly crowded household (along with allowing for compulsive cleaning behavior to distract from difficult situations). Rosa Lee’s mother was an abusive authoritarian figure. This was common of the childrearing style of poor black women at this time (Dash, 1996). Rosa Lee had an enmeshed attachment with her mother despite a consistent pattern of physical and emotional abuse. Rosa Lee would attempt to materially win favor and create a positive relationship with her mother by shoplifting items as gifts (1996). This did not succeed and culminated in...

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Besharov, D. J. (1996, October 13). Inner city blues. In University of Maryland school of public policy welfare reform academy. Retrieved November 30, 2012, from
Carter, B., & McGoldrick, M. (Eds.). (1989). The changing family life cycle a framework for family therapy (2nd ed., pp. 513-542). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon
Dash, L. (1997). Rosa lee a mother and her family in urban America (pp. 17-253). New York, NY: Plume.
Walsh, J. (2010). Theories for direct social work practice (2nd ed., p. 99). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cendage Learning.
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