Aaron is a 15 year old boy who attends a local public high school in an industrialised area of the city. He lives with his mum, dad and two brothers, Will aged 9 and Brad aged 11 years. Aaron has recently been in trouble with the law (a year ago), having stolen some goods from the local bike shop but was let off as this was his first offence and he had previously been of good behaviour. Aaron has not been doing well at school and has been aggressive to his mum and younger brothers over the past year.

His dad works various shifts (lots of night shifts) at the local glass factory and Aaron doesn’t get to see him much. When he does his dad usually tells him to get lost because his dad is too tired and needs his sleep. His dad constantly tells the family that he hates his job and isolates himself from the family in his bedroom. His dad is always moody and negative about things.

Aaron’s mum works at the local grocery store also on shift work. She is the powerhouse of the family, always working and cleaning up around the house, making sure the bills are paid and that the kids are fed cleaned and ready for school each day. On the rare occasion that Aaron’s mum and dad are at home together with the kids the activities around the house are not shared and everyone does their own thing. Aaron’s mum and dad sometimes yell at each other about bills and household chores.

Aaron often hears his mum berate his dad about being lazy and that he should fix up the house or mow the lawn or do some exercise and his dad swears and curses about working hard all week but rarely does any chores. Aaron has some older mates that his mum disapproves of as they are always getting into trouble, but Aaron thinks they are cool and tough and they have motor bikes, beer, drugs and girlfriends. Aaron’s brothers look up to him as a role model and Aaron often brags and tells them stories about being tough, fighting with other kids and pinching things from other peoples’ houses.

So what is problematic here?

Well Aaron has had to start growing up in early adolescence with few role models to guide him. His dad has little or no time for him as his dad is too engrossed in his own problems and his own world, is overly negative and seems not to value his son’s needs.

Aaron dislikes him because his dad tells him he is stupid and a menace when they go to talk with one another. His mum is so overworked and busy making sure that the family is provided for that there is little quality time to spend with her sons. His mum constantly screams at he and his brothers to hurry up for school, to clean their bedrooms and to stop making a mess about the house. Aaron has received little intimacy from his family and has chosen to seek anyone outside the family that can be his friend and mentor.

In this case he has not chosen wisely and is in the company of older and very questionable mates who appear to be leading him in the direction of trouble. It is clear from this example that the family is under a lot of stress, and that the parents are not providing much guidance, care or love to Aaron and probably have little idea about how to cope effectively with their own lives let alone their children’s’ lives.

Family communication is almost non-existent and there is little or no scope for sharing ideas, feelings and learning about each other and how to be happy and contented with and supportive of one another. Aaron’s dad has withdrawn from the family except for just the very basics of interactions and has isolated himself from Aaron so much so that he is like a stranger to Aaron, and not very likeable at that, trying to demolish Aaron’s self-worth and self-esteem whenever they meet with verbal abuse. Aaron’s dad may well be depressed, his mum is constantly stressed and the family is functioning only at a very basic level. Aaron’s brothers are also at risk of being led into trouble and the family certainly needs some sort of support and professional help.