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The purpose of this paper is to investigate the mediating effects of loss on Ella’s development. Specifically, the predominant themes of the loss of her brother, and the loss of her traditional family unit, after her father leaves.

This paper will examine how loss can influence and impact development across a child’s bioecological systems, thus examining it from a socio-ontological point of view, considering the topic of loss in a distributed constitute. According to Bronfenbrenner (1999), development transpires within a group of systems. The microsystems are at the proximal level, and focus on a child’s immediate environment and influences, such as family, school, and friends.

Mesosystems are connections between microsystems which then form relationships between different groups in the child’s life. The distal level is concerned with the exosystem, which is the individuals’ indirect environment, such as social welfare and the media. To extend on this, the macrosystem represents societal and cultural values and ideologies which indirectly effect the individual. The ecological systems theory also looks at the chronosystem, which represents changes in the child’s life over a period of time.

Together, proximal and distal influences shape and change individual development. In relation to the case study, this can be seen through both proximal influences in Ella’s life, namely her family and school, and through distal influences, such as government and educational policy. In the case study, it is evident that Ella has a lack of support from her new school, as they are unaware of her recent loss of her brother. Holland and McLennan (2015) conducted research into school responses to pupil bereavement, using a closed questionnaire which was sent to schools for them to fill out. The results showed that only 20% of schools had a policy in place for bereavement. Thus, one conclusion of the research was that schools did not recognise their pupil’s needs or of their potential to help, and in relation to Ella, her new school were unaware of her bereavement, leading to a lack of support. One prominent finding was the need for an increase in training and an implementation of government policy.

Bronfenbrenner’s (1999) model indicates that schools are well placed contextually to support bereaved pupils, with policy being an example of an exosystem as well as a distal influence (Holland and McLennan, 2015). To provide this support effectively, they need a wider insight into the implications of pupil loss, and a wider view of loss overall. Extending, due to lack of policy within the school, Ella was referred to a special needs unit; however, this may have been avoided if the school had improved communication with pupils in terms of bereavement, with Holland and McLennan (2015) finding that improvement recommendations for schools focused on regulating bereavement policies. Additionally, Holland and McLennan (2015) recognised that richer data may have been obtained through interview, which could help with future policy implementation. In relation to the case study, the loss of her traditional family unit can be seen to have a large impact on Ella’s bioecological systems. As a result of her parent’s separation, Ella’s family has to move into smaller accommodation, due to the Government policy of the Bedroom Tax. The Governmental implication of the Bedroom Tax can be seen as a distal influence within Ella’s life, and as a part of her exosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999). Bragg et al (2015) conducted unstructured interviews of families affected by the new legislation.

One issue identified was that the bedroom tax did not recognise the reality of people’s lives and circumstances, seeing a narrow view of the family as a microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999) itself, and being unable to differentiate between varying family positions. Referring to Ella’s family, the Government failed to acknowledge the families’ extenuating circumstances of the death of Ella’s brother, as well as the parents’ separation, forcing them to move houses. Furthermore, interviewees expressed that the impact of having to move had a negative impact on community ties. This can be seen in the case study, as within Ella’s own community, her microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999) of school and friendships alters, as she is unable to see her friends after moving house. To extend, Bragg et al (2015) found that school staff and parents interviewed enunciated how children were emotionally affected by the bi-products of the tax; the financial and psychological effects of poverty.

Single parents interviewed expressed concern about falling under the poverty line upon having to comply with the bedroom tax, finding either paying it or moving house both extremely costly options (Bragg et al, 2015). This is evident in the case study as Ella’s grandmother must help the family with basic essentials. To extend on the topic of poverty, one impact of Ella’s father leaving is Ella now living in a lone-parent household. This has led to a reduced amount of income, with her mother not being able to find a job. Horgan (2009) interviewed children in the UK about how families living in poverty experience school differently from families living well-off. Group interviews were used to gather data, taking a participative approach, giving the children opportunity to take control of the discussions.

One key finding was that children’s school experiences are heavily shaped by their family background and where they live. Horgan (2009) found that children living in low-income households expressed worries about non-educational issues relating to school, such as the walk to and from school, and having clean clothes. Looking at the case study, these issues are relevant to Ella in her new school, as she now walks home on her own due to lack of support from other parents, and is taunted about her clothes not being clean. The impact of Ella’s mother being unable to find work can be seen as part of Ella’s exosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999), as well as a distal influence on her development within the educational setting. Extending on bullying as a result of income differences, Horgan (2009) found that children identified that pupils from ‘bigger’ houses would be ‘very popular’, with the children’s views demonstrating that how children experience school depends on how much disadvantage they face. One methodological advantage of this study was that in order to avoid stigmatising children living in poverty, the study compared between schools in advantaged and disadvantaged areas, rather than within schools, to avoid attempting to differentiate between poorer and better off children within schools. Drawing upon Ella’s microsystem of school, it is evident from the case study that the loss of Ella’s family unit has played a part in Ella’s decline in educational progress. Potter (2010) investigated the relationship between divorce and academic achievement, and the role of psychosocial well-being.

The study was a data analysis of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, using data specifically on children of divorced parents. The data sample was designed as a stratified random sample, with information collected from children, parents, teachers, and school administrators. Results from the analysis found that children of divorced parents scored on average 1.3 points lower than children from non-divorced parents in maths, and 1.7 points lower in reading. Potter (2010) concluded that children score lower than their peers immediately after their parents divorce, and the gap persists throughout the years. In the case study, it is evident that Ella struggles initially at school following her parents separation, with her teacher giving additional help, and then at her new school, she is referred to a special needs unit for lack of progress.

As Potter (2010) explains, divorce was found to reduce children’s psychosocial well-being, and therefore the decline in well-being can explain the poorer educational performance in children. This indicates that the change in Ella’s proximal family microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999) has had a detrimental impact on her school microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999). However, one limitation of this research argues that decline in psychosocial well-being of the children may have preceded the divorce of their parents, resulting in a lack of relationship between the two variables.Looking at the case study, it is notable that Ella’s relationship with her father has changed since the separation, as she now see’s much less of him.

Looking at research into the changes in father-child relationships after divorce, Kalmijn (2015) used surveys as a method of collecting data, questioning young adults on their experiences of divorce and how it impacted their relationship with their father. He found that when fathers were more involved in a child’s life, both before and after separation, they had a better relationship with the child overall, including after the separation. The case study suggests that Ella’s father makes little effort to see her after he leaves, having a negative impact on her future development, thus the loss of her father figure can be seen as a proximal influence in her development. Kalmihn (2015) also indicated that father-child relationships after a divorce were more successful when the father maintained a high involvement with the child. In the case study, it is evident that Ella’s father neglects to make the push to see her.

To extend on this, Radl, Salazar, and Cebolla-Boado (2017) found that children living in a fatherless household had cognitive disadvantages compared to children living with both parents, for example in educational achievement. This suggests that Ella’s microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999) of her family, having changed, influences her school microsystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999), playing a part in her educational achievement as a proximal influence on her development. However, Kalmijn’s (2015) research did not account for personality differences and differences in mental health, both potential impacts of father-child relationships rather than solely divorce. To conclude, the literature examined considers both proximal and distal influences of loss on Ella’s ecological systems (Bronfenbrenner, 1999).

The topic of loss can be seen to have a negative residuum on Ella’s development, and can be seen to impact different systems in different ways, for example her exosystem, through lack of bereavement support within school policy, and her macrosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1999), though Government Bedroom Tax policy. 

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