Case Study Analysis

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Case study analysis

This paper is a case study analysis of a young rebellious boy who isseparated from his abusive mother, in the movie Mario’s War.In this paper, the life story of the young boy and how events in hislife have shaped his character are going to be reviewed. This is ineffort to describe the psychology of trauma, arousal and effectderegulation in children and adolescents. The paper will outline theproblems that the young boy faced as he grew from an ecologicalperspective theory. In the long run, there will be an attempt todescribe what the boy makes of the sense of self and how he perceivesothers. At the same time, the Ecological Systems Theory will be usedto help explain the difference in behaviour of individuals, whilethey are at work and while they are at home. This theory, togetherwith an evaluation of environmental and social influences, helps toformulate interventions for Mario’s case. Given that there are anumber of elements that come into play in constructing anindividual’s behaviour, it is important to refer to psychologicaltheories regarding the development of the individual and their ownperceptions of the environments.

Mario’s brief history

Mario is an 8 years old rebellious boy lives with his abusive mother.Given the way that her mother is treating her, she is forced to partways with Mario, as he is taken and placed in the care of anothercouple. Over time, his foster mother, Giulia, turns out to be agrateful and jovial woman who creates a natural parenting bond withMario, regardless of the fact that they are not related by blood.Despite the fact that Mario is quite rebellious, Giulia remainsstrong and committed to taking care of him. Many obstacles come inbetween them even with her relationship with Sandro. However, Giuliais able to manage herself well and take care of him.


The Ecological Systems Theory is sometimes known as the human growthprocess, which in context outlines the five systems that exist withinthe environment in which people live (Rothery, 2001 Paquette &ampRyan, 2001). The Ecological Systems Theory provides the proceduresfor the community psychologist to follow while studying therelationship between people in context with the community (Marshall,2004 Feinstein et al, 2009). According to the postulates of theeconomic systems theory, people encounter different environments intheir lives, which influence their behaviour to certain levels(Darling, 2007 Walker et al., 2006). The five systems are thechronosystem, the microsystem, the exosystem, the mesosystem and themacro system (Miller, 2003 Anold et al., 2012).

The micro system has a more direct influence on the lives of people,as it is directly related with the environment they live in. Some ofthe element of a person’s micro system is their friends, classmatesand neighbours, with whom they interact with every day. Besidesdirect interaction, there are a number of social agents that arefound within the elements of the microsystem, which contribute to thecharacterization of an individual. According to The EcologicalSystems Theory, people are not just recipients of experiences, whichsurround them. They also contribute to the makeup of the micro systemenvironment in which they dwell.

In Mario’s case, the microsystems include school, family, religion,the community and the peer group. Mario is a young Italian highschool boy who spends most of his time in a crime-driven andcrime-filled social environment. However, he does not create bondwith his abusive mother. Mario did not find a chance to create afamily relationship with his parent or his siblings, and was oftenseen to be disturbed by trauma caused by the war. With time,relationship with the people around him deteriorates to a point thatthere is an almost no mutual benefit between him and those around himespecially adults.

According to the theory, the mesosystem setting influences the way inwhich an individual creates associations between various elements ofthe micro system (Bronfenbrenner, 2009 Bronfenbrenner &amp Evans,2000). For instance, the way that someone behaves at school issomehow related with the way the experiences they have at home. Atthe same time, the behaviour and characteristics of children atschool may be direct influences of how they relate with their parentsat home or neighbours from where they live.

Family, teachers and peers characterize Mario’s mesosystemenvironment. The poor relations with his family eventually affectedthe way that Mario was performing in schools. His grades got worse,and he could not make any presentable progress with his studies.Mario does not pay attention in school and always says his 5years oldon earth if the teachers asks him question. According to theEcological Systems Theory, under the mesosystem, there is arelationship between the microsystems in one’s life (Darling, 2007Bronfenbrenner, 2001). Mario soon found himself digging into detailsabout his lifestyle to discover any missing links that wereresponsible for his slow progress. At one point, he found himselfbursting into tears in front of his friend, when he tried to explainto him how the effects of war had ruined his life. This was quiteuncharacteristic of Mario. From the early stages of the movie, he wasportrayed as a jovial boy, who had little worries about the thingsthat were going on around him. However, as the mesosystem theorypostulates, the negative environment at home finally affected hisschool and social life.

Some of the strange things that gradually revealed that he was beingnegatively affected by some elements in the environment were paperthrowing and random chases across his parent’s home. On the otherside, however, his life with his peers was quite different. He wasappearing to be having more fun relating with his peers and Mimmo thedog he found in the movie. His coordinates, according to the caseanalysis, are his friends, neighbours, and the general environment.When he met Cutolo the psychologist, it is learnt that Mario isfinding difficulty in expressing himself, due to the emotionaldistress that he was suffering from.

The exosystem setting is a little more complicated than the abovediscussed systems. This is the setting, which shows no signs oflinkages between the person’s role in the ecosystem and theirbehaviour (Bronfenbrenner &amp Morris, 2006 Spencer, 2006). Forinstance, a child who develops stronger bonds with one of the parentsof relatives may behave positively or negatively to other people, ifthose they have strong relationships go away for some time.

The exosystem, in this case study, is manifested in Mario’srelationship with his foster family. According to the ecologicalsystems theory, the exosystem is the setting in which where is aclear connection between a personality and those around them(Woodside et al, 2006 Lee, 2010). It is thus postulated that theecosystem may yield either positive or negative outcomes, dependingon the way in which the person perceives the new entrants into theirlives. Mario was quite disconnected with his mother. However, when heis put under the care of the temporary foster parents Guilia andSandro, he gradually changes his behaviour. He does not link wellwith the foster parents, leading to the conclusion that he was arebellious young boy. This made it difficult for Giulia his fostermother to cope up with him. However, despite the fact that he wasrebellious, Giulia did not lose hope in taking care of Mario andhandling him with passion as she would her own child. From the casestudy, it can be concluded that Mario has a stronger bonding with hisbiological parents and friends than with his foster parents. Theeffect of this was that he was eventually left a broken person, whowas haunted by trauma of the war and other events in his life.

On the other hand, the macrosystem is defined as the actual cultureof the individual (Johnson, 2008 Tudge et al., 2009). Factors suchas the socioeconomic status of the child’s family and their socialenvironments are part of the macrosystems. One of the features of themacrosystems is that they have profound effects on the child as theygrow. For instance, if a child is born into a family of illiteratepeople, the experiences may drive them to seek education and make abetter living for themselves.

In this context, Mario began developing particular funny behavioursas he remembers disadvantage the life had on him. These abnormalbehaviours were associated with a number of disorders, some that wereinfluenced by the social setting he lived in. The war had negativelyimpacted a lot of people during these times. Like many other peoplewho were suffering from similar trauma, Mario developed a naturalreaction towards the same. He attempted to socialize more with peopleoutside his home, spending more time with friends and trying to makea connection with them as time went by. According to the EcologicalSystem Theory, this type of reaction is influenced by the actualculture of an individual (Hill, 2005 Pleck, 2007). The context inwhich Mario was reacting to the macrosystem environment wasinfluenced by his socioeconomic status and society. Indeed, Mario wasexhibiting signs of trauma, arousal and affected deregulation,leading to the conclusion that he could indeed be suffering from atraumatic disorder. Over time, his friends begun influencing the waythat he was conducting himself, in relation to dealing with thestress that he was suffering from. As a way of dealing with thestresses that were haunting him.

Finally, the chronosystem includes a number of transitions in aperson’s life as they grow (Eamon, 2001 Tissington, 2008). Thismay include personal experiences and environmental factors that mayplay as drivers of change for the person over time. For instance,divorce is a major life transition that is most likely to change theway that the children behave and how they will conduct themselves inthe future. Research has categorically shown that children areconsiderably affected by such chronological transitions however,they get to grow out of the frustrations and move on with their liveswithout being affected by these events (Schweiger &amp O’Brien,2005 Spence &amp Lee, 2003). As such, the main factor in this istime.

As described by Hill (2005) Hong et al. (2011), chronosystemincludes the transitions that take place in one’s life. This mayinclude social-historical influences that are determinants of whatone eventually becomes. Mario, a 9 year-old boy, had gone throughsome traumatic experiences that shaped his chronosystem. He had losta close relative who was a soldier during the war. This was the causeof trauma in his life. This trauma eventually fostered thedevelopment of a negative attitude, which he developed as he grewinto his early adulthood. The negative attitude that he had developedand other life difficulties made it hard for people around him tounderstand and relate with him.

Despite the fact that it is quite difficult to determine hiseconomic status, Mario was not able to adequately support himself.This means that he had to seek the help of his parents, whoregardless, were not in a position to adequately support his everyfinancial need. This further worsened his wellbeing.


One of the influences of Mario’s life is his background. Mariolives in a dangerous and degraded environment, which is full of abusefrom his biological mother, Nunzia. Nunzia treated Mario in the worstpossible way that any biological mother would. She locked him in thebalcony and fed him poorly, without paying any attention to hisnutritional wellbeing. This drained Mario’s morals, making him tolose touch with social values. Given that her mother appearedemotionless and comfortable with giving up her son for adoption,Mario lost hope of making a personal connection with anyone in theworld. The psychologist who works with Mario notes that he has losttouch with the world’s sense of parenthood and creating personalrelationships with those close to him. This is the reason that Mariodoes not cope along well with Giulia. Regardless, Giulia tries tounderstand the gap between Mario’s social background and hispersonality. To make matters worse, the changing environment makes ithard for Mario to recover from his personal experiences. This is thereason that for a long part of the movie, he tries to create aconnection with Giulia, most probably seeing her as another negativeelement in his life.

On the other hand, Giulia was not disheartened by Mario’sbehaviour. Her actions are justified by the experience she had fromacting classes herself. Given that she understood the position thatthe young people were in, she strived to help Mario and help him, andhis peers, not to fall into the world of drugs and substance abuse.On the other hand, the decision that was made that Sandro was to staywith her stepmother influenced her decisions. Despite the fact thatSandro’s relationship with Giulia was affected by Mario’sadoption, Giulia was able to continue caring for her. There is asense of serenity portrayed in the movie as Giulia and Mario areplunged into a comfortable and safe lace, a world that Mario did notbelong into. Due to this, Mario created his own perception of theworld by referring to tales of war, betrayal, deceit and the story ofsurvival.

The early life trauma experiences are responsible for Mario’s badcharacter, which he exhibits at school. He becomes increasinglyundisciplined and restless, and at some point, he decides to getphysical with his peers whenever they are in disagreement. He evengoes ahead to disobey the authorities, and even says that he would beglad to set the school on fire. The relationship with Luciano,another outsider in the class, worsens his character. Given that theyshare a number of things, such as dialect, they form a disruptiveduo, which brings problems to the school. At the same time, hisrelationship with one dog named Mimmo makes it even harder forthe people to understand Mario. He claims that the only language hecan understand is that spoken by the dog. The reason that Mario’scharacter gets hard to rectify is because Giulia was used toaccepting the children with their weaknesses and limitations. Thiscombination of relationships and influences in Mario’s lifeperpetuated his problems. The following are possible interventionsformulated from the mapping of this combination of relationships andinfluences.


The problems that are associated with unusual behaviour amongchildren and adolescents are represented in this section. Referenceis made to Mario, the protagonist in the case study film. Theinterventions address the problems experienced by the young,especially depression, post-trauma stress, anxiety and behaviouralproblems. Other external problems include peer pressure, alcohol andsubstance abuse. The following recommendations are proposed forMario’s case, and justifications provided at the beginning of each.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Given that one of the causes of Mario’s problem is the fact thathis attitude and behaviour are focused on negative thoughts, CBT isrecommended. CBT’s major aim is changing the patterns of behavioursbehind people’s problems. This is a combination of behavioural andcognitive therapy approaches that are applied to modify maladaptivethinking and behaviour (Rothbaum et al., 2000 Butler et al., 2006).CBT is taken to be a brief form of a therapy that is entirelycomprised of about 8 to 12 sessions. Under this, the client and thetherapist work together to find the best solutions to the problemsthat the patient has. At the same time, it allows the therapist toconclusively provide tools and guidance to help the patient on therecovery path. The major limitation of the therapy is that it worksbest with voluntary patients. This is not the case with Mario, as heis very aggressive and repulsive. At the same time, psychologistsagree that the method has high possibilities of backfiring amongstmany patients.

Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)

According to O’Hara et al. (2000) and Weissman et al. (2008), IPTis highly effective, based on the time that the therapy takes toproduce results in the patients with disorders such as those ofMario. The primary aim of IPT is decreasing the symptoms and helpingthe therapist to better understand the causes of depression in thepatient Wilfrey et al (2002) and Mufson et al (2011), in Mario’scase, his personal actions were influenced by his relationship withfriends and family. McIntosh et al (2000) Young et al (2006) speakabout the attachment theory, which is the basis of the creation ofIPT. Under this, the primary determinant is the patient’sinterpersonal relationships. Mario’s interpersonal relationshipswith people around him and the environment shaped his character, forinstance, the chock and trauma he suffered due to deaths in the warand harsh relationship with his biological mother shaped him intowhat he eventually became. For this application, the major limitationis that it needs highly trained therapists. The chances of droppingout of the therapy by the patients is also very high.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT)

This therapy is recommended because it is one of the most successfulfor children between 3 to 18 years, and Mario falls within this agebracket. This therapy has been the kind of psychotherapy that iscentred on communal studies and the cognitive theory, besidesincorporating a number of trauma interventions (Cohen et al., 2000Dorsey &amp Cohen,n.d) This therapy also provides a chance forparents to interact with their children, in order to find solutionsto help decrease their stress. With this intervention, Mario’sfoster parents could have been in a position to assess and improvehis mental status. According to Ernest et al (2001), parent-childcommunication is one of the most important stages of childdevelopment, as is helps the parents to take better care of theirchildren. The major limitation for this therapy is that it has majormethodological flaws, which are yet to be fully addressed bypsychologist.

Working together with adolescent groups

According to Glass &amp Benshoff, (2002) and Lunsford &amp Bruce,(2001), a lot has been achieved when adolescent groups are broughttogether in social skills building, psycho-education and suchactivities. A number of psychologists have also identified thisintervention as one of the most efficient when dealing with issuessuch as post-trauma stress among the adolescents. As for Mario’scase, including him in a group of peers suffering from similarproblems may go a long way in helping him settle in his adolescenceand approach young adulthood as a reformed person. However, the mainlimitation is that achieving postitive results may take a long periodof time.

Parent Management Training

This therapy is recommended because it is most likely to work, givenMario’s relationship with his foster mother. This intervention isalmost entirely founded on the social studies concept, which is aimedat helping the parents to come up with solutions for handling theirchildren. Mario’s biological parents had their failures, and at thesame time, his foster parents failed to transform him effectively.According to Mabe et al (2001) and Nock &amp Kazdin (2005), thisintervention provides training to parents to help them change theirchildren’s characters at the home level. PMT is also referred to asthe character parent education and training, and management ofcontingency (Kazdin, 2010 Forehand et al, 2010). This interventionalso helps to modify the relationship between the parents and theirchildren in order to help abolish aggressive and antisocialbehaviour, like that of Mario. Additionally, this interventioninvolves familiarization of parents with their children with the aimof creating stronger ties that are gradually developed as thechildren go through their adolescent years (Maupin et al., 2011Forgatch &amp Patterson, 2010). The main limitation with thisintervention is that its effects in clinical application may not beseen, when those involved do not get enough professional support.


Mario, the protagonist of the case study film, went through a roughchildhood that ruined his character. Mario’s development has beendescribed in the assessment, which used the Ecological Systems Theoryto explain the environmental factors, mainly relationships andinfluences, which placed him in his position. From an evaluation inthis context, a formulation of the influences of Mario’s life hasbeen conducted. This has provided basis for the proposal ofinterventions, which equally been justified, and their respectivelimitations explained. The interventions include a number ofpsychological therapies and environmental adjustments that can beapplied to help solve Mario’s problems. The success of theinterventions will be through a written treatment plan. The plan willinclude clear goals and objectives, which are customized to serveMario’s purpose. AT the same time, the interventions will bemonitored by scales and checklists, which are filled up by Mario andthe therapist after every session.


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