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UCSD Psychology Brainstorming Etiological Factors Case Study Chart

Case of Jorge

JORGE – Not Keeping Up

Jorge was almost 14 years old when he was referred to me because of his academic problems. Since grade 4 he had been performing well below average in his classes, had difficulty concentrating, and was considered to be “too quiet and nervous.” For the past four summers he had taken extra classes to improve his reading, but was currently reading at the third-grade level. As a result, his parents received a letter from the school saying he likely would not be promoted to the next grade if his work didn’t improve. Everyone seemed angry at Jorge for not keeping up.

When I met with Jorge, his version of his school problems was short and to the point: “It’s the teachers,” he said, as he looked at the floor and squirmed in his seat. “How am I expected to learn anything when they yell at you? When I told my English teacher that I hadn’t finished reading my book for class, he said I take too long ’cuz my mind wanders too much. How am I expected to learn when they think I’m dumb?” After further discussion, Jorge summed up his view of the problem in a quiet, sullen voice: “I know I’ll never get anywhere with the brain I’ve got. I can’t figure stuff out very fast, and the teachers aren’t much help. Just thinking about school makes me jittery. I’m afraid I’ll say something stupid in class and everyone will laugh at me.”

Jorge’s mother and father met with me separately and were quick to add their own opinions about why their son didn’t do well in school. They had moved from their Spanish-speaking neighborhood when Jorge was in grade 2, and he struggled to learn English in school because his parents did not speak it at home. His mother admitted that she becomes aggravated and starts to yell when Jorge says he doesn’t want to go to school or can’t do his schoolwork, but she didn’t think this was an issue. She quickly added, “I’ve read about learning disabilities and I think he’s got one. He can’t control his mind enough to center on anything. He’s scared to go to school, and avoids homework as if his life depended on it.” By the end of the interview it was evident that Jorge’s parents were angry at him. They felt Jorge blamed his teachers for his own lack of effort, and that he should be in a special classroom and maybe given medications to calm him down so he wouldn’t worry so much about school.

Brainstorming Etiological Factors

  1. What is causing Jorge’s problems?
  2. What questions might we need to ask based on each theoretical framework?
Theories we can use to help explain contributing factors of disorders, include:
  • Biological theories
  • Psychodynamic theories
  • Cognitive theories
  • Behavioral theories
  • Family systems
  • Ecological – community
  • Sociocultural

Example from Case of Eric (last week’s case study)


–       Genes

–       Heredity

–       Brain structure/function

–       Does Eric have a biological vulnerability for depression , inherited from mom?

–       Is there a neurochemical/hormonal imbalance that is contributing to his depression?

–       Did he suffer a brain injury that might contribute to depression?


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