Adolescence: Developmental Psychology and Social Work Practice

Module Title: Human Growth and Behaviour. Assessment Title: What are the advantages and disadvantages of viewing behaviour through the life-p perspective for social practise? ADOLESCENCE The author’s aim is to outline the advantages as well as disadvantages in adolescence behaviour and human development processes across people life p, and particular adolescence. This essay will look at the different models, theories of social work and the factors that may have influence social work practice.
The physical, psychological, socio-cultural, environmental and politico-economical are the factors that Bowlby (1999), Erikson (1995), Freud and Piaget (1977) have mentioned in their theories and the author will explore, discuses and examine them. The factors and the theories are numerous to cover in the essay of this size, and with this in mind the author is looking at examining same of them very briefly and same more in depth. In the first part, the author will cover human development through the life p. The reasons why knowledge and understanding of human development throughout the life course are important to social work practice.
The author will also outline the importance of our own personal values, and the impact that these may have on social work practice. Understanding the impact of transactions within a person’s life course is important for social work practice in order to understand other people’s lives. However, it is important to remember that although people may experience the same life event, their response to the situation and the decisions that they make will differ. Deferent people have different perceptions of what is happening to them as they move through transitions in their lives.

Their response and learning from it might be very different from one individual to the other. For example, one may have enjoyed school, another tolerated it or hated it. Social workers need to recognise in working with people the different transitions and may use them as an opportunity in helping the service users to grow, change, or develop. Of course, there are numbers of different perspectives that could be taken into account of how we develop into who ‘we are’. That is why the author will look at some ideas and theories from biology, sociology, psychology, and their assumptions of what influences they may have on human life.
Firstly, the author will look at two theories and try to explain the individual’s behaviour namely, ‘nature’ and ‘nurture’. (Crawford, 2003) The nature viewpoint believes that our genes predetermine who we are and the characteristics we have are inherited, for example people’s physical appearance etc. The problem with this believes is that it suggests that the change is impossible, we are who we are and there is nothing we can do about it. The danger in this thinking is the stereotyping people, and thus supporting prejudice and oppression.
On the other hand, the nurture’s viewpoint argues that the environment, and the way we are brought up influence our development, giving the evidence in patterns of family behaviour, for example, introverted or extroverted family members. Again, there is a danger in stereotyping people thus contributing towards oppression. (Crawford, 2003) A sociological approach explains human identity by examining the interactions between people and society in which they live. It explores the different classes of society starting from wide perspective then looking at them and the influence it may have on the individuals. (Giddens, 2001)
Physiological approach explains human development by examining the physical development and genetic make-up, for example, biological theories explain a child’s growth and development, concentrating on characteristics inherited from biological family. (Crawford, 2003) Psychology is a discipline, which studies people their thoughts, feelings and emotions. There are many different theories the most relevant to the subject are the developmental psychology and psychosocial theory. Developmental psychology has an approach of how people develop across life course, by exploring their thoughts, feelings and behaviours (Aronson, 2005).
Piaget (1977) the author of cognitive development theory believed that the child seeks to understand and adopt into the environment. In doing so, the child undertakes certain actions as it moves through stages of development. Another approach to understand the human life course from a developmental psychology perspective is presented trough theories that focus on behaviour and how behaviour and actions influence our learning. (Piaget, 1977) Skinner’s (1953) behaviourism explained human development as the acquisition of behaviourism that is learned through responses to experiences.
Skinner did not see the individual’s thoughts or conscious mind as influencing their behaviours, but rather behaviour as a response controlled by the rewards or punishments in the individual’s environment. (Skinner, 1953) Albert Bandura (1977) also emphasised in his social learning theory the importance of behaviour and the environment, but he saw cognition or thoughts as being a significant factor in the person’s development. Therefore, the social learning theories consider the influence of values, beliefs, self-determination, emotions and thought on the learning process.
Psychosocial theories arise from a combination of two perspectives psychology and sociology disciplines. David Howe describes psychosocial as being created by the interplay between the individual’s psychological condition and the social environment (Howe, 1998) Erik Erikson (1995) in his model of life stage development saw people building their identity as they move through ‘crisis’ points in their lives. Each person moving through stages by moral excellence, however the successful progression through each stage, by negotiation of the particular ‘crisis’ to a positive outcome, ensures healthy development (Erikson, 1995)
All these theories explain human development as being largely dependent upon the impact of the environment, social and cultural influences. They can be criticised or appreciated for their strengths and weaknesses in the way they explain and describe certain aspects of development. For example, Jean’s Piaget’s (1977) theory of cognitive development could be considered as one of the most comprehensive and logical in helping to understand children’s mental development. However, Piaget’s (1977) theory is not as useful in understanding how life events and challenges influence growth and development in adulthood. Piaget, 1977) For this area of life, course development Erikson’s model of life stage development is more likely to be relevant. (Erikson, 1995) The human life can be very complex, influenced by interactions of biological, social, psychological and environmental factors. It is therefore, very important to appreciate a range of theories from across disciplines. It may not be possible for anyone’s theory to explain all aspects of human life and its development. Taking one approach would lead to one aspect of someone’s life leaving the other aspects of the person’s ignored (Adams, 2003).
The author believes that each of the models and theories introduced within this essay are valuable to our understanding of human development through the life p. Social workers need to develop an understanding of these theories from a range of disciplines in order to take holistic approach in their practice. Very important aspects of social work practice are assessments, planning, intervention and reviews. Parker (2003) describes a number of aids and activities that social workers may use when gathering and analysing information as they make assessments with service users. (Parker, 2003)
Before moving on more deeply to adolescence, the author will briefly look at the importance of childhood and the implications that it has on adolescence, and the rest of life. One of the most important parts of social worker practice is empowering people to be actively involved in processes and decisions that affect their lives. Social workers need to develop this skill as well as other skills like communication and listening to help those who are unable to speak or express themselves. The right of children to have their voices heard has been enshrined in an international treaty, the convention on the Rights of Children (1999).
The Convention on the Rights of Children 1991 is a universally agreed set of standards and obligations in relation to the basic human rights that all children have – without discrimination Grant (1991). Early relationships are often viewed by theorists as having a critical role in the person’s emotional well being throughout their life. Attachment theory involves the study of relationships, in particularly early relationships of infants and children. ( Lindon, 1998) Attachment by Lindon (1998) is described as a positive emotional link between two people (a link of affection).
The original concept of attachment has been attributed to the studies of John Bowlby (Howe, 1999). He believed that the source development of personality lay in early childhood and that any trauma of failure in these early relationships could permanently shape the development of the child’s personality thus have a great impact on adult’s life. Dozens of studies shown that children rated as securely attached to their mother in infancy are later more sociable, and more positive in their behaviour towards friends and family.
They are less dependent on people, less aggressive and disruptive, more empathetic and more emotionally mature in their interactions in school and other settings. Adolescents are also more socially skilled, have friendships that are more intimate, are more likely to be rated as leaders, and have higher self-esteem and better grades Bee (2002). Attachment theory also provides a sophisticated set of ideas for making sense of people’s feelings and behaviours. (Lindon, 1998)) Adolescence in Latin, adolescere means ‘to grow up’ it usually starts with the physical changes associated with puberty, which begin the physical changes to the body. Carlson, 2000) Whilst these are important, there are other critical processes of development: ‘self’ and the search for identity, the development of relationships, for example with friends, and very important changing nature of relationships within families, that are a central feature of this period of an individual’s life. It is a time of not only biological changes but also, psychological and social. Adolescence as a period of life is often seen as a whole period of transition, the transition from childhood to adulthood, probably the most challenging and difficult period of life in terms of development (Herbert, 2002).
All adolescence confronts the some development tasks – adjusting to changes in their bodies and the challenge of their developing sexuality and new ways of thinking, as they strive for their own identity, emotional maturity and independence. Consequently, relationships, particularly with the family, will be subject to adoption and change. However, the timing of these changes varies between individuals, influenced by such things as gender, genes and culture (Ackerman, 1958). Adolescence as a period of development maybe considered for a range of different perspectives that focus on biological, psychological and social aspects of development. Davies, 1997) Biological development in adolescence is associated with a whole range of physical changes. Puberty is the period of rapid changes that occur as the person moves from childhood and begins adolescence. Hormones affect every aspect of growth and development and the level of certain hormones rises naturally during adolescence, primarily causing increased sexual interest and mood swings Numbers of physical changes take place, for example a rapid acceleration in growth and weight. (Bee, 2002) Social development in adolescence is a period of transitions from being a child into being an adult.
Adolescents seek greater independence from their parent’s relationships moving more towards their peer relationships (Sugerman, 2001). The peer group and the friendship within it play very important part not only in sharing inner feeling and secrets but also in the development of the individual’s identity, changes in our self-concept and self-image. It provides new ways of thinking about problems, values and relationships. It gives the opportunity to think about themselves and the person they are becoming (Erikson, 1995). Erikson (1995) recognised this as the critical crisis of adolescence in the eight stages of development.
He believed that the successful resolution of this depends on how the individual resolved the previous crisis of childhood. This period is critical in making sense of the future. Erikson (1995) believed the key to this is the interactions with peers, families, institutions, especially school, society and so on. Erikson(1995) also suggests that the search for identity is ongoing process during adolescence. He says that they may adopt identity based on parents or society they live in, or opposite to that in which the adolescent adopts rebellious, negative stereotype.
There can be a situation where a child does not know or care for their identity may explore different alternatives without making any choices. Another one may achieve their identity through assimilation of the experiences and the future plans. Two important parts of identity in social context are gender and ethnicity. Few studies had explored the issue of possible gender differences in relation to social context, with no trends apparent. In sum, there has been little evidence of gender differences regarding questions of identity structure or developmental process (Adams, 2003).
For young people who are not part of a dominant cultural group, there is concern to establish their cultural identity. They must develop a sense of individual identity and ethnic identity that includes self-identification as a member of their specific group, commitment to that group and its values and attitudes (Bee, 2002). For some young people from an ethnic minority group this may be an issue. However, the critical issue is the decisions they may have to make in operating in a culture of racism and in dealing with negative and racist situation.
As a social worker, we need to make sure that our practice is anti-racist and anti-discriminatory with promotion of positive images of people from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Moving on to the end of this piece of work the author will look at the complexity of human life in context of sexual exploration, usage of substances and some of major events and their influences upon adolescence life. Herbert (2002) says that homosexual and lesbian experimentation are ordinary in adolescence however longer term attraction to the some sex or both sexes is reported in fewer than 10 per cent of the population.
The way of how others see ‘us’ and think of ‘us’ is of vital importance to the way ‘we’ perceive ‘ourselves’ – our self image. This has particular bearing on how adolescents deal with their dawning realisation of the permanence of homosexual feelings of identification. (Herbert, 2002) Our society relies upon various kind of drugs and substances for every day living. It has become a ‘drug culture’. There is a huge increase of drugs and alcohol usage among young people. For the majority of young people this may be a serious issue.
Young people who use substances may demonstrate low self-esteem and self-worth, rebelliousness and lack of aspiration in relation to academic achievement. A distinction needs to be made there are those young people who present with a range of anti-social behaviour, such as criminal activity, aggression, and so on. (Coleman, 1990) This might be difficult but social workers need to know how to balance the rights of young people and their responsibility to society. It might be very difficult to understand people’s life course, especially the influences and the complex events that they may have been through.
Recognising the impact of life events is very important, their complexity and the effects, they can have not only on people’s lives but on social work practice too. The impact of parental conflicts, for example being exposed to verbal and physical violence will have an impact on children’s behaviour. Children are generally the losers when their parents’ marriages end in divorce or their long-term partnerships are terminated. Boys and girls are both equally vulnerable says Herbert (2002). Divorce is usually a lengthy process, not simply a single incident in children’s lives.
Parental conflict has been associated with poor academic performance, depression and antisocial behaviour (Carlson, 2000). Although not all children will be affected by parental conflict, this behaviour has clear and negative effect on children and their future behaviour. Children who loss their mother before age 11 are more vulnerable to depression and suicide thoughts. Suicide attempts are very much a late adolescent phenomenon, the peak being among 15-19 years old. The rate of attempted suicides for adolescent girls far exceeds that for boys.
Frequently the action is unplanned, impulsive and undertaken in a manner that is likely to be discovered. Teenagers sometimes have fantasies about their own death, which involve their ‘ending it all’, and yet surviving the event by ‘attending’ their own funeral where they are able to savour the grief and guilt displayed by errant parents or boyfriend/girlfriend. These fantasies indicate how, in some adolescents, the finality of death is not fully comprehended, or at least not while in a depressed or hysterical state. Herbert, 2002) Other young people may present emotional issues, such as depression and anxiety. A distinction also needs to be made between those that might be associated with development issues and those that may be more serious. For example, small portion of young people will present with psychiatric disorders such as the author mentioned above suicide attempts, schizophrenia, anorexia or bulimia nervosa. (Barker, 2003) One in five children and adolescents suffer from moderate to sever mental health problems.
A significant number of sever problems in childhood, if not adequately treated can lead to lifelong mental illness in adulthood Children whose parent have mental health illness are known to be at higher risk of developing the same difficulty of their own. (Barker, 2003) The cognitive explanation of children’s and young people’s behaviour is concerned not only with what is actually happening but also with their understanding and a mental representation of what is going on. That is why it is important for social workers to have an understanding of ‘normal’ child growth and development.
This will allow comparing, and assessing the development of a child that needs to be assessed. Additionally it would help to judge the role of parents, or carers and their ability to meet the demands of the different stages of the child development, their ability to respond to good parenting, their values, attitudes, and the impact that this can have on the child. (Herbert, 2002) Throughout this essay, the author tried to attempt to identify issues that may specifically affect the individual’s experience of adolescence, namely issues of gender, race and culture.
Social workers response to different behaviour issues has to depend of an assessment of the individual, and the range of factors, planning a response and supporting children, young people, parents and others to understand and manage their behaviour problems. Understanding of the theories of human development is necessary in establishing effective partnership with people who use social services. In conclusion, the author presents in this essay some of the advantages and disadvantages of viewing behaviour across the life p.
Social workers need to look at the particular individual behaviour in context of life p perspective because only then they can make the right judgement of that person. However, it is very important for social workers to have a holistic approach in understanding someone’s behaviour. This means taking to account every aspect of the individual’s life. In other words, building an understanding of the whole person’s life, not only physical or psychical but also social, cultural, historical factors that may have influence their life.
Looking at human behaviour gives also a wider perspective, and it takes the social worker beyond his own particular life experience giving a ‘bigger picture’, understanding of people’s behaviour. However, it is important again to be careful to not stereotyping or labelling people. Finally, social workers need to remember that they are dealing with human beings, unique individuals that is way they need to make sure that when they talk to them they must listen carefully and try to understand them from their perspective. 3,228 words Reference: Ackerman, N.
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C. (1990) The nature of adolescence, 2ed. Routledge. Crawford, K. (2003) Social work and human development, Learning Matters, Exeter. Davies, M. (1997) Blackwell companion to social work, Blackwell Publishers, Erikson, E. H. (1995) Childhood and society, Vintage. Giddens, A. (2001) Sociology, 4ed. Polity Press, Cambridge. Grant, J. P. (1991) The state of the world’s children 1991, Unicef. Herbert, M. (2002) Typical and atypical development. From conception to adolescence. BPS Blackwell, Oxford. Howe. D. 1999) Attachment theory, Child maltreatment and family support, A practice and assessment model. Macmillan Press. Lindon, J. (1998) Understanding child development, Knowledge theory and practice. Macmillan Press. Parker, J. (2003) Social work practice. Assessment, planning, intervention and review. Learning Matters, Exeter. Piaget, J. (1977) The origin of intelligence in the child, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth. Skinner, B. F. (1953) Science and human behaviour, Macmillan Press. Sugarman, L. (2001) Lifep development, Frameworks, accounts and strategies. 2ed. Psychology Press, Hove.

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