Working in the community support field, you’ll see, firsthand, the impact that life experiences have on a person’s development – for better and for worse.
To understand these complex processes, you will need to know a thing or two about life-span psychology, which explores how we grow and change over time.
If you’re looking to find out more about this fascinating field of study, read on to learn all about life-span psychology and how you’ll use it in your community services career.
What is Life-Span Psychology? A Guide for Those in CSW Programs
Understanding the trajectory life takes from birth to death is no easy task, but life-span psychology separates this development into three domains – physiological, psychological, and social – in order to better understand it.
The physiological domain involves topics of disease, genetics, hormonal changes, and other physical elements that may alter a person’s development. The psychological domain encompasses emotional and cognitive experiences, the most impactful of which usually occur between birth and late childhood. As for the social domain, this refers to relationships that humans have with others, including friends, communities, and family.
Life-span psychology considers all of these factors when analyzing why and how people develop as they do. Understanding the impact of these experiences will help those in CSW careers provide better care for their clients.
The Role That Developmental Milestones Play in Life-Span Psychology
Let’s say you’ve begun your CSW program, and you’ve analyzed the various physiological, psychological, and social experiences that influence a particular person’s development – what now?
In order to evaluate a patient’s development, you will need to measure it against a “normal” trajectory in order to assess how certain experiences alter an individual’s growth.
Life-span psychologists have determined a series of milestones that the average person experiences from birth to death, including walking, writing, speaking, and starting puberty. Psychologists have determined the average age at which these developmental milestones occur, which provides a helpful baseline for identifying irregular development.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these milestones aren’t necessarily the same across cultures. For instance, children may begin school at different ages in different countries and thus learn to read at different points in their life.
Those in CSW Careers Should Know About Debates Within Life-Span Psychology
Once you’ve learnt about the factors that can create regular and irregular patterns of development, you may start considering difficult questions, such as whether development is continuous or discontinuous, as well as whether there is one or many courses of development. The answers, however, are not always straightforward.
Some theorists see development as gradual, meaning that change occurs slowly over time. Those that understand development as discontinuous believe that change occurs at different stages, times, or ages. As a result, change occurs suddenly.
Both theories have evidence to back them up. For instance, height is something that grows gradually, whereas a child’s ability to conceive of object permanence is something that happens suddenly.
Others in the life-span psychology community disagree over whether there is one course of development, or if children follow a different course of growth based on their genetics and their environment. Again, there is evidence to back both sides, and it’s important to keep these differing viewpoints in mind as you study to become a community service worker.
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