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SWRK 220 lecture notes.docx

Social Work
Course Code
SWRK 224
Ilju Kim

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SWRK 220: Human Development in the Lifespan
Lecture Notes
May 1, 2012 Introduction
Some Questions…
Why do social workers need to study human development?
Why do social workers need to understand how people change from birth to death?
Why do social workers need to know about changes over the life course?
What is development?
The Journey of Life
Pre-birth (Life Span Perspective) Death
Curiosity about human beings…
Why is it that all humans turn out to be so similar in certain ways and, at the same time, so
different from one another?
What is development?
The word “development” is used widely in our everyday talk, but what does it mean?
o It begins at conception and continues until death
o It is characterized by 6 major issues:
Nature vs. Nurture
Critical Periods vs. Plasticity
Continuity vs. Discontinuity
Universality vs. Specificity
Qualitative vs. Quantitative change
Activity vs. Passivity
Nature vs. Nurture
Dilemma: To what degree do genetic or hereditary influences (nature) determine who we
are relative to experiential or environmental influences (nurture)?
o Is our personality inherited from our parents or passed on through observation?
o Is intelligence representative of the capacities you inherited from your parents or
of the hard work and opportunity you had?
Two important process:
o Maturation: biological development according to a plan contained in the genes
o Learning: our experiences produce relatively permanent changes in our feelings,
thoughts, and behaviors
Development is the result of complex interactions between biological and environmental
Virtually no features of life-span development are due exclusively to either heredity or
o Crucial question in today’s research: How do they interact?
Critical Periods vs. Plasticity

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Dilemma: Are humans able to learn at any point in their lives, or are there some critical
periods in which certain developments must take place?
o Is it possible to learn a language in adulthood with the same ease than in the
preschool years?
o If a child has not been given the opportunity to develop at best during his/her first
years of age, can new learning opportunities create counter effects?
Critical periods exist but they can be extended much more than previously thought
The cases of feral children…
o Definition: a human child who, from a very young age, has lived in isolation from
contact and has no (or little) experience of human care, loving or social behavior,
and, crucially, of human interaction
o Children who learn an alternative, animal culture, especially if from a baby age for
the first 5 or 6 years, find it almost impossible to learn human language, to walk or
engage meaningfully with other humans even after intensive and loving care for
o Ex: The mythology of Remus & Romolus
Continuity vs. Discontinuity
Dilemma: Do developmental phenomena represent smooth progressions throughout the
lifespan (red) or a series of abrupt shifts (blue)?
o State theory: periods of time (plateau) during which a person’s activities have
certain characteristics in common
o E.g., Motor development
Universality vs. Specificity
Dilemma: Is there just one path of development or several, depending upon cultural and
ethnic groups or genders, or upon different eras?
o Are the intelligence capacities of all 8-year-old children the same?
o They probably don’t know the same things, but are the things they know
equivalent in essence?
Processes of development follow similar directions.
E.g., Motor development
Qualitative vs. Quantitative
Dilemma: Are changes a result of knowledge transformation or knowledge addition?

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o When children start to say full sentences, is it because they have no learned the
logic of their language (qualitative), or because they have acquired enough
vocabulary to create a full sentence (quantitative)?
o Modern theorists integrate both influences in their description of human
Activity vs. Passivity
Dilemma: Are changes a result of external factors which humans have control over, or do
they play an active role into their own development?
o Are infants playing a role in the relationship they develop with their caregivers?
We are neither passive receptors nor in perfect control of our development
(extremes are to be ruled out)
Both active and passive processes play a role in shaping who we are
May 3, 2012 Theories on Human Development
History: 17th & 18th centuries
Time period of major debates on the human nature of children
o Hobbes: children are inherently selfish egoists who must be restrained in society
o Rousseau: children are born with an inherent nature and intuitive sense of right
and wrong that society often corrupts; “noble savage”
o Locke: children have no inborn tendencies, how they turn out depends entirely on
their worldly experiences; “tabula rasa”
19th Century
Period in which investigators began to observe children, most often their own, to publish
data in works known as baby bibliographies
Darwin is one of the most famous writers of this time
o Renowned naturalist and thinker associated with the theory of evolution by
natural selection
o He believed that infants share many characteristics with their nonhuman ancestors
o He developed the theory of…
Late 19th20th centuries
G. Stanley Hall is considered as the founder of developmental psychology
He was interested in children’s thinking:
o Logical thinking
He published a book called Adolescence, which was the first one written on this specific
age period
Modern Developmental Theories
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