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Biological, psychological and social complexities in childhood development
Biological, psychological and social complexities in childhood development

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Biological, psychological and social complexities in childhood development


Welcome to this free course on child and adolescent biological, psychological and social health. This course is primarily aimed at people working in health and social care but may be useful to others with an interest in child health and wellbeing, such as those who work in early years or education.

In this course you will explore childhood development and some biological and psychological conditions that affect children and young people. These will take the focus of asthma, intellectual and development disorders, depression and anxiety and eating disorders.

This course will be based on the biopsychosocial model of health. This model of health has been in existence for quite some time. The Bio-Psycho-Social model, originally described by Engel (1977), is one that helps healthcare professionals think about a variety of elements of a person’s life to help them take a holistic view of their circumstances. It enables them to gather an individual's understanding of their situation, their strengths and their needs in relation to it and allows them to start to identify some of the key elements that are important to the person, as well as potentially identifying the ‘root causes’ of a person’s health situation. This then supports them in their collaboration with the person to help them identify interventions and other processes to improve their situation. Although the original model is 40 years old, it is still seen as useful today.

  • Biological elements of health include genetics, height, weight, body chemistry, presence of disease, body responses, e.g. heart rate, medications, disability.

  • Psychological elements include emotions, memory, perceptions, beliefs and values, attitudes, coping strategies, mental health conditions.

  • Social elements include family background, social status, financial status, living arrangements, family unit, education, demographics, culture.

These three aspects of health should not be viewed as independent; it is likely that there is some overlap between them and one or all can influence the other(s) as you will see as you progress through this course.

As you work through this course, you will be introduced to several different people who will help you to explore some of the biological, social and psychological aspects of health.

  • Liam: Liam is 16 years old; he has had severe asthma since he was a child, having been hospitalised with his asthma frequently. He is an only child, his parents separated when he was a child and he has recently experienced some challenges with his health and schooling. Liam will be used to cover psychological and social aspects of health.
  • Chloe: Chloe is an 11-year-old girl with asthma. Chloe will be used to cover biological and psychological aspects of health.
  • Parents: You will hear about the experiences of parents of children with asthma. The parents will illustrate the biological and psychological aspects of health.
  • Lola: Lola is a teenage girl who experiences difficulties with an eating disorder. Lola will be used to explore some psychological and social aspects of health.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course K234 Healthcare theory for practice [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .