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Introducing social work: a starter kit
Introducing social work: a starter kit

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5 Summary of Session 4

In this session you have learned that social workers need to know about human development because:

  • Social workers are frequently asked to make assessments regarding people’s behaviour, motivations and potential, and therefore conceptual frameworks about human development provide a useful series of measures against which individuals may be reviewed. However, these frameworks are not absolute and unchanging, and they too like many aspects of working with people, are prone to subjective interpretation and selective appropriation. While essential, therefore, developmental frameworks should be handled with care and not applied without reference to the unique nature and context of each individual under consideration.
  • Some of the explanations for people’s choices, behaviour and lifestyles are determined by genetic influences, while some are determined by their prior experiences of receiving love and care. Social workers should always carefully consider the balance of these influences, the nature/nurture debate, and although rarely will there be absolute answers, social workers can never avoid engaging in the debate itself.
  • Human development is life-long. Developmental processes that exist for children continue for adults, involving numerous transitions and more conscious choices over time. However, there are many other influences from social, environmental, and historical forces, and social workers need to think holistically and facilitate opportunities for continued development for service users and carers wherever possible.
  • Social workers generally take an optimistic view of the potential for human development and for the realisation of human potential. However, it is essential for social workers to continually be aware of and refresh their knowledge about the reality of social systems and structures, and of the nature of human psychology and the ageing process. Optimism is dynamic and encouraging, but false optimism, or worse, denial of some of the major hurdles that might be present in society and in personal relationships, is not only unprofessional but is likely to be damaging for most service users.

Finally, you’ll now consider some aspects of what it may mean for you, to ‘think’ like a social worker.