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

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Introducing social work: a starter kit

3.5 Adult growth and development

Although adolescence is a transition that leads to adulthood, development and growth do not cease once the transition is achieved. In fact, human growth and development are continuous and adults are likely to experience change and transitions throughout the reminder of their lives. As with childhood and adolescent development these are likely to be influenced by contextual factors.

There are some important messages for social workers regarding these observations:

  • Social workers need to understand how adulthood may well be influenced by experiences earlier in life. Insecure childhood attachments, for example, have been linked to psychological problems in later life.
  • Individuals, given the right circumstances and support, have the capacity to change unless, as Trevithick (2005, p. 90) comments, there are ‘biological or neurological conditions to impede the process’. This is encouraging for social workers whose daily practice can support and/or challenge people to make changes in their lives.
  • There is a tendency to see the later years of life as a period of developmental decline. This is a view not supported by research, however, and social workers may need to support and challenge prejudice against older people influenced by this prevailing view.

Baltes (1987) and Trevithick (2005) suggest that developmental change is a continuous process that is present in adulthood. But this is a process to which some people are more resilient than others. An individual’s mental capacity or health status may have a bearing on their ability to cope. It is also important to consider the impact of economic policy and social change, such as the rise in state pension age, austerity measures and increased longevity with reductions in resources.


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