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Psychology For Social Care Practice Essay

This essay will demonstrate my understanding of developments which occur at each stage of an individual’s life cycle. I will relate these developments to two relevant psychological theories and discuss how an individual’s needs must be met to enable them to develop. The human life cycle can be broken down into 5 basic stages (Bingham et al. 2009);

Infancy – 0-2 years
Childhood – 2-12 years
Adolescence – 12-21 years
Adulthood – 21-65 years
Older Adulthood – 65+ years

During each stage of the life cycle, different physical, emotional, cognitive, social and cultural developments occur; In infancy, physical changes include learning to sit up, crawl and walk independently. At this stage, the infant will begin to look for attention from others and seek affection and love. Infants are able to interact with others by smiling/laughing and crying, and begin to form attachments to main care givers such as family members from around 6 months. Fine motor skills and communication skills (understanding and formation of words) develop rapidly in infancy and individuals will become used to the routines and norms of those around them. In childhood, physical development extends to skills in balance and control over the body. Emotionally, the child will continue to strengthen bonds with primary care givers and social development will move on to interactive play and forming friendships. Language and expression develop further and the child shows a capacity to learn new information and skills as well as learning about and conforming to social and cultural “norms”.

The body begins to change significantly in adolescence; the individual will go through puberty. An adolescent will be more self aware than in childhood and will become detached from primary care givers, instead preferring to form closer relationships with friends and peers. The individual will form stronger affiliations to certain cultural and sub-cultural norms and will express these through personal appearance, partaking in activities and choosing certain peer groups. In early adulthood, the individual will reach a peak of physical fitness which they will thereafter have to “work at” to maintain. More physical demands are made on the body such as childbearing, work and aging. Emotionally, a person in adulthood will have established a “role” possibly in their place of work, or at home as a parent- how effectively they fill their “role” can effect self esteem. Social development can become limited to those with similar careers or interests and can be hindered by other responsibilities such as work and family commitments. Older adults may experience a decline in physical fitness – eyesight may deteriorate and the body may become weaker.

Some individuals may remain fairly fit well into older adulthood and some may find that physical fitness can deteriorate rapidly. Older adulthood can be isolating and one’s self image can be altered through changing of roles eg. retirement. Socially, some find a sense of freedom in being able to leave work behind and “live”, others lose a sense of purpose and find that their world may become smaller and more family focused. Older adults will have a well established perception of themselves and what they find acceptable as part of their culture. For this essay I have used Mrs. Oswald as a case study. Mrs. Oswald is a resident at Thorneycroft residential care home for older people. She has been a resident at Thorneycroft for six months and at ninety-five years old, is in the final stage of development as detailed in the life cycle breakdown above. Mrs. Oswald is relatively able bodied, she is able to bathe herself but requires help getting in and out of the bath.

She is able to move around independently, she does have a tripod to help her with this but she doesn’t tend to use it. She is prone to falling over and has fallen fifteen times since moving to Thorneycroft, this is not helped by her insomnia which leaves her restless at night so she ends up wandering around unattended. Mrs. Oswald is hard of hearing and requires a hearing aid but her eyesight is good when wearing her glasses. She has a good level of personal hygiene and takes pride in her appearance. Before coming to Thorneycroft she had home help who assisted her with household tasks such as cooking and housework and helped her with medication for her cellulitis. Mrs. Oswald was a midwife for fifty years, she is well educated and enjoys sharing her knowledge and talking about her career. She keeps her mind active by reading the newspaper, doing crossword puzzles and playing dominoes when she goes to the day centre but it is possible that these activities are not stimulating enough for her. She is a little confused at times about her roles; she behaves as though Thorneycroft staff are her employees and adopts a matron-like attitude with them, which probably crosses over from her role in her career as a midwife.

She can be forgetful but does not have dementia and before moving to Thorneycroft was quite vulnerable as she sees the best in people and was being exploited by people doing odd jobs and coming in and out of her home. Mrs. Oswald appears to be content on the surface, she has started to accept death and talks about it openly. Her remaining family all live some distance away in England but she looks forward to a phonecall from her cousin each evening and seems to take comfort in speaking to him, appearing more settled after their conversations. She has outlived her close family – husband and daughters and appears lonely. Mrs. Oswald doesn’t talk much about her husband an daughters the way she does about her career, it is possible that talking about them makes her feel sad. As before, Mrs. Oswald has not made friends with other residents of Thorneycroft, though she has made a few friends at the daycentre. She likes to talk and could be encouraged to mix more which would help with her feelings of loneliness, she never had friends or visitors at home before she came to Thorneycroft as her family all live far away and only visit to attend review meetings every six months.

She has not formed close relationships with staff at Thorneycroft, instead, as mentioned before she treats them as her employees. Mrs. Oswald is an articulate and well spoken individual who has come from a middle class background. She appears to be well educated and has had a successful career as a midwife spanning fifty years. She had her daughters when she was young and out of wedlock, as a result they were brought up by her mother and Mrs. Oswald left at sixteen to begin her training as a midwife. Her career was important to her and she concentrated on this, not having any more children and marrying late in life.

Her middle class upbringing has followed her through life, and she still takes pride in her appearance and has a strong sense of what she believes to be “proper”. Her husband and her enjoyed going on cruises and she is well- travelled. She does not attend church services or appear to be religious at all. In order for them to progress successfully through each stage in the life cycle, an individual’s needs at each stage must be met. For example, our most basic physical needs are shelter and nourishment, if these needs are not met in the infant stage, potential for development and progression into childhood will be threatened. For each aspect of development, certain needs must be met;

Physical – The body must be kept fit and healthy through nourishment, shelter from the elements and the cold, excercise and rest. Emotional – The need to be loved and to feel love for others. Good self esteem can be established from feeling loved and wanted by others. Social – Being able to interact and build relationships with people around you. Cognitive – The need for opportunities to learn and develop knowledge and keep the mind active. Cultural – Having your values, religion, diet, language etc.(norms) as part of your daily life. In order for me to understand the needs of Mrs. Oswald and to what extent her needs have been met throughout her life, I examined Erik Erikson’s theory of eight “psychosocial” stages. Erikson believed that humans develop through eight predetermined stages (a detailed table of these can be found in appendix 1) and in order to progress successfully through life, we must “successfully negotiate each stage” and that failure to do so results in “mental deficiencies such as lack of trust, which will remain with us throughout life” (Collin et al., p. 273).

Each stage has one positive outcome and one negative outcome, and individuals progress through each life stage with a mixture of both, the differences between positive and negative being a result of the environment the individual is developing in. Mrs. Oswald, as an adolescent, would have experienced role confusion. She was from a middle class background but fell pregnant at a young age, resulting in her being hidden away and her mother raising her children as her own. It would have gone against Mrs. Oswald’s role as a respectable young girl to have children at such a young age. She went off to train as a midwife at sixteen and left her family and her daughters behind. She concentrated on her career and appeared not to have any intimacy throughout young adulthood. This was resolved in mature adulthood when Mrs. Oswald got married and enjoyed the intimacy which she had missed out on in young adulthood. She never had any more children but her husband nd her appeared to have a happy life and they enjoyed travelling together. Mrs. Oswald is now in maturity and has begun to talk about death in an accepting way.

Her needs may not have been met in the early stages of her life where she did not conform to her role in society and her life lacked intimacy, but later in life she had a successful and satisfying career and a happy marriage. I have used Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see appendix 2) to assess how Mrs. Oswald’s needs are being met now. “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs starts at the basic physiological needs we need just to stay alive. Once these are made we have a need for safety, then we want love and affection. Within our group we want to have self esteem. Finally we have a need of satisfying our full potential that Maslow calls Self Actualization” (Deeper Mind). Maslow believed that one’s needs had to be met at each stage of the hierarchy before the needs at the next stage could be attended to. The first category in Maslow’s hierarchy refers to physiological needs. I believe that most of Mrs. Oswald’s needs are being met at this level.

She has plenty to eat and drink and since she is mobile she has some level of excercise. She can have fresh air and she has warmth and shelter. However, Mrs. Oswald’s need for sleep is not being met at Thorneycroft. She suffers from insomnia which is not helped by the fact that her bed is too small and therefore uncomfortable for her to sleep in. This has resulted in her being reluctant to settle in bed at night at all, so she is losing out on sleep. As a result of all her physiological needs not being met, all of Mrs. Oswald’s safety needs are not being met either. Although she has shelter and security at Thorneycroft, the fact that she does not sleep has compromised her safety as she has a tendency to wander around at night time and is prone to falling as her mobility is not great.

Mrs. Oswald appears sad that she has outlived her close family and her husband and doesn’t speak about them much. She does have some distant family whom she speaks with on the phone every night which brings her some comfort, but she remains distant with others and reluctant to form close relationships with staff or fellow residents. Her need for love and belonging has not been satisfied. In order for Mrs. Oswald to progress and reach self actualisation the care staff at Thorneycroft must work on the needs which are not being met. Getting her a bed which is comfortable for her to sleep in may help her to settle at night and reduce the risk of a fall. She could be encouraged to mix more with fellow residents and form closer relationships with them as well as staff. This will help with Mrs. Oswald’s sense of love and belonging and boost her self-esteem which will help her to reach self actualisation.


BBC (2014) BBC News Magazine. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23902918 [Accessed 13/11/2014] BINGHAM, E. et al (2009) HNC Social Care for Scotland. 12th Ed. Essex: Heinemann. COLLIN, C. et al (2012) The Psychology Book. London: DK London. MACLEOD, S. (2011) Simply Psychology. [Online] Available form :http://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html [Accessed 11/11/2014]. NORWOOD, G. (2014) Deeper Mind. [Online] Available from: http://www.deepermind.com/20maslow.htm [Accessed 11/11/2014]

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