This essay discusses childhood development and the various theories and theorists that have certain preconceived ideas about childhood development, and whether development is related to either external of internal factors and/ or other variable factors. The word childhood has changed over time; children now have different experiences at different ages than previously. Childhood also changes depending on the cultural context that they are in. As the meaning of the word ‘childhood’ differs so greatly between generations and cultural context, is there a universal theory that can explain childhood development?
The convention on the rights of children 1991 is a universally agreed set of standards in relation to basic human rights that all children have, they define children as anyone up to the age of 18.
This essay discusses Bronfenbrenners ecological theory of development which suggests that a child develops in a particular way because of their external factors. Bronfenbrenners theory is related to Leanne in the case study provided, and from a social workers perspective on how suggested interventions come from this theory.
Read how to apply Bronfenbrenner’s theory
As each group of theories has a different method of approaching and analysing childhood development the essay looks at further theories from the disciplines of ecological, psychosocial and developmental.
Leanne’s experiences and impact upon her of being abused and neglected in her development will be discussed, looking into what abuse and neglect actually is and whether Leanne’s experiences would constitute being abused or neglected.
Throughout the essay the forms of interventions a social worker could take are discussed relating to each particular theory, and more specifically Leanne and her family.
Leanne’s experiences and developmental needs are different to that of other children of her age, this is because of her individual unique experiences she has been brought up with, due to having to cope with being a young carer.
To explain the extent to which social, cultural and environmental context has impacted on Leanne’s experiences and developmental needs the essay firstly looks at the theory from Bronfenbrenner’s ecological developmental theory.
Bronfenbrenner’s (1992) theory emphasises the broad environmental and interpersonal context of development, this shows that development does not occur in isolation but it is influenced by the whole context of a person’s life. Bronfenbrenner emphasises the extent of cultural influences at a range of levels. A diagram of Bronfenbrenner ecological development theory is shown below.
This theory enables the practitioner to view the service user and their family in a holistic way, and it also enables you to look at not only the relationships from the children to other social, cultural and environmental factors but these other external factors to each other as well. The ecological framework provides a structure within which professionals can examine the extent to which they have considered relevant factors that have an impact on children and families (Jones, 1999). This enables social workers to think about all the other areas that influence a Childs situation and development.
Bronfenbrenner uses the terms microsystems, exosystem and macrosystem, he suggests that the child is both influenced by and influences its environment at each level (Crawford; 2005).
The microsystem refers to those factors that are located in the immediate environments of the child such as the family members and daily routines, things that happen in the home. As they are closest to home these have the greatest impact on the child. It will have a great impact on Leanne’s development, being a carer for her siblings and parents who are both visually impaired. Leanne sometimes takes out her frustration and anger on her younger brothers and sisters by treating them roughly which shows her dislike or unwillingness to take on this caring role, she is caring for them because she is forced to do so rather than wanting to do it, this will also have a detrimental impact on her sibling’s attachments. Read essay on ecosystem my role and responsibility
Leanne never went to play-group or toddler-group, Algate (2006) suggests that going to school and nursery classes is a very significant stage as a lot is happening, such as “conceptual changes, social and emotional developments and changes in self-concept and morality”, therefore missing out on going to these will have a detrimental developmental impact on Leanne.
The next system is the exosystem, this is used to describe those factors that are beyond the immediate environment of the child, such as where the child lives and the neighbours. Leanne lives on a large estate on the outskirts of a town and has little to do with their community. They live in a small council house that has not got enough rooms for all the children, they may be stereotyped or stigmatised because of this which could lead to bullying.
The macrosystem is the second to outer level this represents the social and cultural levels with particular reference to “belief systems, resources, hazards, lifestyles, opportunity structures, life course options and patterns of social interchange” (Robinson, 2007: 15). It is not specified in the case study about Leanne’s religious beliefs although they are a white British family. The social impact of this level would include Leanne’s lack of opportunity to succeed in education and therefore employment. This level also includes resources, in Leanne’s instance the family have limited money due to both her parents being unable to work and the high costs associated with having four children.
The outer level is the chronosystem, this relates to Leanne’s previous experiences and development so far.
Using this theory allows the social worker to have a better understanding of Leanne’s development and her situation in general on all levels. The theory suggests that people are who they are because of their external factors. Therefore, the social work intervention in Leanne’s case based on this theory would be something about the external factors, such as financial support for her family, educational support for herself. The theory would suggest that Leanne would benefit from more of a social life and needs to have more contact with others other than her family and school peers, the theory would suggest that a good intervention could be enabling Leanne to access a social club after school, this could be supported by Leanne’s parents accepting support from services.
Bronfenbrenners theory relates to the here and now as opposed to past and traumatic experiences. The ecological approach doesn’t take into account the child’s cognition or feelings of the situation. The essay is assuming that Leanne is fed up and not enjoying the role of a young carer, however she may really enjoy looking after and caring for her family. It may be more internal factors that are having a detrimental impact on her childhood development, and making her react and behave the way she does, perhaps even a mental health problem. Ensuring service user participation in such cases is important so that the social worker does not inflict their own personal values and standards on the situation, this can be achieved by working in an anti oppressive manner.
There are many other variations of theories that relate to child development, which all give different approaches and possibilities of why Leanne is in the situation that she is, and why she behaves in the way she does. All the differing theories would suggest different forms of interventions and specific practical approaches.
The physiological approaches suggest a child’s development is based on the individual genetic makeup of the child. This approach suggests that we inherit our behaviours from our biological family (Crawford; 2005). This theory would relate Leanne’s behaviour to stages due to her age, so possibly a social worker undertaking this approach would look at Leanne’s Mum and Dad and possibly grandparents and consider what they themselves were doing at the same age and their development growth at certain ages.
Another way of looking at childhood development is from a psychological perspective, these theories relate to our behaviour and how the consequences of our behaviour influence our development. Skinner (2005;23) “explained development as acquisitions of behaviours, which are learned through responses to experiences”. This is also known as operant conditioning, where the behaviour is leant by association with positive outcomes. Leanne’s parents considered the things that Leanne did for them such as supporting them with the rearing of the children and the household tasks, as a duty as they felt it would give her good skills in childcare and housekeeping. Because there is no reward for Leanne doing these duties for her siblings or parents so therefore she just does it quickly to get the job done, whereas if positive reinforcement was utilised and perhaps a reward system was put in place she may enjoy doing these chores a little more.
This theory doesn’t look at the thoughts and feelings of the child like Albert Bandura social learning theory. Bandura recognised that thoughts and feelings was a significant factor in the child’s development as well as the behaviour and environment. This theory is sometimes known as the ‘copycat theory’ where the children copy the parent’s behaviour through modelling. This theory would suggest that Leanne has gained her aggression and frustration from her parents. It would also suggest that Leanne has learnt her parenting ability from her parents, and maybe her own experiences of being younger are now being re-enacted to her siblings by her. Unlike the other psychological theories mentioned this theory would look at working with the family as a form of intervention, by getting the parents to change their behaviour this would enable Leanne to change hers.
The case study suggests that Leanne doesn’t have any emotional attachments to anyone. Leanne’s parents say that they feel they have always had a warm relationship with her, although there is never any inter-personal stimulation in the house other than the television. Forming an attachment is important to the social and emotional development of a child as children use the people who they are attached to a source of encouragement and guidance. Leanne herself never formed this attachment so she has perhaps never had any encouragement or guidance. Children also use the person they have attached to as a source of comfort, which is why Leanne feels that she has to cope with issues and problems herself, such as with the bullying at school. The bullying hasn’t been mentioned to anyone as she may feel that no support would be given anyway so she has chosen to internalise it.
Bowlby’s attachment theory is useful for social workers as the theory provides a model of analysis in order to judge the quality of a relationship, this can be essential in order to know when to intervene or even to remove the child. A child losing someone they are attached to can be understandably difficult and social workers need to therefore promote attachment at an early stage when children are placed with adoptive parents (Crawford, 2005).
Under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 local authorities are required to “safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area who are in need by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those needs” (Crawford, 2005;50). This means that social workers will be working with the children and families in supporting them to understand the developmental needs and changes of the child and how to enhance and support them through this process. Social workers will be working with children who are the victims of abuse, whether this is physical, sexual, and emotional or through neglect, the main factor in this is if the child is experiencing significant harm from the abuse.
Although it is difficult to define the word child abuse, under section 31(9) pf the children act 1989 states that:
“harm’ means ill treatment or the impairment of health or development; ‘development’ means physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development; ‘ill treatment’ includes sexual abuse and forms of ill treatment which are not physical”.
The core assessment that is undertaken in order to assess this is called ‘the framework for the assessment of a children’s need and their families’ this looks at deciding if the child is in need and how best to intervene. It looks at three different aspects of a child’s life:
1. Developmental needs
2. Parenting capacity
3. Family and Environmental factors
This framework enables social workers to analyse the child’s needs currently and the way that the parents respond, and the ability to respond to these developmental needs. The framework includes seven dimensions of developmental need “which children need to progress along to achieve a healthy adulthood” (Crawford, 2005). This includes:
5. Social relations
6. Emotional and Behavioural development
7. self care skills
Leanne is not achieving many of these developmental needs such as her identity, she feels no ‘self worth’ which is resulting in her feeling depressed. She doesn’t receive any praise or encouragement for her support within the family and within school or the wider community. Leanne’s parents have hindered her emotional development by not forming any attachments or bonds with her.
Health would include her growth and development including physical and mental wellbeing. Leanne is depressed and professionals have concerns about the levels of nutrition and some aspects of her physical care.
Education includes all aspects of cognitive development from stimulation in the home, which is lacking in Leanne’s home and the opportunity to go to school and achieve at school. Although Leanne now goes to school she does not play or interact with other children as she gets bullied.
The child’s family and social relationships section looks at the development of empathy and attachments. As discussed previously Leanne has little or no attachment with any of her family members.
The child’s self care skills include practical and emotional competencies. Although Leanne is able to cope practically with having the experience of looking after others she doesn’t have any of the emotional competencies to increase her independence. This would have an impact on self esteem and confidence which also could hinder her ability to become more independent, therefore concluding that Leanne is a child in need, and many forms of interventions could be used in order to enable Leanne to not be a child in need, these could include:
* Support for parents so she doesn’t have as much responsibility
* Joining a club or society for socialisation skills
* Self esteem and confidence courses
* Family therapy to promote attachments
* Education for parents to understand the impact on the development issues of Leanne by being a young carer
* Support for Leanne to go to school to enable her to achieve to her maximum potential
* Reward systems for positive reinforcement of good behaviour
These interventions are based on a holistic approach resulting from considering the various theories.
This essay has discussed childhood development and the various theories that have differing perceptions about childhood development and whether development is related either to external of internal factors. The essay has discussed what childhood is in essence and its differences from previous definitions. The essay has come to the conclusion that there are no universal theories that can explain a children’s development and it is dependent on cultural, societal and interpersonal variables. Each child should be considered on an individual basis and the theories shouldn’t be used prescriptively as fact, they should be questioned and explored in to the values and ideas that are evident to enable guidance and give social workers and practitioners a basis and guide to work towards and/ or from (Crawford, 2005).
Bronfenbrenners ecological theory of development has been discussed in relation to the case study, which suggests that a child develops in a particular way because of external factors. Other theories have been discussed throughout the essay in relation to Leanne and their contrasting differences to the others. Forms of intervention have been discussed throughout the essay specifically in relation to the theories in relating to Leanne.
Children in need have been discussed and the essay has evaluated whether Leanne is a child in need, and if so how she is a child in need.
Cite this essay
Children and Adolescent Development. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/children-adolescent-development-new-essay