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A life course perspective

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The term life course is used to describe the path an individual takes from the moment they are born to the point of death. This life course will be different for every individual and will be influenced by the events and experiences that people go through throughout their lives. (Crawford and Walker, 2003) There are various different perspectives on how to approach the life course and each has a different emphasis. Contemporary theories underpin how social workers approach their tasks and come from the disciplines of sociology, biology and psychology. These are all relevant to an understanding of life course development. The sociological approach gives emphasis to the social and environmental factors that influence our lives. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was one theorist from this discipline that emphasised the importance of social and economic structures in influencing our development, such as if the person had access to education. Another sociological theory was that devised by Bronfenbrenner (1979). This theory looks at a child's development within the context of the system of influences that form their environment. Brofenbrenners theory defines complex layers of environment, each having an effect on a child's development. Changes or conflict in any one layer will ripple throughout other layers. ...read more.


These transitions have the potential to be challenging for people or provide an opportunity to grow and develop, possibly triggering change in someone and moving on. This is why it is important for social work practice to be aware of these transitions and if needed can assist people through these at different points in their lives. However people have different perceptions of how these transitions affect them, what may be challenging for one individual may not be for another. They may have learnt to deal better with these 'crisis points' when they arise and use the resources at their disposal. Even those transitions that we welcome can be a time of stress for an individual, an example of this may be marriage; it may be an exciting time and marks the transition from being single to married life but can also be a very stressful time. Holmes and Rahe (1967) ordered different life events and the stress caused by them in their Social Readjustment Rating Scale. This includes both positive and negative life events that people accumulate in a 12 month period and attempts to predict that people will endure some stress related health problems around this, if they score over 200. ...read more.


I have learnt that my own values that were formed by my parents, peers and society play an important part in how I bring them up. Social workers need to know about human growth development to inform practice. Any intervention has an impact on a person's life and being aware of transitions allows for an opportunity to change. Intervention is not neutral and the effects of this will vary from person to person and should be to encourage people to see change positively. It is important that practice encompasses the service user's rights to partnership, participation and empowerment. Age related stereo types should be challenged and as this could lead to poor practice and judgemental attitudes. The inquiry into the death of Jonathon Zitto by Christopher Clunis highlighted that Social Workers held assumptions and stereotypical views that contributed to incorrect intervention that then led to this tragedy. A life span perspective would have indicated that his past behaviour could be used to predict future behaviours. The inquiry into his death showed a 'catalogue of failure and missed opportunities.' Clinical Risk (2002) In conclusion, a life course perspective takes a holistic view of the life course as offering opportunities for growth, development and change. Each person will have their own unique account of their lives and what events have been significant or influential to them. Word Count 2197 ...read more.

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