Individual Development and Change

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Select a developmental or psychological theory/perspective that helps your understanding of people and their circumstances and informs your understanding of social work practice in a multi-cultural society.  Summarise the main features of the theory and outline its strengths and weaknesses.  Discuss with examples the ways the theory has applications for social work practice.

For this assignment I am going to write about Attachment Theory, touching upon age, gender, ethnicity, different factors, culture, religion and multi – cultural society. Theories relating to Erikson, Piaget, Rogers and Ainsworth and developmental and or psychological theory.

Adult attachment theory helps Social Workers understand how people feel and act within close relationships, particularly in stressful situations.  Attachment is different in adulthood and in childhood because they are bi – directional, meaning that either party will give and receive support.

“Attachment theory has its origins in Great Britain, in the period during and shortly after the Second World War.  It was developed by John Bowbly.  At the heart of attachment theory is the assumption that attachment is a basic human need and that from very early on babies actively participate in the formation of attachment relationships.  Attachment relationships can be secure or insecure and a laboratory paradigm, called the Strange Situation, is used to measure individual differences in quality of attachment.  The sensitivity of the behaviour of the caregivers is regarded as the most important determinant of these differences.  Theory predicts that the stability of the attachment patterns from infancy to adulthood is limited by intervening events or changing life circumstances.”  Messer and Millar, 1999, page 101.

The concept of attachment refers to the special bond that develops between the infant and the caregiver.  Attachment provides the child with emotional security.  Ainsworth et al. (1978) have delineated three styles of attachment:

  • Secure
  • Avoidant
  • Ambivalent

In the United States of America and Britain, the ideal attachment is ‘secure attachment’.  Within different cultural settings attachment varies.  In Germany for example, “German mothers value and promote early independence and regard avoidant attachment as the ideal, seeing the ‘securely’ attached child as ‘spoiled’” (Grossman et al; 1985).

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“Theories of attachment appear to be central to social work practice with children and families.  Most of the literature on attachment for social workers is Eurocentric and does not address issues of working with black children and families.  Adams, Dominelli and Payne, 2002, pages 87 -88.

In attachment theory, children monitor their environment for signs of danger and threat.  If a child feels frightened or distressed their attachment system is activated, triggering attachment behaviour.  “Bryman (2004) suggests that theories are ways of describing and explaining the persistence of regularities in reality.  In sociology there are three main types of theories:


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This essay aimed to discuss theories of human behaviour and how they are useful in social work practice. It was useful to have the context for the essay in terms of using it to check that what is in the main body matches what was written in the introduction. There is scope to improve the work. There was an example given of how attachment theory might work in real-life, but this was not related to the work of Piaget, Maslow or Erikson. In fact it was not clear why the writer included these theories as the information was simply presented and not linked to a case or social work practice. There were a few grammar errors which could be minimised by careful proof-reading, otherwise the writing style was good overall. Make sure the work finishes with a brief conclusion, bringing the key points of the essay together. 3/5