Socw 6210 week 10 | SOCW 6301 – Social Work Practice Research I | Walden University


Application of Theoretical Perspectives – Part 1

As you near the completion of your second course in human behavior and the social environment, you are likely able to identify several theories that help explain human development at different phases of the life span. Are any of the theories you have studied of particular interest to you? How might you apply these theories to your social work practice?

This week, you select a theory of life-span development and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses as it relates to social work practice. You also practice an important social work skill as you interview a colleague to obtain information about his or her life-span development.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze theories of life-span development
  • Apply theories of life-span development to social work practice
  • Apply social work interview techniques

Photo Credit: andresr / E+ / Getty Images

Learning Resources

Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.

Required Readings

Dybicz, P. (2012). The hero(ine) on a journey: A postmodern conceptual framework for social work practice. Journal of Social Work Education, 48(2), 267–283.
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Villadsen, K. (2008). ‘Polyphonic’ welfare: Luhmann’s systems theory applied to modern social work. International Journal of Social Welfare, 17(1), 65–73.
Note: You will access this article from the Walden Library databases.

Document: Life Span Interview (PDF)
You will use this document for your Life Span Interview Assignment.

Optional Resources

Use the link below to access the MSW home page, which provides resources for your social work program.
MSW home page

Discussion: Theories of Life-Span Development

Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman (2016) stated, “We need theories to guide our thinking and our work so that we may undertake research-informed practice” (p. 127-128). At the same time, the authors asserted, “No theory will be perfectly applicable. Perhaps you will decide that only one or two concepts make any sense to you in terms of working with clients” (p. 128). Though you may be able to apply only a few concepts in a particular theory to your work with clients, as a social worker, you should be applying evidence-based research to your work. Empirically-based developmental theories may guide you as you assess clients and their presenting problems. You may also apply developmental theories to your treatment decisions.

For this Assignment, you discuss theories of life-span development by evaluating a theory that seems especially relevant to you and your role as a social worker. Select a theory of life-span development to address in this Discussion. This may be a theory described in the resources of this course, or you may select a theory based on personal research. Locate at least one scholarly resource (not included in the course resources) that addresses the theory you selected.

By Day 3

Post a Discussion in which you analyze the theory of life-span development that you selected. Summarize the theory; then, identify the strengths and weaknesses of this theory, especially as it relates to social work practice. Explain one way you might apply the theory to your social work practice.

By Day 5

Read a selection of your colleagues’ posts.

Respond to at least two colleagues who addressed theories that are different from the theory you addressed. State whether you might apply the theories your colleagues evaluated to your social work practice. Provide support for your position.

Be sure to support your responses with specific references to the resources. If you are using additional articles, be sure to provide full APA-formatted citations for your references.


 Kate Fullmer 

                                                                         Life-Span Development Theory

Attachment Theory: Bowlby. According to, “Attachment theory places emphasis on the essentialness of a secure and trusting mother-infant bond on development and well-being. (P.1). John Bowlby was a British child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, known for his attachment theory. According to, “Attachment can be explained as a long-term psychological connection with a meaningful person that creates happiness and soothes in times of stress. The quality of attachment has a crucial effect on development, and has been linked to assorted charactersitics of positive functioning, including psychological well-being.” (P.2). 

Bowlby’s studies led him to research the negative effects of maternal deprivation. According to,”Bowlby believed that children have the necessity to develop a close relationship with one main figure, usually the mother. When this does not happen, it has a negative impact on development, amd may cause a decrease in intelligence, may cause depression, aggressive behavior, delinquincy, and a lack of empathy.” (P.2). 

Stages of Attachment: According to, “The first stage is the Preattachment stage which takes place from newborn to six week of age. At this time, the child has not yet formed an attachment to their mothers, but are able to be soothed by the presence of others. The second stage is the Attachment in the making stage which takes place during the ages of 6 weeks to 6-8 months old and describes a time when the infant begins to develop a sense of trust in their mothers. The third stage is the Clear Cut Attachment, which takes place at 6 to 8 months -18 months to 2 years and states that attachment is established and the child prefers the mother over anyone else. The fourth stage which is known as the formation of reciprocal relationships at 18 months-to years + which describes a sense of security that is developed and the separation anxiety declines.” (P. 4). 

Bowlby’s resarch and theory led him to develop attachment styles based on the information above. He related this research to how children would end up developing emotionally. According to, “A child with an anxious avoidant insecure attachment do not trust their mothers to meet their needs, This child will behave indifferently to the presence of their mother but be anxious on the inside. The child behaves in an emotionally distant manner.” (P.5). This is just one example of four different attachment styles. 

A strength of this theory pertaining to social work practice is to think about exploring the relationship the client has with their mother. In discussing their childhood and their early relationship with their mother, it may bring some insight to what characteristics they have now due to that relationship. A weakness of this theory is that it does not explore what kind of attachments are developed with infants and fathers. Particularly if there is no mother figure in the picture, and a father is raising a child on his own.  One way I might apply this theory to my social work practice is if a client is describing feelings of being emotionally distant and anxious, is that I would take into consideration that this could be based on an unhealthy attachement with their mothers that has carried on into adulthood. I would further explore the childhood of the client to be able to fully assess. 

Response 2



A Theory of Life Span Development:

            Understanding and assessing human behavior incudes being knowledgeable about human development and applying selected theories of life span development. One such theory is Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory. This theory provides standards of milestones during the course of a lifetime that are central for evaluation of behavior.  These markers account for development throughout the span of life from infancy to senility (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016, p. 334).  An understanding of Erikson’s psychosocial theory can be a valuable tool for a social worker attempting to make a behavioral assessment. Furthermore, applying a client’s account of their history to a stage of Erikson’s psychosocial theory assists the social worker in forming the optimum strategy to best assist the client.

Summary of Erikson’s Theory of Development

Erik Erikson projected a theory of development containing 8 stages and are briefly discussed here. Important to note is Erikson’s theory is based on the association between biological growth and the mandates of the social order and the degree of how each stage is resolved, as it effects the capability of resolving issues in later stages (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016, 334).  The earliest stage is established during infancy and encompasses the infant’s trust in and familiarity with the caregiver’s consistency. Once basic needs such as food and warmth are met on a dependable basis, the infant learns to trust. During the second stage, a child learns between right and wrong, and also learns what is expected while being guided by reassurance from the caregiver. A child in the third stage is learning to initiate and pursue goals. Ideally, during this stage, the caregiver is portraying a positive role model for the child. The fourth stage includes learning industry, in which the child will apply competence to workmanship in the real world. Preferably during this stage, the caregiver is encouraging the importance of formal education. During stage five, the adolescent begins to sense a feeling of his or her own identity. Assurance from others that individuals are unique is vital during this time. Stage 6 finds a young adult seeking relationships of intimacy. Caring and teaching during this time should include the demonstration of loving relationships. The 7th stage comprises an understanding of the future and the importance of their culture. Teaching others of life experiences is significant in this period. The last stage is labeled by integrity and is summed up with the accomplishment of the previous stages. Through these successes, an individual may reap the benefit of understanding that their life has some order and meaning within a larger order.  Erikson’s model of psychosocial stages generates a variety of assessment strategies for social workers.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Erikson’s Theory in Relation to Social Work Practice

Erikson’s version on psychosocial stages emphasizes the contribution of family or caregivers in the environment. Similarly, family systems theorists identify 2 distinct profiles: harmony and disengagement (Sturge-Apple, Davis, & Cummings, 2010). Congenial and consistent families have distinct, yet lenient boundaries that allow children to gain access to the resources necessary for a stage (Sturge-Apple et al., 2010). These interactions influence the possible courses of action available to problematic individual who has presented to the social worker. Therefore, a client who has successfully gone through these stages successfully, most likely had the support of family, while a client who seems to be “stuck” within a stage may not have been privy to these resources.

Relating Erikson’s Theory to My Social Work Practice

To connect Erikson’s psychosocial theory with social work, the issue of “Ron” will be described. Ron is a 58-year-old white male residing alone in his own home, partners in a successful business, and exceptionally physically active. He is anxious about his inability to form adult romantic relationships. After acknowledging his concern, the social worker asks Ron to talk about his childhood and any significant incidences.  Ron begins to speak of his childhood and there appears to be a crisis during an imperative developmental stage in his life.  As a teenager, Ron was a star athlete on several high school teams.  He was consistently praised throughout his home town. His parents and siblings copiously supported Ron’s high school athletic career.  Soon, Ron began to identify solely with the label of star athlete. Although getting dates was not a problem, Ron never identified himself with having the characteristics of a boyfriend; he was an athlete. Ron rarely went on more than 1 or 2 dates with the same girl.  This behavior continues today with Ron dating many girls, but seldom dating the same girl more than once or twice. Ron claims he would like a long-term relationship.  Likewise, Erikson asserts that intimacy is learned during adolescence, and adolescents who do not acquire intimacy experience isolation (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016, 336).

            An understanding of an individual’s developmental struggle of identity inspires strategy for a social worker (Tsang, 2012).  Acknowledging Ron’s continued athletic ability is important, however it is the other roles in Ron’s life that also needed focus.  The social worker’s goal is to cultivate a clear and positive identity for Ron. For instance, Ron is a co-owner in a successful business. He is also a father of 2 children, a son, and a brother. Ron also enjoys working on his truck and riding his motorcycle.  Reassuring Ron that these other characteristics exist within his person and these features also define who he is, could encourage Ron to seek intimacy on a long-term basis. Identifying with other aspects of his personality helps Ron to understand who he is and boosts his ability to be close with another person without being anxious.

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