This entry provides an overview of the life-span perspective focusing on biological developments and social tasks all of which are embedded in a larger sociocultural context from birth to old age within diverse environments, cultures, and historical eras. This section will also focus on how the life-span perspective succeeds traditional life course models that assume to be universal, sequential, and predictable. The life-span perspective of social work departs from approaches based on traditional models that are narrow and focuses on personal deficits, pointing instead to strengths, continued growth, and environmental resources for individuals, families, groups, and communities. Finally, this entry will discuss how the life-span perspective shows great promise for encompassing theory of human development for the purpose of expanding knowledge, promoting “best practice” service delivery, policy regulation and research to enhance the lives of people with whom social workers come into contact.
Lani V. Jones
Various models and theories of adult development exist but they are more assumptions about development than theories. The most popular age and stage theories have lost favor to contextual theories that put more emphasis on interaction with the environment. It has also become recognized that adults are a diverse group and do not follow universal stages of development. The usefulness of chronological age is also questionable as it does not tell us much about any particular person. Instead, we have to know their concerns and the events they are dealing with, and their dreams and aspirations.
Katharine Briar-Lawson and Toni Naccarato
Over the decades, family services have been one of the overarching features of social work practice, education, and research. Efficacy studies help to reinforce the focus on serving individuals in the contexts of their families and to address intergenerational family systems. Families provide the bulk of services to their members but require tailored resources, effective services, and supports. The growing diversity in families compels more cross-cultural competence, responsive policies, and evidence-based practices. Family service practitioners must increasingly address the social exclusion of many families while integrating economic and employment supports with counseling, skill training, and other interventions.