Although a strand of existing literature demonstrates that research on human growth and development is a relatively recent endeavor, particularly in reference to the fact that studies involving children did not begin until the late ninetieth century while those involving adult development and ageing only emerged in the 1960s and 1970s (Lerner et al, 2009), a myriad of theoretical perspectives and standpoints have evolved over time in a focused attempt aimed at shedding light on underlying issues related to human growth and development (Adams, 2006).
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This paper aims to demonstrate reasons why the stage theories seem to be best suited, in my view, to explain human growth and development. In addition, the present paper will aim to explain how the stage theoretical framework relates to principles that guide the rehabilitation process.
Using the stages theoretical framework, life span development is divided into various phases, which include: Prenatal stage (conception to birth); infancy and toddlerhood (birth to 2 years); early childhood (2-6years); middle childhood (6-11 years); adolescence (11-18 years); early adulthood (18-40 years); Middle adulthood (40-65 years), and; late adulthood (65 years-death (Adams, 2006).
Each of these stages has its own developmental paradigms, needs and demands.
Academics and practitioners rightly points out the study of human growth and development is best understood when intraindividual and interindividual changes are described, explained and optimized in terms of the different phases that individuals undergo, from childhood to adulthood (Adams, 2006).
Although various studies have shown that human development is life-long (Lerner et al, 2009), explaining the various changes that individuals undergo in terms of clearly cut developmental phases of life provides a pattern through which various issues and challenges can be addressed in relation to the phase of development.
More importantly, explaining lifespan development through stages enable parents, educators and other interested entities to provide the right conditions for individuals in a particular stage with the view to enable them achieve their full potential.
The above explanations are in line with my philosophy of human growth and development, which is informed by the fact that human beings are affected and influenced by common factors that are best captured when physical, cognitive and emotional variables of human development are outlined in terms of invariant stages or phases of life.
For instance, it becomes easy to use these stages to explain the refinement of motor skills in children, the development of logical thought processes, sexual maturity and career ambitions of individuals though the life span.
Additionally, the stages perspective to human development best explain why individuals must follow a particular trajectory or order for maturity to be reached: that is, individuals must progress from a simpler and immature phase of behavior and experience toward a more complex level for maturity to be achieved (Adams, 2006).
The practice of rehabilitation is governed by a wide allay of principles, which inarguably relate to numerous theories of human growth and development. It has been explained in this paper that the stage theories of development are intrinsically aligned with the cognitive, physical, and emotional levels of human development.
These levels will ultimately influence the directions taken by counselors in terms of conducting rehabilitation assessment and implementing case management techniques as individuals will only positively react to these interventions if they clearly understand what is required of them based on their respective stages of development (Hartung, 2010).
For instance, a counselor cannot use empowerment strategies in rehabilitation to treat an individual in early or middle childhood since his or her cognitive abilities may not be in resonance to the intervention strategy.
Adams, M. (2006). Towards an existential phenomenological model of life span human development. Existential Analysis: Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis, 17(2), pp. 261-280.
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Hartung, P.J. (2010). Practice and Research in Career Counseling and Development – 2009. Career Development Quarterly, 59(2), 98-142.
Lerner, R.M., Schwartz, S.J., & Phelps, E. (2009). Problematics of time and timing in the longitudinal study of human development: Theoretical & methodological issues. Human Development, 52(1), 44-68.