Top line of the current ASWB exam content outline: Theories of human development throughout the lifespan (e.g., physical, social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral). So, "Everything you wanted to know about human development, but were afraid to ask"? Kind of overwhelming. Let's break down what the Board likely has in mind here. 

Theories of Human Development

Human development is, of course, multidimensional and complex and has been theorized about since the beginning of humans and theories. Here are some prominent theories in each of the domain specified in the outline. We've written about the most essential of them before (sometimes more than once) and have linked to those posts. Click through if you'd like to dig in (or get a refresher) on any of them:

  • Physical Development:
    • Environmentalist Theory: Emphasizes the influence of the environment, including nutrition, healthcare, and exposure to toxins, on physical development.

    • Biopsychosocial Model: Integrates biological, psychological, and social factors in explaining physical development.

    • Maturationist Theory: This theory suggests that biological (gene-based) maturation plays a significant role in the sequential unfolding of various physical and motor skills.
  • Cognitive Development:

    • Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development: Proposed by Jean Piaget, this theory outlines stages of cognitive development, emphasizing the role of maturation and interaction with the environment.

    • Vygotsky's Sociocultural Theory: Lev Vygotsky highlighted the importance of social interactions and cultural influences in cognitive development.

    • Information Processing Theory: Focuses on the ways individuals process, store, and retrieve information, akin to a computer's processing of data.

  • Emotional Development:

    • Erikson's Psychosocial Theory: Erik Erikson proposed a series of psychosocial stages, each associated with a particular crisis or challenge that individuals must navigate for healthy emotional development.

    • Attachment Theory (Bowlby): Emphasizes the importance of early attachment relationships with caregivers in shaping emotional development.

    • Emotional Intelligence (Salovey and Mayer): Focuses on the ability to perceive, understand, manage, and regulate one's own emotions and the emotions of others.

  • Social Development:

    • Social Learning Theory (Bandura): Asserts that individuals learn by observing and imitating the behaviors of others, emphasizing the role of modeling and reinforcement.

    • Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems Theory: Examines the impact of various environmental systems, including family, school, community, and culture, on social development.

    • Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development: Proposes stages of moral reasoning, suggesting that individuals progress through these stages as they develop morally.

  • Behavioral Development:

    • Behaviorism (Skinner): Emphasizes the role of reinforcement and punishment in shaping behavior.

    • Social Cognitive Theory (Bandura): Integrates cognitive and behavioral aspects, emphasizing the importance of observational learning and self-regulation in behavior.

    • Bioecological Model (Bronfenbrenner): Considers the interplay between individual characteristics and various environmental systems in influencing behavior.

These theories often overlap and complement each other. Social workers tend to draw upon multiple theories to gain comprehensive insights into the complexities of human growth and maturation.

On the ASWB Exam

There's lots of material here. How will it look on the licensing exam? Expect knowledge application questions and not just this-stage-is-during-these-years questions. Something like these:

  • How might a social worker apply Piaget's theory of cognitive development when working with a child facing academic challenges?
  • According to Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, how might a social worker consider multiple environmental factors when developing interventions for a family facing issues of poverty and community violence?
  • In a group setting, how might a social worker utilize Bandura's social learning theory to promote positive behavior change and skill acquisition among group members?

To get practice with questions like these, sign up for SWTP's full-length practice exams.

When...? Now.

January 10, 2024
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