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Human Growth and Development

By kecline Feb 02, 2014 1198 Words
Two important lifespan development stages: Infancy and Toddlerhood stage and the Middle Childhood stage. Professional counselors in the mental health field are in an important position in the development and survival of our society, in that they not only experience their own personal growth and contribution in life, but also are responsible for assisting others in their ability to develop as successful members of humanity (Vernon, 2010). A vital tool in their work towards this endeavor is the understanding of the lifespan perspective, which is supported by knowledge of the stages of development that individuals encounter as they progress through their lives. These stages include Infancy and Toddlerhood, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, Adolescence, Early Adulthood, Middle Adulthood, and Later Adulthood (Vernon, 2010). An understanding of the Infancy and Toddlerhood stage of development is crucial to mental health counselors due to the fact that, regardless of the age of their client, the foundations of that client’s personality and approach to life were formed during this stage. This stage covers the time from birth to 3 years of age, and involves major developmental changes that occur rapidly. The most vital developmental advancements include those involving gross and fine motor development, the discovery and growth of emotions, personality, and autonomy, and advancement in intellectual abilities through cognitive and language development. The ability to control physical movement and skills advances rapidly in this stage, which increases an individual’s independence as they are capable of doing more for themselves. Vital to individuality and the foundation of the ability to connect and relate to others, is the recognition of personal emotion and the ability to distinguish between different emotions, as well as the capacity to respond to emotions that others exhibit (Vernon, 2010). According to Graves, (2006) “much exploration at this age is an attempt to discover how to identify feelings, how to express feelings, and what is acceptable behavior in social relationships,” implications of which will greatly affect the way that individuals in later stages of life perceive the world and deal with conflict. It is in this stage that individuals develop their understanding of trust, or mistrust, through the responsiveness of their caregiver to their innate needs. This trust is the foundation for the formation of an individual’s autonomy, or ability to be independent, which is one of the primary motivations driving development in each of the life stages (Graves, 2006).

In addition to the Infancy and Toddlerhood stage, another vital stage for mental health counselors to understand is Middle Childhood. Although this stage was considered inferior in developmental importance compared to other, more drastic stages, recently research has shown the value in the progressions that are experienced during this stage (Eccles, 1999). This stage cover ages six to eleven as they expand on the complexity of their emotional comprehension, socialization, and cognitive development (Vernon, 2010). This stage provides a sense of stability that is later lost in the Adolescence stage, which helps to nurture the growth and change that they experience, as well as provides a foundation from which the developments in adolescence expound. A key principle of this stage is socialization and the development of a more complex individual identity (Education Encyclopedia, n.d.). Also, awareness of place in society and a sense of belonging develop as individuals in Middle Childhood begin to put a greater emphasis on peer groups and the acceptance or rejection that they experience through peer interactions (Graves, 2006). Through these experiences, individuals develop a sense of either industry or inferiority and inadequacy, in relation to the positive or negative ways that they navigate this stage, which can have a profound effect on later adulthood (Eccles, 1999). Children in this stage are beginning school, which dramatically changes their environment and social interactions from family and the home to peers and external authorities (Vernon, 2010). These changes provide opportunities for children to build healthy peer relationships, comprehend cultural values, and begin to develop roles within their social system that will influence the way that they interact with society throughout the rest of their lifespan. These relationships play a part in the integration of a child with society, both internally through their development of a more complex understanding of themselves and externally as they determine how to interact with society (Education Encyclopedia, n.d.). By understanding these stages, and the principles that accompany them, mental health counselors are able to relate to their clients in the most effective way, as well as approach the task of helping clients with appropriate intervention methods that will align with the developmental stage that the client is experiencing. For example, understanding the implications of the Infancy and Toddlerhood stage will assist will allow the mental health counselor to understand the foundation of a client’s current emotions in terms of what influenced their emotional development, as well as the context from which the client’s autonomy, or lack thereof, was initiated and nurtured. This will provide the counselor with a basis from which to determine the position of the client in terms of development and thus approach and work on the areas of deficiency that will allow the client to move forward in their ability to face conflicts. The current manifestation of emotions such as shame or guilt, which can present in various conflicts that cause clients to seek help, are usually triggered by an individual’s lack of solid establishment of autonomy in the Infancy and Toddlerhood stage (Graves, 2006). The progression of developments during Middle Childhood provides a basis for important aspects of adult life, including self-discipline, positive decision-making skills, and conflict negotiation (Eccles, 1999). A mental health counselor’s understanding of the socialization experiences that their client endured can give them a better capacity to comprehend the client’s issues surrounding belonging and acceptance or rejection, which depict how the client interacts socially, as well as explain the roles that the client may have chosen in their interactions. The influence of Middle Childhood also will give insight to the client’s feelings of industry or self-worth and inferiority, which can be a basis from which negative emotions and internal conflicts arise (Eccles, 1999). With this understanding, the counselor can then approach current conflicts with a comprehensive idea of the foundations that initiated them, and adapt practice methods to address the client’s development and conflict resolution in the most effective way. Through an understanding of the lifespan perspective and the stages involved, counselors will be able to best serve their by guiding them in the development of appropriate strategies to deal with common conflicts that they may encounter throughout life. This practice will empower clients to continue their progression of healthy development in the personal, social, and vocational aspects of their lives (Vernon, 2010). References

Eccles JS. (1999). The development of children ages 6 to 14. Future Child, 9(2):30-44. Education Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Stages of growth in child development. Retrieved from: Graves, S. B., & Larkin, E. (2006). Lessons from Erikson: A look at autonomy across thelifespan. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 4(2), 61–71. Vernon, A. (2010). Human Development Through the Lifespan. In Erford, B.T. (Ed.)Orientation to the Counseling Profession: Advocacy, Ethics, and Essential ProfessionalFoundations (pp. 95-123. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

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