The Importance of Human Development Stages in Social Work Strategies

Understanding human development is important for social workers because it helps them relate to others and understand the factors in the development stage that can influence a person’s life. 

By having a good knowledge of human development, it is possible to have a better idea of why people that are born into specific socioeconomic or cultural classes can have varying levels of success or different personalities. For example, what is it in the human development stage that leads two people from similar backgrounds to end up leading completely different lives? 

What is a social worker? A social worker is someone that helps individuals and families access resources and assert their civil rights. The demand for social workers is on the rise. You can train to be a social worker by earning your degree online from Keuka College. The program includes 900 fieldwork hours where you will get firsthand experience and mentorship. Social workers are a vital element in improving people’s lives, and by gaining a first-rate education, you can better understand human development and be best placed to make a positive impact. 

Acting early

Taking steps to change defining factors early on can influence a young person’s entire life path. Early intervention and changes to factors that lead to unwelcome behaviors are always for the best. For example, getting a child’s parents the help they need to stay sober and hold down a job can offer a child a more stable home life and a greater chance of success in the future.

Another good example is a child or teen that is having behavioral issues. At some stages of development, there is more of a tendency to participate in rebellious or criminal activities. By understanding what factors can lead to acting out, social workers can connect more easily with adolescents and help them find solutions to the real cause of their behavior. Sometimes bullying, lack of attention at home, or abuse is the cause of dangerous behaviors that can lead to more serious criminal offenses later in life.

The importance of knowing about human development

Knowing the stages of human development can help social workers make educated guesses about what is going on in someone’s life. While one must not operate on assumptions alone, social workers need to be able to size up a situation. Knowing a bit about actual human growth and biological development allows social workers to determine if someone looks like they have an unhealthy lifestyle. For example, noticing that a child appears to be an unhealthy weight, smaller than normal for their age, or seems lethargic all the time, are all factors that may point to neglect or abuse. 

What are the stages of human development?


During the infancy stage, humans first start to form how they view trust. Infants cry or fuss to alert others that they want to be held, fed, have their diaper changed, or when they are in pain and discomfort. Infants that have these needs met practically all the time learn that they can trust the caregivers in their life to provide for them. Those who have their needs ignored sometimes become less trusting of others.


At the toddler stage, a person is starting to explore their world and attempt to be more independent. Parents and caregivers can help teach them the skills and behaviors that encourage independence or they can inadvertently encourage dependent behavior. A good example of this is parents that encourage their children to play outside with some supervision and give them the freedom to run, play, and explore versus a parent that is too worried that a child will get injured, so they keep them inside and restrict activities on some level. Parents that encourage independence tend to have more confident and assertive children. These children also tend to be more at ease when interacting socially with others.


Children that are this age start to ask for what they need and insist when they want something. Children often start to express their feelings when something happens that makes them happy or sad. Assertiveness can be treated with positivity or children can be taught that they need to not express themselves. Negativity when a child is assertive can lead to an older child or adult that holds back on their emotions or is timid, when, actually, being bold would help them achieve their goals more readily.

Early school

Comparing yourself to others defines the early school years. This stage is important because it is where self-esteem issues can develop as children make constant comparisons or have differences pointed out by others.


People start to learn who they really are and explore their feelings more during their adolescent years. Many start to consider what they want to do with their lives and develop bigger goals and dreams. Non-platonic relationships often start to play a role in daily life. Teens may try to be more independent and socialize a lot on their own if caregivers encourage independence and personal development.

Young adult

After the age of 20 many people develop social and romantic relationships while others struggle and thus become more isolated. Choosing a long-term career or just working whatever job to make ends meet are two opposing behaviors that can develop depending on personality.

Middle adult

At this stage, a lot of people are developing their careers and/or raising families. People tend to start thinking about how fulfilled they are at this point. Those that feel they have a rich and fulfilling life that allows them to contribute in some way may be peaceful and happy, while some have a midlife crisis where they reevaluate the major elements of their lives. Some people make major life changes at this stage if they are discontent with the course of their lives up to this point.

Late adult

Older adults may either look back on their life and feel happy or realize they have a lot of regrets. This reflection can vary no matter how wealthy someone is or how happy their family life appears to be. Older adults may choose to view the end of their life with despair or make the most of each and every day and count their blessings.


Human development and growth are important concepts for social workers to know. By understanding how the body and mind are shaped by various external and internal factors, it is possible to connect better with people from a variety of different backgrounds.

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