This unit explores some of the key concepts in understanding social and human behaviour across the lifespan. It encourages students to make the links between their own personal values and a range of social and cultural phenomena. It investigates and critiques the role of the family and community as the foundation of human and social development, and the implications of this for social work practice. It also introduces the lifespan from infancy to old age accounting for the individual, social, cultural and structural dimensions. Throughout the unit there is an emphasis on critically reflecting on the research foundations of human development theories and the implications of these for practice.

Unit details

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96 credit points of first year core ABSW units. For HBSD students only - 96 credit points of First Year core HBSD units.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
  1. Locate personal values in relation to a range of social and cultural phenomena;  
  2. Explain human development throughout the lifespan from a physical, social, emotional, spiritual and cognitive development from infancy through to old age, with emphasis on the continuous nature of developmental processes;  
  3. Compare and contrast different theoretical accounts of these phenomena, with reference to a Western 21st century conceptualisation of life stage development alongside those of non-western cultural traditions;  
  4. Apply relevant knowledge of human development in social work and educational settings; and  
  5. Critically assess the research foundations of developmental theories, and their relative strengths and limitations for application and generalisation.  


Assessment type Description Grade
Test Quizzes (900 word equivalent) (2x15mins) 20%
Presentation Group presentation (15mins) 35%
Essay Critical analysis of selected topic - submitted in two (2) stages (1,800 word equivalent) 45%
To gain a pass in this unit students must attain a minimum overall grade of 50% and attempt and submit all assessment tasks. Each assessment task covers discrete areas of knowledge and skill required for the successful completion of the social work course.

Required reading

A critical approach to human growth and development 1st ed.
Nicolson, Paula. (2014)
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Where to next?

As part of a course

This unit is studied as part of the following courses. Refer to the course page for information on how to apply for the course.

You can choose to study this unit as part of the following courses. Refer to the course page for information on how to structure your course to include this unit.

Study a single unit

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