RE: SOCW6210 (WK10) Response to 2 Students)

Response to Samuel

Summary of Motivational Lifespan Development Theory

Lifespan development is a complex process that cannot innately be synthesized into one simple theory. According to Wrosch, Heckhausen & Haas (2012), “A central assumption in developmental research is that individuals shape, influence, or regulate their development across the life span” (p. 2). That being said, individuals experience several different types of lifespan development depending on their environment and the obstacles in front of them at various points in their lives. The Motivational Theory of Lifespan Development proposes that an individual’s life can be shaped through asserting themselves in their environment (Heckhausen, Wrosch & Schulz, 2010). Lifespan development in this theory rests upon an individual’s ability to set goals and affect change in their lives.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Many strengths exists in the Motivation Theory of Lifespan Development, but there are also some questions as to the application of this theory. Strengths of the Motivational Lifespan Development Theory are mostly based in the environmental aspects and observations that it offers. Looking at an individual’s life in the context of their social environment provides an excellent platform to introduce the idea of individual agency to a person in social work practice. In addition to using this theory in social work practice, it is also a great theory to look at with respect to how people either take control of their lives and affect change or visa versa. Questions still remain with this theory. Most importantly, how does the theory account for different social constructs and political systems? It is a reality that society in various places in this world does not offer a person the ability to affect positive change in their lives from a macro perspective, so how will the theory address this (Heckhausen, Wrosch & Schulz, 2010)? In addition to this, how will the theory account for mental illness in its approach? Some people are unable to motivate themselves in the traditional sense, which necessitates a different aspect of lifespan development. As I stated before, there is no way to apply one lifespan development theory to every human, but these questions are important for further research of this theory.

Application to Social Work Practice

As stated above, I believe that the Motivational Theory of Lifespan Development is an excellent tool to use in social work practice. Sparking motivation in people’s lives is part of what a social worker is trying to accomplish. Educating clients about this theory may show them that they have more control over their lives than they originally thought. Introducing ways that their lives have been shaped by their own motivation, or lack thereof, can be powerful in affecting positive change in an individual’s life.


Haase, C. M., Heckhausen, J., & Wrosch, C. (2012, July 23). Developmental Regulation Across the Life Span: Toward a New Synthesis. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029231

Heckhausen, J., Wrosch, C., & Schulz, R. (2010). A Motivational Theory of Life-Span Development. Psychological Review, 117(1), 32.

Response to Yana

Analyze the theory of life-span development that you selected:

Life-span development is the process of “understanding and assessing human behavior” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016 p. 8). I chose to focus on Lev Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development. Vygotsky had a similar approach to Jean Piaget but included the importance of sociocultural perspectives when determining the influences of human behavior (Matusov & Hayes, 2000).

Summarize the theory; then, identify the strengths and weaknesses of this theory, especially as it relates to social work practice:

Vygotsky died at an early age but was able to have “a major impact on the understanding of cognitive development” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016 p. 141). Vygotsky emphasized that the social and cultural interactions have an important effect on a child’s development (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016). Vygotsky included the effects of the environment a child may be exposed to, their social and cultural circumstances, the different social situations a child may be around, and the effects of a child’s interaction in activities that are in a group setting (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016). These principles show us how children observe behaviors and interactions that are then later incorporated mentally (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016). Vygotsky’s theory incorporates three important concepts to help understand his perspective. The first concept is the zone of proximal (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016). Zone of proximal is defined as “the difference between what a learner can accomplish independently and what he or she can accomplish with the guidance and encouragement of a more skilled partner” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016 p. 142). For example, a child may need assistance in certain tasks that can only be done with the help of others. The second is Scaffolding (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016). Scaffolding is “the process whereby adults help children learn how to solve problems or discover principles” (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016 p. 143). The last concept is private speech (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016). Private speech is when an individual speaks to themselves and not directed to any other person (Zastrow & Kirst-Ashman, 2016).

The strengths for this theory is that it does include the social nature of human development and applies it to how a child may react due to their social and cultural interactions and surroundings (Matusov & Hayes, 2000). This may be true of many children but not every person develops at the same rate or may be affected similarly. The weakness in this theory is the fact that the “approaches of development seem universalist (i.e., claiming that there is only one advanced direction for development), decontextual (i.e., claiming there are general developmental mechanisms/skills that independent of the context of their issue), ethnocentric (i.e., claiming deficits in values and practice of the other, not own, communities), and adultocentric (i.e., claiming deficits in values of the children when they are not comprehensibly by adults)” (Matusov & Hayes, 2000 para. 5).

Explain one way you might apply the theory to your social work practice:

Cognitive development theory can help me better understand how social and cultural interactions can have an effect on a child and later in their life-span. This theory uses the effects of these interactions that occur at a young age to how a child may learn to do certain tasks. The tasks are learned through a term called the zone of proximal, where an adult or another person may influence how a child reacts, learns, and completes a task. I do not want to solely rely on this theory, but to be able to recognize when this occurs in a client.


Matusov, E., & Hayes, R. (2000). Sociocultural critique of Piaget and Vygotsky. New Ideas In Psychology, 18(2-3), 215-239. doi:10.1016/S0732-118X(00)00009-X

Zastrow, C. H., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2016). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Please include 2 APA peer reviwed references