Social Work and Child Development

Table of Contents


Adversities that may impact Sarah’s Healthy Development

Protective Environment




Reference List

Introduction to Social Work and Child Development

Sarah is a small child at the tender age of only 5 years who had to unfortunately witness the separation of her parents. The misfortune of this whole affair has left a mental scar on Sara and it seems that she would have to deal with the mental scars for some time. She is at a stage in her life where she relates to every affair or every ordeal in her life with emotions. When she is at home or at school, the mental scars related to the separation seem to continuously haunt her. She has also been described as a child who is shy by the teachers. They also explained that she does not have many friends and does not seem to be mixing with them as most of the children usually do. At such a stage, it is extremely important for the social worker to be delicate and cautious in the efforts to bring Sarah back to a good mental condition.

Adversities that may Impact Sarah’s Healthy Development

As defined by Walker, and Horner (2020) the human development is intricate, progressive and continuous change series which takes place as a result of experiences and maturation. The major incidents that happened to a person during childhood create an impact for a lifetime (Berk, 2010). The incidents that create an impact on the healthy development of a child and could create chronic stresses are known as adversities. The personal experiences, people around the child and the environment where the children are being brought up significantly impact the healthy development of a child. According to Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory, the context and quality of the environment of a child impact the gradual development of the child (Hertler et al., 2018). During the child development stage, the interaction between the environments becomes complex, which impacts each of the facets of development (Lin, 2017). As per the theory, there are five main environmental systems, namely micro, macro, meso, exo and chronosystem which impact the development of a child (Lin, 2017) (refer to appendix 1). 

In the considered scenario, the microsystem (immediate environment) of Sarah is comprised of her mother and brother, who have faced domestic violence. Sarah's parents have broken up, the marital separation has created an emotional and stressful situation for Sarah and her family. She has closely experienced violence, anger, conflicts and blaming each other. Eventually, the violence have increased the risk at healthy development of the child (Gewirtzand Edleson 2007). The microsystem created a traumatic situation for Sarah. Moreover, her mother, brother and she have come to a new place for a 'new start'. The change of the place where she was habituated to live brought change in her microsystem. The mesosystem is about the connections of the child (Lin 2017). The connection between the parents and the child is important as it provides emotional support, love, scopes of a healthy brain and physical development and care. Sarah's intermittent connection with her father is creating a barrier in shaping her mental development. The intermittent involvement of the father in her life results in the feeling of abandonment, social adjustments, and truancy. Sarah needs emotional support, care, and affection, which are inevitable for her mental development.

The ecosystem, in school, is comprised of the teachers and other students. Other the children of the school are also not engaged with Sarah, as she is shy and reserved. The disengagement with the environment may cause a harmful impact on Sarah's healthy development. Social work practice supports the communication and interaction between people. As Sarah is less communicative and suppresses her feelings, the social workers or her caregivers will not be able to understand and analyze her concerns and emotion. As per the model, the people or places where the child may not actively interact could also have an impact on the development of the child. In Sarah's case, the neighborhood where Sarah lives, the extended family members or the new workplace of Sarah's mother might be the factor impacting Sarah's development.

If the neighborhood does not accept Sarah, or her mother could not provide much attention to Sarah due to workplace pressure, Sarah's healthy development will be affected. The ecological model of the child is composed of values, ideas, beliefs, economic and political systems. If the social system where Sarah lives is aggressive or not cooperating, Sarah might experience loneliness and mental breakdown. Social acceptance and connection are extensively crucial in the present context. The last environment setting of the model is chronosystem, where the events in different layers of time impacts on the development of the children (Lin 2017). The constancy, changes in family and environment impacts the development of a child. Sarah's change of home, society, people, and changes in the family are the factors that may affect the healthy development of the child. 

To sum up, the separation of the father, aggression, domestic violence, change in society, loneliness, anxiety, depressions are the advisories that could affect the development of Sarah.

Protective Environment

In the fight between mother and father, she must have been a victim of exploitation and violence. The victimization that her mother underwent left on her a deep scar and sense of despair. The child Sarah is required to be made available to the protective environment to allow her psychology to be developed properly. She must have been affected by the scenario that has deeply negatively affected her. The separation of father and mother has a deep scar on the psychology of Sarah. Sarah is found to be showing no progress or development. She is found to be involved only in alienation. The process of her development is found to be restricted. She could hardly provide any sign of progress (Sullivan 2017). She is shy and restrictive. Her previous engagement in the family affair made her stay alienated and make her avoid contact with the people. From the point of view, it is found that Sarah is under extreme despair. She shows a sign of failure and thinks of no more progress of success in later careers. Her condition is found to be related to three Erikson concepts of integrity and despair. She is deeply affected by the thought of the absence of her father. She has been made a despairing girl due to the absence of her father.

Sarah requires having a protective environment in which she would develop and flourish. Her sense of despair requires to be eliminated to develop her strong sense of integrity. All she needs is the integrity of her character. She requires developing herself and avoiding thinking past family interaction. Sarah as a child needs a protective environment to avoid her from further exploitation. Further exploitation will help her to develop herself psychology and made her prepare to cope with the next situations (Couto de Aguiar 2018). She needs to have a clean and free environment to avoid contact to avoid further exploitation. The protective environment is known to be a safety net that will further prevent her to engage in further abuse. A protective environment is related to living in dignity and safety. 

Sarah needs to be stayed at school to be safe and free from the further exploitation and victimization of the attack. The teacher needs to recognize her further psychology and abuse she is undergoing. She needs to be prevented from further exploitation. Sarah is required to provide a better environment with good and peaceful social interaction for her cognitive development. She needs to be provided through interdependence, proximal development zone. The formation of a formal education system along with a protective environment will help Sarah to develop herself in a peaceful and good environment. She requires more social guidance to construct herself. The child Sarah will be an active participant in her development (Walker and Horner 2020). Vygotsky believed that social interaction will help children to grow well, and the peaceful and educative environment created by the adults around them will be helpful.

Sarah has previously experienced the immense torture and its impact on her is deep and effective. As Sarah is shy, her communication ability needs to be developing under the protective environment as Vygotsky stated. The protective support that Sarah’s society provides needs to be provided in full. The actual development and potential of Sarah will develop when she is provided the environment of learning and peaceful development. The central idea that regulated the theory for Sarah's development is the zone for proximal development. Her development could take place if she is kept away from the exploitation and violence in the environment of learning and peaceful social interaction. 

Sarah requires developing her ability to manage and control her shyness as the protective environment is provided to her in the school and the hostel. She also needs to provide a peaceful environment within her home along with her mother and uncle for her full-fledged development and growth in a peaceful and good environment (Riches et al 2019). She is required to develop her communication skill along with language development so that she can develop herself and socialize with others to renew her life and experience within the new environment. The parent's separation has a deep impact on the children and made them affected by psychology. She needs to have a good environment to effectively manage and balance her life and avoid violence completely to develop her cognitive self and stay in a protected environment.


According to Brofenhaumer’s ecological systems theory, the surrounding environment that the child lives in goes on to influence or impact the development of the child. The reactions of the child to the affairs of daily life would be dependent on the circumstances that the child is facing in life. According to this theory, the environment of a person can be broken up into five distinctive layers. They are the Microsystem, Mesosystem, Exosystem, Macrosystem and Chronosystem. The microsystem deals with the immediate surroundings that the child has to deal with on a daily basis. The family, school, friends are all part of the Microsystem. The mesosystem is the relation between the several elements of the microsystem of the child. For example, the relation of the family with the friends of the child or the school. Exosystem signifies the changes in the environment of the child where the child does not have a role to play. Macrosystem points to the cultural setting that the child has to live within. The chronosystem means the pattern of development of the child over a period of time. 

In this particular case, one can make the statement that the stage or the later development that Sarah is going through at the moment is the Chronosystem. The child is concerned and extremely unhappy due to the separation of her parents. She cannot deal with things the way a normal child can. Her behavior with other people is something that is not seen in a child at such a young age. Her lesser contact with her dad also affects Sarah in this particular phase. She is a small child who needs parental care and protection and love (van der Wal Finkenauer and Visser2019). Often children at this age are prone to demand extreme levels of love from their parents. Sarah is in such a situation in her psychological state of affairs. However, she cannot do the same since her parental stage of affairs is not at a position that allows her to speak to her father or communicate with him regularly.

Sarah is going through a stage she is extremely vulnerable all the time. Her emotions are often unexpressive because she does not know what will happen to her and her parents in the future. The life that she was used to before is not the same life that she is experiencing right now. According to the chronosystem stage of ecological systems theory, the child is supposed to be most vulnerable during the initial period of the parent's divorce or separation. It gets better with time. However, before that, Sarah would have to deal with the surroundings. She has to deal with her family, her school and the ecosystem that surrounds her at the moment (Moedet et al2017). Within all of these, she is at a position where things can go worse for her if it is not treated properly. Therefore, the social worker has to identify the issues that are affecting Sarah and the ways and the degrees to which are affecting. Only then can there be steps taken to improve the condition of the child.


The early years of the child’s life are the ones where the child attaches the meaning to each and everything that the child goes through in life (Farrall, and Arney 2010). At this stage, the child does not have a full understanding of the affairs of life. So, any event that occurs in the life of the child would be attached to some particular emotion. The emotions can e happiness or sadness. In this particular case, Sarah will attach this whole ordeal with the emotion of sadness. The mention of her parent’s separation would create a mentally susceptible and vulnerable situation for the child since the children at this stage are overridden with emotions. In this particular stage of life, the child has to put through a program where the ability to show resilience to the situation has to be ingrained in her mind. Since she is a small child at the tender age of only 5, it is not possible to have conversations with her about everything that is going on with her life. However, it is possible to present circumstances surrounding the child that would make her go through the time and become stronger to deal with such adversity at such an early age. The child needs to be taken care of emotionally and someone has to be involved with her all the time (Powell 2014). If someone is a social worker who would be able to provide or dedicate a lot of time for Sarah, the circumstances would have the potential to lead to something better.

The resilience would be formed when the child is continuously interacting with someone else (Farrall and Arney 2010). This includes the social worker as well as the peers of the child. The social worker has to make sure that the conversations with the child are continuous. During the time that the worker is with the child, it should not happen that the child should be allowed to remain largely silent. The child would be normally reluctant to initiate any conversation with the worker (Brandet al 2019). However, this stage can be overcome by the worker if the conversations are initially initiated by the worker. The child would then get used to the situation and it would ultimately improve the mental setting or the stage of development of the child (Farrall and Arney 2010). By making conversations, the mind of the child can be manipulated to return to the position where the enjoyments in the life of the child are more prominent and most important to the recently biased memory of the child (Walker and Horner 2020). The sadness of the separation would start to take a secondary seat as far as the mind of the child is concerned. It is still at a vulnerable position and that would mean that the worker would have to go through numerous processes that ultimately heals the scars of the mind of Sarah.

Conclusion on Social Work and Child Development

Sarah has to deal with everything in her life at the moment that she had to deal with when her parents were not separated. When she stays at home or goes to school or interacts with anybody else in school, it reminds her of the situation that she was in when her father was a regular part of her life. Today, when she does the same, she knows that she would not go back home and be able to interact with her father. She knows that things in her life have undergone a lot of changes. Therefore, the surroundings of the environment that Sarah has to face today makes her extremely vulnerable to every situation. Her mental stage is that of somebody who is in a prison in her own world despite being free to do whatever she wants. However, it is possible to make the situation in her life better for her with delicate steps. The worker would have to be delicate in the approach as well as efficient in manipulating the mind of Sarah towards something good.

Reference List for Social Work and Child Development

Berk, L. 2010. Development through the lifespan.Pearson Education India.

Brand, J.E., Moore, R., Song, X. and Xie, Y. 2019. Why does parental divorce lower children's educational attainment? A causal mediation analysis. Sociological science, 6, pp.264-292.

Couto de Aguiar, B. 2018. Development of teachers’ and coaches’ approaches and beliefs about games teaching in New Zealand schools as a process of learning.

Farrall, E. and Arney, F. 2010. Harnessing resilience when working with children and families (Doctoral dissertation, Cambridge University Press).

Gewirtz, A.H. and Edleson, J.L. 2007. Young children’s exposure to intimate partner violence: Towards a developmental risk and resilience framework for research and intervention. Journal of Family Violence22(3), pp.151-163.

Hertler, S.C., Figueredo, A.J., Peñaherrera-Aguirre, M. and Fernandes, H.B. 2018. Urie Bronfenbrenner: Toward an Evolutionary Ecological Systems Theory. In Life History Evolution (pp. 323-339). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

Lin, K.L. 2017. Exploring children’s lived experience of resilience in public preschools in Taiwan: The lens of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (Doctoral dissertation, Doctoral dissertation). Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Retrieved from https://research-repository. griffith. edu. au/handle/10072/371166).

Moed, A., Dix, T., Anderson, E.R. and Greene, S.M. 2017. Expressing negative emotions to children: Mothers’ aversion sensitivity and children’s adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(2), p.224.

Powell, M.A. 2014. Supporting children through difficult times: recognising, responding and referring.

Riches, S., Arseneault, L., Bagher-Niakan, R., Alsultan, M., Crush, E., & Fisher, H. L. 2019. Protective factors for early psychotic phenomena among children of mothers with psychosis. Frontiers in psychiatry9, 750.

Sullivan, C. A. (2017). A longitudinal study of the effect of full-day and half-day kindergarten on the development of literacy skills.

van der Wal, R.C., Finkenauer, C. and Visser, M.M., 2019. Reconciling mixed findings on children’s adjustment following high-conflict divorce. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28(2), pp.468-478.

Walker, J. and Horner, N., 2020. Social work and human development. Learning Matters.

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