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About this book

How we change over time - who we love, what work we do, how we die - is shaped both by internal, and external influences. This book explores the important subject of human growth and development by combining the social context of how people live with their personal ways of thinking and being. The result is a greater understanding of why people are who they are.

Taking a psychosocial approach to exploring human growth and development, this book:

• Provides an insightful exploration of the human life course by looking at significant life stages and key themes (such as parenting, ill-health and violence).

• Draws on both contemporary and classic research in the fields of psychology and sociology, to deliver an in-depth analysis of issues about self and society.

• Moves beyond traditional, limiting approaches to understanding people's lives toward an interdisciplinary, psychosocial approach.

Whether you are studying on a Social Work, Nursing or related Health or Social Care degree, or taking a course in the newly emerging field of Psychosocial Studies, this book is a clear and ground-breaking contribution to the understanding of human growth and development.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
This book concerns itself with thinking about the lifecourse. Thinking often requires that we take what we know about a subject, sometimes from different perspectives and traditions, and put this together in new and surprising ways. Psychosocial thinking is an emerging art and is not ‘finished’ and so we have been careful to include some existing ideas and approaches, but we have also had to create ideas for the purpose of the book: to put together theories and approaches to lifecourse issues that in combination say more than the sum of their parts.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

1. Psychosocial theory: being and becoming

Abstract
The issues with which this book concerns itself — of the formation and revision of identity as people experience being in the world; of development, transition and change — are also central to many traditional psychology and sociology texts on the lifecourse and on human development. However, it is not usually the concern of those texts to link the disciplines and ‘connect up’ both psychological and sociological perspectives, for example both the socio-cultural contexts and the psyche, or inner life, of the individual.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

2. How people begin: ‘the child as father to the man’

Abstract
The aim of this chapter is to provide a psychosocial introduction to the earliest stages of the lifecourse, the stage that for many of the theorists we draw on, and indeed for many lay people for centuries (hence the Shakespeare reference in the title) crucially lays down the parameters of who and how we can be for the rest our lives. The debate now, both in the academic journal and in the pub, tends to focus on how early experiences and upbringing impact on our lives, and issues such as what factors have most influence: that babyhood and early life is fundamental to all later being is mostly taken for granted.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

3. How people become: agency and identification

Abstract
In the last chapter we considered the baby stage of the lifecourse, and looked at what psychosocial theory could usefully tell us about how babies start to develop. We particularly focused on psychoanalytic and psychodynamic frameworks of explanation, because in the psychosocial theory this book presents, what happens in infancy and early childhood creates the internal/psychic world of the person, which will determine much of what they can be and do through to the end of their lives. That is not to suggest that nothing ever changes, but that a great deal is put in place which can be hard to change.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

4. How people connect: love, marriage and the family

Abstract
Emotional attachments, as we saw in previous chapters, when understood psychosocially, form the basis of how we ‘become’ as people from the beginning of our lives and relate to our ways of seeing and being in the world. Connecting with (e.g. falling in love) and being with others is partly what makes us social beings but this fundamental experience also alters what it is to be individual (the individual psyche), and the nature of personal and social identity. What this means for our choices of partners, how we experience the family, parenting, friendships and so on are the fundamental themes being explored here.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

5. How people are occupied: school, work and after

Abstract
Being occupied and engaged in the world is of central importance to individuals in modern societies. As individuals we are occupied in various and diverse ways, the type and nature of the forms of occupation influenced by the lifecourse. In early life schooling and generally education takes an all-encompassing influence in an individual’s life. Furthermore, the way we define adulthood and adult identity is frequently in relation to paid employment and the ushering of independence this implies, and the issue of employment and work more generally does not go away until late old age, where being ‘occupied’ remains a crucial but less well-defined theme. We examine some of these central issues against the backdrop of consumerism in modern societies and how this has influenced how people perceive the idea of being occupied through the lifecourse.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

6. How people thrive: resilience and well-being

Abstract
The standard measures of health and well-being found in textbooks from a medical or even broadly social science perspective may provide little meaningful understanding of the day-to-day reality of what it means for the individual to be well and do well. It may tell you something about the chances of someone either becoming unwell, experiencing depression or anxiety, or their capacity to cope, but what it is unlikely to tell you about is the broader psychosocial issue of why do some people sink and others swim, or perceive objectively similar life trajectories as failures or successes. Here we will try to consider the factors, therefore — both internal and external — that make some people appear to do better and feel better, and others struggle, and how can we make sense of this as we think about individuals located within relational and social contexts.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

7. How people struggle: social suffering and ill-being

Abstract
In the previous chapter we explored some of the ways in which well-being has been critically understood, and we began to highlight the subjective (inner) as well as social, structural (outer) dimensions in the debate about its relationship to doing well in the world. In so doing we have shown that the individual and the social are interrelated and that we can explore the individual lived experience to make sense of social circumstances and conditions. Exploring those issues separately is useful of course, but the approach to well-being we outline here aims to present a more sophisticated, integrated and meaningful discussion about the intimate concerns of individual lives and the external social, economic and political order that shapes those lives.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

8. How people hurt and hate: violence and bullying

Abstract
For many people in contemporary society, anger, violence and abuse are the emotional and physical context in which their lives, or some part of their lives, are led. From babies being shaken to political ‘dissidents’ being tortured, from being ridiculed by a teacher for poor work, to being treated as less worthy because of your skin colour, some of the various kinds of damage which are inflicted on individuals and communities will be considered here.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

9. How people age and die: disengagement, disruption and loss

Abstract
Significant transformations taking place within our society have led towards a diversity of experience for people entering older age. Older people are not all the same, they are not a homogeneous group, but the social experiences of those individuals entering a particular age cohort through much of the twentieth century tended to be similar. These individual and social experiences have changed in more recent decades and socio-cultural shifts in society continue to transform the nature of older age, and also death and dying.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean

Concluding thoughts

Abstract
Knowing quite how to end a book such as this is something of a dilemma, in the sense that there are no specific conclusions, and if it is simply a summary that we opt for, each chapter already has those built in. Saying what you are going to do, doing it and saying what you did only goes so far. However, simply stopping at the end of Chapter 9 also seems a little brusque and a little unfinished. We have decided then to simply make a handful of what we hope are useful final points here in relation to how we think this book has developed psychosocial thinking, and what we hope you the reader might be able to make with that.
Liz Frost, Stuart McClean
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