Developmental Theory

Developmental Theory


Theories of human development look at how human cognition and behavior change over time. They contribute a wealth of knowledge to the social work field and provide explanations for different phenomena. Among the two major theories of human development are Levinson’s Theory of Life Structure and disengagement Theory. Daniel Levinson’s theory of life structure defines adulthood as a time period of surging stress and stability demonstrated by changes that happen at particular times in a person’s lifespan (Hutchison, 2019). According to the theorist, adulthood has a life pattern or structure that comprises of a person’s relationships, social dealings, and work-life. The disengagement theory outlines the disengagement from social life as a process that human beings experience as they become elderly and age. According to the theory, over time, people tend to disengage from and withdraw from the relationships and social roles that were critical in their adulthood life. The two theories provide assumptions concerning human behavior, account for influences of social privilege and social oppression, and influence social practice in many ways.


Levinson’s Theory of Life Structure


Daniel Levinson was a psychologist and theorist focusing his time to investigate the adulthood process and the changes it creates in people’s life. He developed his theory of life structure based on interviews with adults from both male gander and later included women. From his theory, he came up with the concept of life structure which meant an outcome that results from particular choices and decisions made in a person’s lifespan in areas such as occupation, relationships, and childbearing (Aktu & Ilhan, 2017). Levinson considered the age range 17 to 33 as the novice stage of adulthood. The theory postulates that as people transition into young adulthood, they begin to leave behind adolescent behaviors and start making the right choices concerning their careers, relationships, and spirituality. When individuals reach 30, they transition out of this face which is marked by significant changes in life course trajectory and life structure.

Major Assumptions about Human Behavior

Levinson’s theory of life structure provides significant assumptions concerning human development. According to the theorist, human development is affected by different seasons in life. He stressed two reappearing periods in life including the stable and transitional periods. The former is a time when individuals make significant choices in life. The theory articulates that human development occurs in a structure or pattern marked by seven stages (Aktu & Ilhan, 2017). Each stage is a developmental period with different behavioral characteristics and cognitive thoughts.

From age 17 to 22 people’s personalities continue developing as they prepare to differentiate financially, geographically, and emotionally. The development process in adulthood is based on two significant domains including relationships and work (Hutchison, 2019). Levinson articulates that it can take up to 15 years for some people to adult to the transition process into adulthood and embrace the normal adult life structure. There are also societal and cultural concepts that may affect a person’s life structure choices. Some of these concepts include socioeconomic status, availability of role models, parental expectations, peer group, and community pressures, and neighborhood conditions. These aspects may contribute to people’s decisions of getting married, having children, getting a job, and building a career.

How Levinson’s Theory Accounts for the Influences of Social Privilege and Social Oppression

Levinson’s theory assumes that adulthood life structure is influenced by significant social structures this includes social privilege and oppression. Social privilege includes high income, better education opportunities, safe neighborhoods, and adequate food while social oppression includes discrimination, lack of education, food and shelter, insecurity, and lack of important services (Hutchison, 2019). These factors significantly influence how people transition into adulthood period.  Social oppression directly or indirectly limits a people’s access to choices in life which may rigidify the life structure of an individual. Social privilege is significant in opening people’s opportunities for better employment, education, and relationships.

Young adults with social privilege tend to have a safe environment that enables them to have effective development throughout the adulthood stages (Hutchison, 2019). On the other hand, young adults in social oppression tend to have poor development due to a lack of resources and poor environmental conditions. For instance, an individual from a wealthy household with privileges will get all the resources including adequate food, good schools, and family care to help them have a better life structure as they transition through the adulthood stages. However, an individual from an oppressive society or poor household will lack many resources as he or she transitions through the adulthood stages and this will lead to mental health issues, disability, illnesses, and other problems.

How Levinson’s theory influences my social work practice

Levinson’s theory provides me with a framework and valuable resource from which I can approach the treatment of different problems affecting people as they transition through different stages in adulthood. Some of the major problems that people experience during adulthood include mental health problems, substance abuse, and social problems like domestic violence and divorce. Looking at the kinds of things they can do during the adulthood period, and their strengths, I can effectively help individuals navigate through their life structure and come up with effective ways to solve their problems (Hutchison, 2019). Levinson’s theory of life structure is supported by significant empirical evidence concerning the adulthood period which will help me develop some therapeutic strategies. It also provides me with a framework from which I can view the interpersonal problems affecting adults and the most applicable problems for training that will help me address the problems. By using Levinson’s theory in my practice, I can easily understand the behavioral problems affecting adults at any stage and align my intervention started with their desires and needs. During sessions, I can also link people’s thoughts to the behavior that occurs in their adulthood stages.

Disengagement theory


Disengagement theory postulates that as individuals’ transition into late adulthood, they begin to withdraw from certain social roles that were significant during their young and late adulthood. They gradually become self-preoccupied and decrease their social interactions. This model was constructed by Elaine and Cumming Warren Earl Henry in the book Growing Old (Hutchison, 2019). The theory became the first theory about aging that was developed by social scientists. In their book, the theorists developed a logical argument that provided reasons why people disengaged from society when they approach late adulthood.

Disengagement theory also articulates that it is satisfactory and normal for old people to disengage from social relationships and societal roles as they grow old (Zaidi & Howse, 2017). Disengagement theory is critical since it demonstrates the disengagement process as beneficiary and necessary since it enables the social system to remain ordered and stable.

Major Assumptions about Human Behavior

Disengagement theory provides major assumptions concerning human development by offering a set of steps that outline how the disengagement process happens and why it is beneficial and critical to society. First individuals tend to lose social ties to people close to them since their abilities to engage in social activities diminish with time and they expect death. As old people disengage, they are significantly freed from social norms guiding social interactions (Asiamah, 2017). Losing touch with these norms fuels and reinforces the disengagement process. As a result of different social roles, the process of disengagement between men and women tends to be different. The disengagement process is also majorly contributed by a person’s desire to damage their reputation by losing abilities and skills while they can still engage in societal roles. Young adults are simultaneously trained to develop skills and knowledge needed to take the roles of older adults who have disengaged. When old adults disengage, they adopt new social roles to avoid suffering identity crises and becoming demoralized. Society also allows them to disengage to satisfy the needs of their families, create more jobs for young adults and since old adults are about to die (Hutchison, 2019). Due to these aspects, Henry and Cummings suggested that old people become happy when they fully accept and willingly embrace the disengagement process.

How Disengagement Theory Accounts for the Influences of Social Privilege and Social Oppression

Disengagement theory demonstrates social oppression and social privilege by highlighting how disengagement affects different groups of old people to different extents. Social privilege during late adulthood includes access to better health care services, having residential homes, better family care, a safe environment, and sufficient money for upkeep. On the other hand, social oppression includes lack of proper healthcare, homelessness, disparaged neighborhoods, and lack of money for basic needs. The assumption is that late adulthood involves several struggles in a person’s life which makes the person fully disengage from social roles (Zaidi & Howse, 2017). Thus, this makes social oppression and social privilege have a significant impact on the disengagement process. For example, old people who experience social oppression may fail to have positive disengagement during their late adulthood period and this may lead to health problems, isolation, depression, lack of care, and eventually an early death. If an individual has the social privilege during middle and late adulthood, they are likely to effectively and fully disengage from social roles. For instance, an old adult with residential home and proper family care may feel peaceful and contented with life when he or she disengages compared to a homeless old adult. If old adults have a strong sense of belonging to their residential environment, they will have a sense of well-being and autonomy as well as a more positive disengagement process.

How Disengagement Theory Influences my Social Work Practice

Disengagement theory can significantly impact my social work practice, especially when dealing with older adults who fail to have positive disengagement due to different mental health problems. Since there is clear evidence of the feedback loop between biological, psychological, and sociological processes, the disengagement process during late adulthood is no longer a “model” but a necessary “way” for understanding mental health symptoms affecting old adults (Asiamah, 2017). Everything else is a specialization to better understand each dimension of the disorder, but for an effective application, it must be integrated with the other dimensions for it to make therapeutic sense. Disengagement theory gives me an understanding of how different hold adults disengage during late adulthood and the causes of negative disengagement. From this, I can view their disengagement process as “normal” when it is appropriate. Many families may fail to notice the problems affecting old adults who fail to disengage positively. As a social worker, I must educate families concerning the disengagement process and how they can effectively help their elderly as they transition into late adulthood.


In conclusion, both Levinson’s theory of life structure and Disengagement theory provide a comprehensive understanding of human development. Levinson’s theory shows how adulthood is a process with a certain life structure comprising of a person’s relationships, social roles, and occupational life. Disengagement theory provides the reasons why people cut relationship ties and decrease their social interactions during late adulthood.  Both theories significantly indicate how social privilege and social oppression influence people’s lives. They also provide different influences in my social work practice. Generally, the theories help individuals understand the aspect of human development and how their behaviors are influenced by different aspects of life.








Aktu, Y., & Ilhan, T. (2017). Individuals’ Life Structures in the Early Adulthood Period Based on Levinson’s Theory. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice17(4), 1383-1403. ISSN-1303-0485

Asiamah, N. (2017). Social engagement and physical activity: Commentary on why the activity and disengagement theories of aging may both be valid. Cogent Medicine, 4(1), 1289664.

ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Hutchison, E. D. (2019). Dimensions of human behavior: The changing life course (6th

Zaidi, A., & Howse, K. (2017). The policy discourse of active aging: Some reflections. Journal of Population Ageing10(1), 1. DOI 10.1007/s12062-017-9174-6.

Homework Essay Paper Writers
Calculate your order
Pages (550 words)
Approximate price: -

Why Choose Us

Top Quality and Well-Researched Papers

Top Quality and Well-Researched Papers

We always confirm that writers follow all of your instructions precisely. you'll choose your academic level: highschool, college/university or professional, Your order will be assigned to a writer who possesses a respective degree.

Highly Experienced Paper Writers

Highly Experienced Paper Writers

Our team of professional academic writers has years of vast experience in academic writing, research, and formatting. So you can always be sure that your project is in safe hands.

Free Revisions Essay Writing

Free Unlimited Revisions

If you believe we missed something, feel free to send your order for a free revision. After receipt of the final document, You have 10 days to submit the order for review. A revision can be submitted by logging into your personal account or by contacting our support team.

Timely Assignment Delivery

Timely Delivery and 100% Money-Back-Guarantee

We ensure that all papers are always delivered on the expected time. In any case, if we require more time to polish your paper, we may contact you regarding the deadline extension. In case you are not in a position to allocate additional time, a 100% order refund is guaranteed.

Plagiarism free custom writing

Plagiarism free & Confidential

As part of our quality assurance process, we use several writing tools and checks to ensure that all documents you receive are 100% unique and original.Each paper undergoes careful review by our editors to deliver plagiarism free essays. We also guarantee maximum confidentiality in all of our services.

Real time chat essay writer

Real time online chat with your writer

Our writers and support agents are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week to assist you. We are committed to providing you with top-notch customer experience. Chat with us anytime.

Try it now!

Calculate the price of your order

Total price:

How it works?

Get your paper done in these simple steps

give essay topic

Give your requirements

Fill in the order form and tell us about your assignment, instructions and deadline

pay for essay

Proceed with the payment

Choose your preferred payment method and the writer will start writing your custom paper.

download custom essay

Download the final file

Once your high quality custom paper is ready, we will email it to you.

Our Paper Writing Services

We are here to ensure you dont get stuck with your coursework and assignments. Focus on your hobbies and enjoy some quality leisure time as we write your paper. You can trust our kinds of writing services.

essay writing service essay helper


Essay Writing Service

Stuck with an essay assignment? Making an admission application? We specialize in writing high quality and engaging personal statements as well as application essays. Our professional academic essay writers are experts in writing 100% original essays according to order specifications. From compositions, creative writing to literary analysis we've got you covered.

professional assignment Help assignment writer


Professional assignment Help

Your routine homework and academic assignments are completed on time and at affordable prices. Submit your assignments and the respective subject matter expert will get it done within no time and painlessly. Better grades will be yours without any stress at all!

research paper writing service english essay writer


Research and Term Papers

Every member of our dynamic essay writing team is an expert in academic research. They are all well versed with APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard citation formats. Your research paper gets to you fully formatted and ready to be submitted. The research involved in writing your paper is always 100% original. This is part of our commitment to provide you with papers free of plagiarism.

custom writing academic writer

Custom Writing

Custom Writing Services

Our highly experienced business, nursing, and psychology writers are true professionals with vast prowess at delivering outstanding work in a wide range of fields. You dont have to worry about Short deadlines anymore. Just give us the instructions and you'll receive your custom paper ASAP! We have fully qualified, full-pro writers on stand by to assist you.