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Healthy environments focus on positive change and development of mental and social health need to be consistent with human development, specifically child and adolescent development.  Especially it needs to take into account developmental psychology.  The simplest version of that is to be found in Erik Erikson's theory of developmental stages known as "The Eight Ages of Man.".  More recent authors have expanded and improved on Erikson's classic work, but Erikson's general outline remains well regarded and even if in error provides an example of our concern. 

We once had a client resident in a halfway house for recovering teen-aged male substance abusers.  The choice of this program was to follow a twelve-step design.  Their understanding of twelve-step work was flawless.  However they had no understanding of teenagers.  The good people managing the house kept trying to run it as they would run a halfway house for thirty or forty year old businessmen.  In Erikson's theory, the people operating the halfway house were failing to note that one of the tasks of adolescents is to form their own identity and avoid role confusion.  To give an example that avoids psychobabble, remember that some misbehavior by adolescents is developmentally appropriate.  The latter example does not mean that the halfway house should sanction violation of their rules, but it does mean that SOME KINDS of misbehavior should not be confused with relapse or pre-relapse behavior.  This halfway house treated any misbehavior or assertion of individual identity by any one resident as a basis for putting the entire house on lockdown (parents at home might call that grounding).  This was inconsistent with respecting the residents' developmental stages or the basic facts of human development.   Some of the same behaviors in a community of thirty or forty somethings would have warranted a very strong response. 

Developmental sensitivity needs to take into account several possibly different factors that arise from Erikson's theories and those of more recent researchers.  First, as suggested by the above example, they must take into account the expected developmental stages for the actual chronological ages of the students / clients.  However, many students /clients will be delayed in their psychosocial development or will have resolved an earlier stage negatively. When an early developmental stage is resolved negatively (in Erikson's terms that might involve an adolescent who would hopefully be working on Identity vs. Role Confusion, but had, as a younger child resolved Autonomy vs. Doubt in the negative.  It will be very difficult for that adolescent to form a positive identity without going back and working with the earlier stage and developing a healthy sense of autonomy. 

Or the person might simply be stuck at a younger developmental age.  Have you ever heard the expression "sixteen going on six?"   An adolescent behaving like a six year old won't suddenly behave like a sixteen year old without growing through seven, eight, nine, etc. in steps. 

Our guideline is simple, once the basics of developmental psychology are understood. We want schools and programs function from an understanding of the psychosocial development of their students / clients and act accordingly. 

Checklist for guidelines to be developed

Feedback is invited. We will  publish selected feedback.  Email FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.

Last revised 10-05-08

 
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