application of theoretical and empirical work
The purpose of the final assignment is for the student to demonstrate mastery in the application of theoretical and empirical work relevant to the biological, cognitive, and psychosocial development of the individual at the later phase of adult life. Based on a face-to-face interview with a person 70 years of age or older, the student will submit a 15 page paper which includes:
1) A narrative of the person’s life with special attention to life events and experiences that were significant in his/her personality and lifespan development.
2) A critical analysis of the interviewee’s development which integrates the results of the narrative with theoretical and empirical work discussed in class, obtained from the class readings, and from external readings.
3) A final section reflecting on the personal and clinical insights gained as a result of conducting the interview and completing the analysis.
A supplemental reading will be distributed to assist you in completing the assignment:
Garthwait, C. (2007). A century in review: A decade-by-decade social and historical timeline. In E.L. Csikai and B. Jones (Eds). Teaching resources for end-of-life and palliative care courses (pp. 18-31). Chicago: Lyceum Books, Inc.
Selection of the Interviewee
Do not choose a family member or a close friend of the family for this assignment. Similarly, do not use a family member of a friend or colleague. Do not choose a professor at the USC School of Social Work. The interviewee may be a neighbor, coworker, fellow church member, casual acquaintance, or anyone else who is 70 years of age or older and is willing to volunteer for the interview. The interview must be face-to-face. Mailing or e-mailing questions to the interviewee and asking him/her to return the answers to you is not acceptable. Please use a pseudonym in the paper to protect the confidentiality of the person.
For the first part of this assignment, introduce the interview subject and present the “story” of the person’s life. The story can be told chronologically according to life stages (e.g., early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, adulthood, later adulthood) or can be organized by categories of life experiences (e.g., significant relationships, work/career, major accomplishments, etc).
The interview should be guided by — but is not limited to — the following domains of inquiry:
1. Significant life events and their influence on bio-psycho-social development across the life course
2. Ways in which life events and normative transitions were experienced (e.g., How the person coped with a family member’s death, and what factors were at play that affected their ability to either adaptively or maladaptive work through the event).
3. Significant relationships in various life stages—and the quality of those relationships.
4. Significant changes in biological/physiological/cognitive function and growth and the ways these have affected development.
5. Goals, values, beliefs that have been important to the person.
6. Successes and areas of pleasure, joy, and satisfaction.
7. Disappointments and areas of pain and distress.
8. Plans for the future.
9. Response to the aging process as a whole. What are the client’s ideas
about what “getting older” means?
10. Signs of successful aging and coping with life’s ups and downs.
11. How has culture, gender, sexual orientation, etc., affected the client’s
experience of and views of aging?
Sample Interview Questions: The following is a list of sample questions that you can use as a way to get the interview started, to probe for more information, to start a new topic of discussion, etc.:
1. What is the first thing you remember in your life?
2. What were you like as a child?
3. What was your family like? Who did you "take after"?
4. What were your relationships with your parents like?
5. Who were the important people in your life? Tell me about them.
6. Did you experience any losses in childhood? Later in your life? How did you deal with these difficulties?
7. What important events did you experience in childhood through adulthood (late adulthood)?
8. How did the neighborhood in which you grew up influence you?
9. Did you ever have to make a life-changing decision?
10. What has parenting been like for you?
11. Have you ever had any serious illnesses or injuries?
12. Have you been discriminated against or limited in your life chances because of
who you are?
13. Do you have a personal philosophy? How did it develop? Has it changed over
14. If you had a chance to live life over, would you take it? Why (why not?)
Tips: Explain the purpose of the interview to the person, how it will be used, and how confidentially will be guaranteed. Ask for a private place where you can conduct the interview. Be an active and courteous listener. Keep in mind that the interview is not simply a question and answer period, but rather a conversation about the person’s life. Many persons feel they benefit from telling their own stories. Be aware that sensitive information may be elicited during the interview. If this occurs, be empathetic. Ask if the person is okay and if she/he wishes to continue. You can always take a break or reschedule. Once you’ve completed the interview, be sure to thank the person for helping you to complete the assignment and for sharing his/her life with you.
The narrative should be 4 pages, double-spaced.
The second section of the assignment is a critical analysis of the person’s life. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your ability to critically analyze this person’s “case”. Going beyond listing or merely describing theoretical concepts, the analysis should include applications from at least 3 different theories, frameworks, and/or developmental perspectives which may help to explain patterns of bio-psycho-social functioning in the person’s life (e.g., how the quality of childhood attachments influenced later intimate relationships). Be sure to incorporate a discussion of relevant issues of diversity, such as gender, poverty, ethnicity, immigrant status, acculturation level, sexual orientation, religion, physical ability, etc., and how they may have influenced the person’s development. Address specific ways in which the various theoretical concepts you have chosen are useful in your analysis, supporting your claims with case material. Note points at which the person’s development seems to be in accord with — or different from –theories and frameworks presented in the HBSE sequence, particularly SOWK 505 which focuses on development throughout stages of adulthood.
The critical analysis should be 10 pages, double-spaced.
The third section of the assignment is a reflection on personal and clinical insights gained from the experience of completing the assignment. What assumptions did you have coming into the interview and how were those confirmed or disconfirmed? How did the interview experience affect your view of older adults and the aging process? In what ways were you personally changed or challenged as a result of having conducted the interview? How has your understanding of clinical terms such as “starting where the client is”, client self-determination, person-in-environment, and the client’s perspective changed? What insights have you gained about the ways in which people integrate and make meaning of their life experiences?
The personal reflection should be 1 pages, double-spaced.
Academic Paper Guidelines
The paper should be 15 pages in length (not counting the title page or reference list), double-spaced, with 1-inch margins on all sides (12-font). Insert page numbers with the first page of the text labeled as page 1. Use subheadings (in bold font) to organize your paper. Throughout the paper, provide conceptual and empirical evidence to support your arguments, referencing a minimum of 10 scholarly works (at least 3 of which must be outside sources not on either of the HBSE syllabi). Use editorial and referencing styles as specified in the APA Publication Manual 6th Edition (https://apastyle.apa.org/ ).
The title page should be formatted as follows:
The evaluation of the paper will be based on whether you addressed all aspects of the assignment, the appropriate use of the theoretical concepts you have chosen, the strength of your analysis, the quality of your written work (graduate level writing, organization, flow, clarity, depth, mechanics of writing such as grammar, spelling, etc.), and the correct application of APA style. Avoid citing from only one source to support entire sections of your paper. Avoid using direct quotes from source material (except from your interview) to make your points.
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