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A theory can be defined as a set of interrelated ideas or concepts that is used to make explanations
about a certain phenomenon. Theory in social work is about how we relate to others and how we
make sure that we are providing effective services. Through understanding and applying theory to
social work practice social workers’ work with clients become far more effective and person centred.
Generally, a theory helps to explain a situation and perhaps how it came about. In science, a theory is
seen as helping to:
 Describe (e.g.: what is happening?)
 Explain (e.g.: why is it happening?)
 Predict (e.g.: what is likely to happen next?)
A theory is an essential ingredient in practice that guides the way in which social workers view and
approach individuals, groups, communities and society. Theory helps to predict, explain and assess
situations and behaviours, and provide a rationale for how the social worker should react and
intervene with clients who have particular histories, problems or goals. As interrelated concepts, a
theory often informs social workers as to the type of method they should use with clients in certain
situations. A theory assists social workers in understanding various situations, difficulties, behaviours
and experiences of different kinds of clients.
The function of social work theory
Why should social workers utilize theory in practice? Theories assist social workers in understanding,
explaining or making sense of situations or behaviours and in understanding into what might have
occurred in the past or might occur in the future regarding a client. In work with individuals, making
use of the theories which may relate to their specific situation will give a social worker more direction
in their work with clients.
Social workers have a professional and ethical responsibility to observe, assess, interact and intervene
with clients and their environments in a way that is based on theories and methods shown to be
credible and in alignment with social work values.

Theories that are utilized in social work practice are to be reliable and effective, which is usually
established through quantitative and qualitative research. Social workers should critically assess,
evaluate and reflect on their own practice and implementation of theories in social work situations in
order to determine what works, what does not work, or what needs modified, adjusted or maintained
for future situations. This process enables the social worker to utilize theories that are found to be the
most appropriate and effective for the current client and situation.

An effective social worker should be knowledgeable and familiar with various theories that can be
applied in social work and in particular client with a particular problem so as to know which theories
to combine in order to solve the problem or problems.

Some of the theories applicable in social work include:
This theory was developed by Sigmund Freud a psychiatrist who lived in Austria and is believed to be
the grandfather of modern psychology. He believed that human beings are motivated to act because of
a force that he called instinct. An instinct refers to all the innate (inborn) needs, desires, drives,
wishes etc. that an individual have.
He argued that human beings have 2 kinds of instincts: the life instinct (eros) and the death instinct
(thanatos). Life instincts are responsible for pleasures (what Freud referred to as libidos) seeking
activities of an individual. An individual who is friendly, helpful, empathetic, warm, approachable etc.

a. b. The Ego is the judgement portion of the personality. violent and can harm those around him or her. think of the Id as a spoiled child. The Id is focused on the wants and needs of a person. A person with a well developed ego may feel guilty when doing something against their moral code. These two instincts can occur with the same intensity and the individual becomes happy and sad at the same time. It includes the thoughts and feelings of a person. ego. aggressive and friendly at the same time etc. It hosts the Id materials and it is concerned with pleasure seeking activities and avoiding pain. destructive. he or she will be concerned about the comfort of others. Freud also argued that human personality has three parts namely the id. he or she becomes aggressive. c. Freud argued that both these instincts exist in an individual at the same time. The Superego has the ability to reward by feelings of acceptance and self love. to learn. and aims at achieving pleasure and avoiding pain. and punish by feelings of guilt and shame. The Superego is the bridge by which tempers the Id and Ego. The instinct with the strongest energy at that time is the one that can be expressed. c. Freud also argued that human beings have three levels of awareness ((the ability to perceive stimuli from internal and external environments): a. Death instincts are represented by aggressive. There are three kinds of anxiety: reality. and unfriendly and exposes others to harm. neurotic. While the Id worked around the pleasure principle. and sees the world as it should be. the ego and the superego. the Ego works as the reality principle. The level of anxiety depends on the degree of danger. is a state of tension which motivates us to action. The Superego makes decisions if things are right or wrong. according to Freud. Mortal anxiety is the fear of one’s own conscience. The Ego is the opposite of the Id. The Ego is a sort of ‘traffic cop’. The conscious-it is the part of the mind we are aware of. which focuses on morality and justice. destructive. If ero is directed within the individual. It is the thinking part of the human brain that helps us to be aware. The Id is not rational. To make things easier. The Id is present from birth. the individual engages in deliberate harming activities to the self such as committing suicide. who controls how to best operate. The Ego works against the Id and tries to control the Id’s impulses. Anxiety-Anxiety. and mortal. and punish themselves. It evaluates instincts to see whether they are beneficial to the self before they are satisfied or gratified. Anxiety warns of awaiting danger. If thanatos is directed towards the individual. If it is directed away from the individual. If the thanatos is directed away from the individual.would be said to be expressing the life instinct. Neurotic anxiety occurs when a person fears they will do something by which they will be punished. to perceive stimuli. then he is said to be expressing the thanatos. The preconscious-it is the part that hosts the ego’s and superego’s materials and it functions on the reality principle. The Id does not care about consequences. It develops as a conflict between the id. and does not care how its wants are obtained. and superego. The Id is the first portion of the personality to develop. hostile activities of a human behaviour. The purpose of the Superego is to provide a balance so both sides are at an equilibrium. to acquire knowledge etc. where babies only care about their needs being met. . the individual becomes responsible for his survival. If an individual is abusive. violent. The unconscious –it is the largest part of the human mind and it functions on the pleasure principle. b. The two instincts can be either be directed to an individual or away from an individual. who uses intellect to gain order within a situation. who cries if they do not get what they want. Reality anxiety deals with threats from the external world.

For example. In this defense mechanism a person tries to become like someone else to deal with anxiety. a person who is not a good player. For example. Compensation: Compensation is also called as substitution. g. c.: a. Thus. a person who is a drug addict denies being a drug addict. For example. a person who is very aggressive becomes a professional cricket player. Sublimation : It is considered as the most complete and successful of all defense mechanisms. . he may not express his anger towards his mother due to social restriction. It is the transformation of sexual and aggressive urges into creative work into socially acceptable directions. In this defense mechanism a person makes up for inferiorities in one area by becoming superior in another area. j. it is the form of channeling socially unacceptable impulses and urges into socially acceptable behaviour. Denial : It is a type of defense mechanism in which the person refuses to acknowledge a threatening situation. Identification: It is a mechanism which is very often used by normal people. It is the most primitive form of defense mechanism. i. In this defense mechanism the discharge of an unconscious impulse by shifting from one original object to a substitute takes place. The defense mechanisms below are normal. he may put all his energises to become a good academician.Defense Mechanisms . the ego has developed defense mechanisms. d. e. f. it refers to the substitution of a socially approved motive for a socially disapproved one. In other words. To keep the Ego from collapse. Rationalization: It is the invention of unconsciously acceptable motives by the ego to cover up those unconscious motives which it cannot accept. It is commonly used by everyone. the ego can become overwhelmed. Projection is a form of defense mechanisms by which one transfers the blame of his own shotcomings. For example. For example. a person who gives a lot of donation to charity may consider himself to be a very generous but in fact he is motivated by guilty conscience. Regression: It is a form of defense mechanism in which a person falls back on child like patterns of responding in reaction to stressful situation. instead putting those events in to the unconscious mind. h. Repression is a defense mechanism in which the person refuses to consciously remember a threatening or unacceptable event. It refers to a state where an adult behaves like a child. but may do so by breaking his doll into pieces. For example. Reaction formation is the development of behaviour which is opposite to the unconscious desires of the person. For example. Displacement: Displacement is commonly found in dreams of normal adults. It implies that redirecting feelings from a threatening target to a less threatening one. a student may identify himself with a bachelor professor whose qualities he may like. In this type defense mechanism a person invents acceptable excuses for a unacceptable behaviour. Reaction Formation: It is the defense mechanism by which a person forms an opposite emotional or behavioural reaction one‟s true feelings. For example.With the presence of anxiety. Repression: It is a primary defense mechanism and it is a direct method of dealing with anxiety. mistakes and misdeeds to others and attributes to others his own unacceptable thoughts. a child may be angry with his mother. For example. a six year old baby starts wetting his bed after his parents bring home a new baby. b. a person is very angry but overtly he may state that he is not angry by showing smiles. Projection: The literal meaning of projection is “throwing out”. In the process of compensation a person tries to maintain balance of his weaknesses by overemphasizing strengths in other areas. a lady is attributed to her friend‟s husband but denies this and believes the friend‟s husband is attracted to her. For example. a person who was sexually abused as a child can not able to remember the incident because bad memory has got repressed inside. and are often experienced by a majority of people.

This often occurs during years three through six. have perfectionism. sometimes messy and sometimes too clean. lasting until death. drinking alcohol. During this period the child learns independence and personal power. This is a period where a child will likely form their sexual identity. and ends at puberty. PSYCHOSOCIAL THEORY OF ERIK ERIKSON . the various defense mechanisms are used to resolve conflict and the person would have able to maintain a balanced personality. excessive use of defense mechanism is dangerous for the ego. easy to fool and overly dependent on others. it is known as the Oedipus complex. Erikson viewed that ego development occurs through one’s life time. where the child becomes potty trained. however a person can become stuck at a specific stage. the child receives both the nutrition and love it needs. school. According to Erikson each stage involves a “crisis” in personality – that is important at that time and will remain an issue to some degree throughout the rest of life. called fixation. fear. For boys. As Erikson mentioned different stages of human development. Children can resolve this crisis to acquire the virtue of purpose.  Oral Stage: Occurring during the first year of life. they must continue to believe.Erik Erikson (1902 – 1994) was a German born psychoanalyst. loss of love and relationship difficulties. A child who does not successfully complete this stage may feel inferior. possibly resulting in mistrust of others. the genital stage begins with a reawaking of sexual energy. Resolution requires balancing a positive trait and a .  Genital Stage: Beginning. a pioneer in a life span perspective. When the ego of the individual is threatened. Children can then develop into adults who combine spontaneous enjoyment of life with a sense of responsibility. people use to overcome their unpleasant experiences. fixation. guilt is a conflict children face between their urge to form and carry out goals. Defense mechanisms are generally learned by the person during childhood.  Phallic Stage: The child first begins to discover sexual desires. Erikson‟s last stage is ego-integrity. Initiative vs. disorganized. the child receives oral gratification by sucking at its mother’s breast. However. These stages occur in order. Those who cannot resolve this crisis may become repressed. By doing so. 2. where the child experiences unconscious desires for the opposite sex parent. and depend on others instead of themselves. The virtue of this stage is wisdom. Interests in friends. In each stage there is the balancing of a positive tendency and a corresponding negative one. Freud’s Psychosexual Stages Freud devised a series of stages by which a person enters at specific points in development. naive  Anal Stage: The anal stage occurs during the second and third years of live.  Latency Stage: With the trauma of the phallic stage over. People also fixated in this stage may develop some oral personalities different from others such as smoking. biting nails and they can be pessimistic. crisis is very typical of each stage and resolution of it is a must. and socialization are the main drives here. This stage often begins at six. The genital stage is the final stage. Erikson defines it as the courage to envisage and pursue valued goals. Children who do not bond with a parent or ones who do not receive proper nutrition may become orally fixated. they feel guilty. The sense of right and wrong morality emerges as a result of identification with the parents.Besides the above mentioned defense mechanisms there are some other mechanisms like isolation. the child moves from sexual desires to ones of belonging and acceptance from others. Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development covers eight stages across the life span. When they fail to reach their goals. fantasy. This often resolves itself through wanting love and acceptance from the opposite sex parent. If initiative dominates. and for girls it is known as the Electra complex. The child may also possess anxiety or fear from the same sex parent. at puberty. etc. .

and self esteem inadequate. 3 3 to 5 Initiative versus Guilt If preschoolers If preschoolers fail years Preschoolers are challenged to succeed in taking responsibility. independent blocked. they develop a sense of competence incompetent. they learn to be independent are their own behaviour. such they feel capable and develop responsibility. competence arising from their and effort. they learn year Babies learn to trust or mistrust life to be pleasant. and behaviour patterns. not to trust. and a feeling of arising from their work inferior. themselves become confused attitudes. want to inconspicuously blend in the crowd . 5 Adoles Identity versus Role confusion Adolescents who succeed in Adolescents cence Adolescents are faced with defining who they are and find a who fail to define deciding who or what they want to role for their identity be in terms of occupation. a feeling of they feel knowledge. they learn self-doubt and shame for being unsuccessful. 2 1 to 3 Autonomy versus Shame and If toddlers are successful in If toddlers’ attempts years Doubt directing their own at being old Toddlers realize that they can direct behaviour. 4 5 to 12 Industry versus Inferiority When children succeed a If children fail to years When children succeed in learning learning new skills. or identity. beliefs. old new skills and obtaining new a sense of industry. there will be imbalance and the conflict remains. a feeling of industry. they develop develop new ability. Hence. The table below presents the eight stages: - State/ Age Developmental Successful Unsuccessful Stage Stage Dealing with Dealing with Crisis Crisis 1 Birth Trust versus If babies’ needs are met. old others based on whether or not their needs such as food and comfort are met. anxious and guilty. the development of ego suffers. work and effort. corresponding negative trait. industry. as controlling their excitement initiative they feel when they are in a restaurant. Both are required for healthy development. If either of the two predominates. they If babies’ needs are to 1 Mistrust learn to trust people and expect not met. develop a strong sense of and withdraw. in taking old control their own behaviour. irresponsible.

young children are able to think about things symbolically. suffer from loneliness. and centered . and the infant has difficulty taking the viewpoint of others. this task will be ood adulthood is to be able to share who isolated from other they are with another person in a people and may close. . and feel community. sense of wholeness. productive. Cognitive development involves changes in cognitive process and abilities. He developed the following stages that children go through in their cognitive development: Level Stage Age Description Infancy Sensory motor Birth-2 Learning is through the senses. and self- Adulth productive. and acceptance of his or her life. person or event in order to think about it and also understand the cause-effect relationship. During this stage. people and events. Infants use stage years sensory and motor activities to understand The world. In Piaget's view. Based upon his observations. thereby benefiting nothing for the next themselves. 7 Middl Generativity versus Stagnation Adults who succeed in this Adults who fail will e The challenge is to be creative. and will fear death. 3. their life is empty tranquillity. spiritual. challenge will be be passive. generation.6 Early Intimacy versus Isolation People who succeed in this task Adults who fail at Adulth The task facing those in early will have intimate relationships. Thinking is still egocentric. PIAGET’S THEORY OF COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT Jean Piaget was born in Switzerland in 1896. After receiving his doctoral degree at age 22. 8 Late Ego Integrity versus Despair Elderly people who succeed in Elderly people who Adulth The issue is whether a person will addressing this issue will enjoy fail will feel that ood reach wisdom. Early child Preoperational 2-7 There is a great expansion in the use of symbolic hood stage of cognitive years thought. or representational ability. Piaget formally began a career that would have a profound impact on both psychology and education. But they are not development able to use logic. They develop the ability to classify objects. their family. life and not fear death. Piaget's stage theory describes the cognitive development of children. committed relationship. nurturant (nourishing and they have done caring). early cognitive development involves processes based upon actions and later progresses into changes in mental operations. Children can count and deal with quantities. and future generations. feel that ood next generation. In this stage children do not need to be in sensory motor contact with an object. Piaget developed an interest in the intellectual development of children. they simply think differently. that the world is no country. he concluded that children were not less intelligent than adults. better off for their being alive. and nurturant of the creative.

E. This means the child can work things out internally in their head (rather than physically try things out in the real world). Two other assumptions of this theory are that the environment shapes behavior and that taking internal mental states such as thoughts. In order to understand how more about how classical conditioning works. Classical conditioning b. it is important to be familiar with the basic principles of the process.g. Psychologists test whether something has been learnt by looking at behaviour. mass (age 7). Conservation is the understanding that something stays the same in quantity even though its appearance changes Late Formal 12 years The formal operational stage begins at approximately childhood Operational Stage and age eleven-twelve and lasts into adulthood. He does the same thing as the boy in the video. because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought. BASIC THEORIES OF LEARNING Learning is a permanent change in behaviour which is due to experience. We are going to look at three main behavioural theories of how we learn: a. . Piaget considered the concrete stage a major turning point in the child's cognitive development.Middle Concrete 7-12 In this period children can use mental operations to childhood operational stage years solve actual problems and they can think more logically. of categorisation of inductive and deductive reasoning and of conservation. During this over time. Social learning theory 1. They have developed abilities to use maps and models and to communicate spatial information improve with age. It's important to note that classical conditioning involves placing a neutral signal before a naturally occurring response. classical conditioning is a learning process that occurs through associations between an environmental stimulus and a naturally occurring response. Afterwards. Discovered by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. They have a better understanding of cause and effect relationship. and more logically. They can perform many tasks at a much higher level than before. It is concluded that he has learned the behaviour. a boy watches a video of a boy damaging toys. the neutral signal was the sound of a tone and the naturally occurring reflex was salivating in response to food. Operant conditioning c. feelings and emotions into consideration is useless in explaining behavior. In Pavlov's classic experiment with dogs. people develop the ability to think about abstract concepts. the boy is given the same type of dolls to play with. By associating the neutral stimulus with the environmental stimulus (the presentation of food). and weight (age 9). One of the best-known aspects of behavioral learning theory is classical conditioning. CLASSICAL CONDITIONING Behaviorism is a school of thought in psychology based on the assumption that learning occurs through interactions with the environment. the sound of the tone alone could produce the salivation response. This is because he is seen doing the same thing. Children can conserve number (age 6).

the sound would eventually trigger the conditioned response. for example. After repeating this several times (this repetition is called trials). For example.The conditioned response is the learned response to the previously neutral stimulus. Little Albert became frightened of the rat and indeed of other white furry things. if the sound of the whistle was paired multiple times with the smell. While the whistle is unrelated to the smell of the food. a thing or a situation with fear or anxiety. the white rat does not trigger fear but after several trials an association between the rat and the fear develops. Watson and Raynor found out that Little Albert was also fearful of a white rabbit and of cotton wool. This principle operates with some automatic responses. The Conditioned Stimulus. after becoming associated with the unconditioned stimulus. In our earlier example.The conditioned stimulus is previously neutral stimulus that. The classical conditioning process Stimulus Response The situation before conditioning starts rat no response Loud noises (UCS) fear (UCR) During trials rat + loud noise fear When conditioning has occurred rat (CS) fear The innate response (fear) is called the Unconditional response (UCR) because it is not learned. If Little Albert was able to play with the rat and there was no loud noise. the conditioned response would be feeling hungry when you heard the sound of the whistle. John Watson and Rosalind Raynor (1920) demonstrated the process of classical conditioning in an 11 month old boy called Little Albert. In our example. the smell of the food is the unconditioned stimulus. b. Someone who has been involved in a car accident may develop phobia of cars. naturally. . eventually comes to trigger a conditioned response. the sound of the whistle is the conditioned stimulus. this may influence our behaviour. of being in small places or of the particular street where it happened. Initially.  Extinction occurs when the conditional stimulus is presented without the unconditional stimulus. when you smell one of your favorite foods. such as salivation in dogs but not necessarily in humans. The Unconditioned Stimulus. The stimulus which causes the fear (loud noise) is called the unconditional stimulus (UCS). For example:  Phobias-a phobia is an irrational fear of something. In our example. In this case. The Unconditioned Response. a metal bar was struck close to him which frightened him. Little Albert developed a phobia about cotton wool. d.The unconditioned response is the unlearned response that occurs naturally in response to the unconditioned stimulus. you may immediately feel very hungry. and the fear response is now called the conditional response (CR).The unconditioned stimulus is one that unconditionally. The rat is the conditional stimulus (CS). Classical conditioning and human behaviour If we have learned to associate a person. e. c. suppose that when you smelled your favorite food. and automatically triggers a response. While ‘Little Albert’ was playing happily with a white rat. so Little Albert had learned the fear response to the rat. In this example. you also heard the sound of a whistle. Further research on classical conditioning has shown that:  Generalization occurs when a similar stimulus also triggers a response. the feeling of hunger in response to the smell of food is the unconditioned response. The Conditioned Response. eventually his fear response would be extinguished.

As a behaviorist. Application of Classical Conditioning There are various applications for classical conditioning. This potential for punishment may lead to a decrease in disruptive behaviors. with pleasant surroundings helps the student learn new associations.  Discipline-if a girl sees a parent being angry because she did something wrong. In these examples. Components of Operant Conditioning Some key concepts in operant conditioning: Reinforcement is any event that strengthens or increases the behavior it follows. avoid driving at night if had experienced an accident at night etc. observable causes of human behavior. such as performing in front of a group. by avoiding the cause of fear. Pairing an anxiety-provoking situation. In situations that reflect positive reinforcement. a response or behavior is strengthened by the addition of something. There are two kinds of reinforcers:  Positive reinforcers are favorable events or outcomes that are presented after the behavior.  These techniques are also useful in the treatment of phobias or anxiety problems. which is why you may occasionally hear it referred to as Skinnerian conditioning. 2. Instead of feeling anxious and tense in these situations.  Avoidance-we avoid experiences which we have learnt to associate with fear and anxiety e. Teachers are able to apply classical conditioning in the class by creating a positive classroom environment to help students overcome anxiety or fear. such as praise or a direct reward. the promise or possibility of rewards causes an increase in behavior. For example. Skinner used the term operant to refer to any "active behavior that operates upon the environment to generate consequences" (1953). . however. a child may be told they will lose recess privileges if they talk out of turn in class. or employees finishing projects to receive praise or promotions. he suggested. this creates anxiety.F. For example. OPERANT CONDITIONING Operant conditioning (sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning) is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior.  Classical conditioning can be used to increase the amount of a behavior. there is no opportunity for fearful responses to become extinguished. but operant conditioning can also be used to decrease a behavior. Operant conditioning was coined by behaviorist B. Consider the case of children completing homework to earn a reward from a parent or teacher. an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. In other words. the child will learn to stay relaxed and calm. Skinner. Examples of Operant Conditioning We can find examples of operant conditioning at work all around us. Through operant conditioning. The child’s anxiety may become conditioned to the parent’s facial expression. The removal of an undesirable outcome or the use of punishment can be used to decrease or prevent undesirable behaviors. Skinner's theory explained how we acquire the range of learned behaviors we exhibit each and every day. we should look only at the external. Skinner believed that internal thoughts and motivations could not be used to explain behavior. Instead.g. so that just a look of anger may be sufficient to warn the child that she is doing something wrong. but it can also be used to decrease behavior.

In both of these cases of reinforcement. also known as punishment by removal. In these situations. Punishment. occurs when an favorable event or outcome is removed after a behavior occurs e. the behavior increases. removal of canning to a child that abuses oth. the behavior decreases.  Reproduction: Once you have paid attention to the model and retained the information. on the other hand. Bandura argued that people can learn new information and behaviours by watching other people. a response is strengthened by the removal of something considered unpleasant. This is known as observational learning (or modelling). involves the presentation of an unfavorable event or outcome in order to weaken the response it follows e. SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY The social learning theory was proposed by Albert Bandura (a Canadian) in the 1950s.  Negative punishment. 3. is the presentation of an adverse event or outcome that causes a decrease in the behavior it follows. Some other children were exposed to an adult who was not violent to the doll and when given it. There are two kinds of punishment:  Positive punishment.  Negative reinforcers involve the removal of an unfavorable events or outcomes after the display of a behavior. TV programmes.g. it is time to actually perform the behaviour you observed. The observation learning/Modelling Process According to Bandura.g. the modelling or observational learning process goes through the following stages:  Attention: In order to learn. Bandura came up with the argument that people learn through observation. in order for observational learning to be successful. canning a child for abusing another. He used some children in the experiment who observed an adult (model) being violent to the doll and when the children were given the doll to play with it.  Retention: The ability to store information is also an important part of the learning process. In both of these cases of punishment.  Motivation: Finally. He concluded therefore that children learn and imitate behaviours they have observed in other people. sometimes referred to as punishment by application. they also never became aggressive and violent towards it. Further practice of the learned behaviour leads to improvement and skill advancement. People especially those who are exposed to violent movies. you need to be paying attention. Children who were abused in childhood tend to become abusive adults while those boys that have experienced their fathers being violent to them and their mothers tend to become violent husbands and fathers. This type of learning can be used to explain a wide variety of behaviours. they began to imitate the aggressive actions they had previously observed. Anything that detracts your attention is going to have a negative effect on observational learning. and video games are more violent and aggressive that those who are not and hence parents are encouraged not to allow their children be exposed to such materials for them to be less aggressive. It has become perhaps the most influential theory of learning and development. you have to be motivated to . He carried out an experiment which he called the bobo doll experiment.

2. Bandura concluded that: 1. 4. Reinforcement (rewarding) and punishment play an important role in motivation. This theory is best used by social development workers in many instances:  To solve aggression among people especially children as the workers may be able to understand the cause of the aggression and help to deal with it. rehabilitate those people who take drugs such as alcohol through the unlearning process where the drugs/alcohol are put away from the person.  This theory can also help workers to help rehabilitate people who have learnt unacceptable behaviours from models as it assumes that all that is learnt can be unlearnt and hence help such people to unlearn the vices learnt especially using motivators such as rewards e. Children would be more likely to imitate models of the same-sex rather than opposite-sex models. .g.  It can also be used by school social workers to improve learning and adoption of good behaviours by children through emphasis on reinforcements (providing rewards to those who do well and those with good behaviours) and punishments to those who do well. imitate the behaviour that has been modelled. Children who observed an adult acting aggressively would be likely to act aggressively even when the adult model was not present. The children who observed the non-aggressive adult model would be less aggressive than the children who observed the aggressive model 3. Boys would behave more aggressively than girls.