Psychology and Society

Psychology as a formal discipline is still relatively new; of its many specializations, some have found their way to maturity, while others are still in their early stages. The development of diverse fields has been justified by the changing nature of social and psychological problems as well as by changing perceptions as to how best to approach those problems. For example, because more people live closer together than ever before, they must interact with one another to a greater degree; finding ways to deal with issues such as aggression, racism, and prejudice therefore becomes crucial. Several divisions of the American Psychological Association reflect the diverse groups that interest psychologists: the Society of Pediatric Psychology, the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Issues.

Economic conditions require most parents to work—whether they are single parents or parents in a two-parent family—thus depriving children of time with their parents. This has created a need for day-care centers; the care and nurturing of young people is being transferred, to a significant degree, to external agents. Moreover, older children may be expected to assume adult responsibilities before they are ready. All these issues point to an increasing need for family counseling. Educational institutions demand achievement from students; this can daunt students who have emotional or family problems that interfere with their ability to learn. The availability of school counselors or psychologists can make a difference in whether such children succeed or fail. Businesses and organizations use psychologists and psychological testing to avoid hiring employees who would be ineffective or incompatible with the organization's approach and to maximize employee productivity on the job.

The specialized fields of psychology have played both a facilitative and a reflective role. Therapists and counselors, for example, have enabled individuals to look at what they have previously accomplished, to assess the present, and to come to terms with themselves and the realities of the future. The future of psychology itself will hold further developments both in the refining of specializations that already exist and in the development of new ones as inevitable societal changes require them.

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