Social change


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1. The Post-War period (1945 - 1959) Post-War society, particularly in Europe and the US, saw a number of significant changes that influenced the opportunities for psychologists, and the focus of psychology. The formation of the NHS and expansion of education in post-war Britain led to increased opportunities and better health among working class families. Women were more likely to enter paid employment following the War – in part because of the experiences of work they gained while working during the War. The removal of all rationing in the early 1950s led to a boom in the sale of household appliances, again making it easier for women to enter the job market. More houses for nuclear families were built, which encouraged changes in the demographics in many households. Similarly, the slum clearances that began in the 1950s led to the formation of unique social environments (and later social problems).

The social changes following the Second World War fed into the development of psychology as applied to education, mental health and work.

2. Since the 60s (1970 – the present). Many social commentators argue that the late 20th century saw the beginning of a period of rapid social change. This was led by increasing technological innovation, resulting in what is frequently referred to as 'globalisation'. This is marked by increased speed of communications and travel around the world and access to information, goods and services from around the world for those with access to resources and technology. Globalisation has thus widened the differences between the rich and the poor around the world and perhaps made the affluent more similar to each other across national boundaries – which are more permeable to them than previously. Within psychology, globalisation, national identities and cross-cultural issues have begun to be addressed more frequently than previously. In affluent societies, the final quarter of the 20th century also saw other social changes.

For example, child abuse and maltreatment, and addiction, began to receive widespread attention in the mass media. These changes in focus on what society deems acceptable or important have influenced psychologists' research priorities. For instance, the widespread media coverage of False Memory Syndrome and the effect of TV violence on children, led to responses from the British Psychological Society and various programmes of research. In addition, it is now more common for both parents to be employed outside the home while their children are young, and this has affected psychological work on the effects of day care and so on.

Similarly, changes in the focus of Government health campaigns (e.g. on nutrition and safe sex) are mirrored by psychological research into such matters as attitudes to health behaviour and actual behaviour.