Human Behavior Theory
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Human Behavior Theory

A Diversity Framework

Roberta R. Greene, Nancy Kropf

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eBook - ePub

Human Behavior Theory

A Diversity Framework

Roberta R. Greene, Nancy Kropf

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About This Book

As American society becomes increasingly diverse, social workers must use a variety of human behavior frameworks to understand their clients' culturally complex concerns. This text applies specific human behavior theories to diversity practice. They show how human behavior theory can be employed in interventions in the life problems of diverse client populations at the individual, group, social network, and societal levels.

Several groups are examined. They include: minority groups; ethnic groups; women; older adults; members of certain social classes affected by economic and educational (dis)advantage, especially those living in poverty; people with developmental disabilities, people of varying sexual and gender orientations, and religious groups.

Case studies that illustrate social work practice in the area are highlighted. The case studies include Social Work Practice within a Diversity Framework; The Social Work Interview; Symbolic Interactionism: Social Work Assessment, Meaning, and Language; Erikson's Eight Stages of Development; Role Theory and Social Work Practice; A Constructionist Approach; Risk, Resilience and Resettlement; Addressing Diverse Family Forms; Small Group Theory; Natural Social Networks; Power Factors in Social Work Practice. This volume will be a fundament resource for practitioners and an essential tool for training.

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Defining Social Work Practice within a Diversity Framework

Roberta R. Greene and Nancy P. Kropf
Social work theories, concepts, and practices are often rooted in and reflect the dominant values of the larger society. As a result, forms of treatment may represent cultural oppression and may reflect primarily a Eurocentric worldview.
(Sue, 2006, p. xvii)
Culturally competent social work practice has expanded “to promote the full humanity of all voices which have been marginalized in our society.”
(Hooyman, 1996, p. 20)
This text discusses various approaches to the study of human diversity and of populations at risk for discrimination (Fellin, 2000). It also examines the extent to which these issues receive attention in the human behavior literature. The first chapter provides the historical background and content relevant to cross-cultural social work practice and defines major terms and assumptions. The following chapters explore how the particular assumptions of human behavior theories—psychoanalytic theory, psychodynamic/ego psychology theory, systems theory, symbolic interaction theory, feminist theory, constructionist theory, small group theory, an ecological perspective, and risk and resilience theory—have been used to guide cross-cultural social work practice. Micro-, mezzo-, and macrolevels of diversity issues are discussed.


During the twentieth century, various diverse constituencies became more active in political processes, advocating civil rights for minorities, women, and gays and lesbians, and becoming more informed consumers of mental health and social services. In the new millennium, American society will continue to become increasingly diverse, with a marked increase in the proportion of the population who belong to various ethnic and or cultural groups. From an identity perspective, people are becoming increasingly aware of or are rediscovering their ethnic and cultural roots. It is not unusual for people to find themselves working closely in industry, commerce, or services with people from diverse cultural backgrounds. In addition to the demographic changes that are taking place within the United States, the world is becoming more interdependent and connected as a result of technological advances and trade.
These societal forces will clearly have profound implications for social work education and practice. More than ever before, educators will have to help students appreciate the need to learn social work within a diversity framework, as well as how best to deliver cross-cultural social work services. In addition, existing human behavior theory and practice interventions will need to be examined in light of their possible gender, racial, cultural, and class biases (Lecca, Quervalu, Nunes, & Gonzalez, 1998). Thus, the formulation of social work curricula, education of students for a multicultural society, and development of culturally competent practitioners will be a significant issue well into this century.

Historical Advocacy

Readers [of Group Work With the Poor and Oppressed] will yield increased knowledge of empowerment theory and practice (knowing) that can be generalized to work with all groups, and increased understanding of the 
 contemporary social work commitment (feeling).
(Germain, 1985, p. 30)
Over the past three or four decades, historical and social events in the United States have resulted in an increase in the number of groups that either define themselves as minorities or seek redress from the general society. Beginning in the 1960s, tumultuous changes in the body politic, including urban upheavals and the demand for community control, presented social work with “formidable challenges” (Tidwell, 1971, p. 59). During this time, students demonstrated for social and/or political change on college campuses. There were racially motivated riots in major urban areas such as Los Angeles and Detroit. Acts of violence against African Americans were taking place in southern states, where the Civil Rights movement was expanding. The Civil Rights and women's liberation movements, with the accompanied acceleration in social change, required that the social work profession reassess its direction and priorities.
These social and political forces gave impetus to an advocacy approach to social work and its curriculum. Student and faculty activists asserted that cultural group patterns that had historically been less visible in the curriculum should be given more attention (Arnold, 1970; Glasgow, 1971). The strain and struggle to incorporate the study of ethnic and minority group life into the social work curriculum was reflected in professional journals, conferences, and task forces appointed by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE; Francis, 1973; Mackey, 1973; Miranda, 1973; Murase, 1973; Ruiz, 1973). Moreover, faculty groups within CSWE urged that information about the lifestyles of diverse client groups become an integral part of the educational process.
Reassessment of curricula eventually led to a heightened commitment to understanding diverse groups and “activities related to ethnic minority concerns” (Pins, 1970, p. 30A). As a result, CSWE established accreditation standards that required schools to make a special effort to ensure cultural diversity in their student bodies, faculty, and staff and to provide a curriculum that would include a body of knowledge on women’s and minority issues (CSWE, 1970, 1971; Dumpson, 1979).
In 2001–2002, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) developed standards for culturally competent social work that included the “sociocultural experiences of people of different genders, social classes, religious and spiritual beliefs, sexual orientations, ages, and physical and mental abilities” (NASW, 2001, p. 1; see Table 1.1). The standards were to be used in conjunction with the NASW Code of Ethics to help social workers fulfill their moral obligation to provide culturally competent interventions to clients. According to the NASW standards, this requires, among other things, the ability to
  • assist people of color;
  • address the interrelationship among class, race, ethnicity, and gender;
  • assist low-income families;
  • work with older adults;
  • address the importance of religion and spirituality in the lives of clients;
  • explore the development of gender identity and sexual orientation;
  • understand the dynamics of immigration, acculturation, assimilation stress, and biculturalism; and
  • help people with disabilities.
Fulfilling these obligations necessitates empowerment and community-building skills, outreach to new populations, and training in culturally competent models of practice.
In a similar vein, in 2001–2002, CSWE issued the revised Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (CSWE, 2001). This document “[set] forth the basic requirements for curricular content and educational context that were thought necessary to prepare students for professional social work practice” (p. 3). Specifically, the standards defined the foundation content—knowledge, values, and skills—that would lead to “competent social work practice” (p. 6). Furthermore, the standards mandated that “students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to serve diverse constituencies, addressing clients’ age, class, color, culture, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation” (p. 6). CSWE (2008) has now updated its policy statement to continue the tradition of curriculum mandates that respect differences among people.
Despite the profession’s value commitment and increased attention to diversity, content related to diversity in the curricula of schools of social work remains fragmented, reflecting conflicting principles about best practices (Dean, 2001; Goldberg, 2000; Granger & Portner, 1985; Lister, 1987). The literature on cultural content in social work practice remains diffuse, and there is no consensus on a theoretical framework to address a multicultural constituency (Fong & Furuto, 2001; Yan & Wong, 2005). Nonetheless, the growth of diversity as a social force has become so powerful that the profession must remain committed to preparing social work professionals for effective practice with diverse groups.
Table 1.1 National Association of Social Workers Standards for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice
  1. Standard 1. Ethics and Values—Social workers shall function in accordance with the values, ethics, and standards of the profession, recognizing how personal and professional values may conflict with or accommodate the needs of diverse clients.
  2. Standard 2. Self-Awareness—Social workers shall seek to develop an understanding of their own personal, cultural values and beliefs as one way of appreciating the importance of multicultural identities in the lives of people.
  3. Standard 3. Cross-Cultural Knowledge—Social workers shall have and continue to develop specialized knowledge and understanding about the history, traditions, values, family systems, and artistic expressions of major client groups that they serve.
  4. Standard 4. Cross-Cultural Skills—Social workers shall use appropriate methodological approaches, skills, and techniques that reflect the workers’ understanding of the role of culture in the helping process.
  5. Standard 5. Service Delivery—Social workers shall be knowledgeable about and skillful in the use of services available in the community and broader society and be able to make appropriate referrals for their diverse clients.
  6. Standard 6. Empowerment and Advocacy—Social workers shall be aware of the effect of social policies and programs on diverse client populations, advocating for and with clients whenever appropriate.
  7. Standard 7. Diverse Workforce—Social workers shall support and advocate for recruitment, admissions and hiring, and retention efforts in social work programs and agencies that ensure diversity within the profession.
  8. Standard 8. Professional Education—Social workers shall advocate for and participate in educational and training programs that help advance cultural competence within the profession.
  9. Standard 9. Language Diversity—Social workers shall seek to provide or advocate for the provision of information, referrals, and services in the language appropriate to the client, which may include use of interpreters.
  10. Standard...

Table of contents