Stress is a broad and complex phenomenon characterized by environmental demands, internal psychological processes, and physical outcomes. The study of stress is multifaceted and commonly divided into three theoretical perspectives: social, psychological, and biological. The social stress perspective emphasizes how stressful life experiences are embedded into social structures and hierarchies. The psychological stress perspective highlights internal processes that occur during stressful situations, such as individual appraisals of the threat and harm of the stressors and of the ways of coping with such stressors. Finally, the biological stress perspective focuses on the acute and long-term physiological changes that result from stressors and their associated psychological appraisals. Stress and coping are inherently intertwined with adult development.
Agus Surachman and David M. Almeida
Sarah R. Bostrom and Melinda Tasca
The re-entry experiences of women are an important area of inquiry given the continued rise in female imprisonment. Since most inmates will be released, reintegration is a chief policy concern. Like men, re-entering women tend to be disproportionately of color, poor, undereducated, and parents of minor children. What sets women apart from men, however, is the accumulation and frequency of the adversities they encounter. To be sure, co-occurring histories of trauma, mental health, and substance abuse—commonly referred to as the “triple threat”—along with physical health concerns and poverty, distinctly shape female re-entry. Women with children face additional burdens due to their status as mothers. In particular, women’s responsibilities for children before incarceration, contact with children during confinement, and expected parental roles after release are quite different than those of fathers. Pressures to assume mothering roles and challenges with parent-child reunification can further complicate re-entry. Women require social support to successfully transition from prison to home. Social support helps women meet competing demands related to housing, employment, transportation, childcare, and community supervision. This assistance typically comes from informal networks that are invaluable to re-entry success. At the same time, women’s relationships are often highly complicated and can be sources of stress. While prosocial relationships are protective, unhealthy ties can contribute to re-entry failure. With respect to formal social support, gender-responsive interventions that target the unique stressors of formerly incarcerated women offer the most promise for effecting post-release change. Yet, such programs are not widely available or accessible to this population. Finally, it is important to take stock of primary sources used in the study of female re-entry to identify ways to advance research and policy in this area.
Matilda van den Bosch
Human beings are part of natural ecosystems and depend on them for their survival. In a rapidly changing environment and with increasing urbanization, this dependence is challenged. Natural environments affect human health and well-being both directly and indirectly. Urban green and blue areas provide opportunities for stress recovery and physical activity. They offer spaces for social interactions in the neighborhood and places for children’s play. Chronic stress, physical inactivity, and lack of social cohesion are three major risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, and therefore abundant urban greenery is an important asset for health promotion. Through numerous ecosystem services natural environments play a fundamental role in protecting health. Various populations depend on nature for basic material, such as fresh water, wood, fuel, and nutritious food. Biodiverse natural areas are also necessary for regulating the environment and for mitigating and adapting to climate change. For example, tree canopy cover can reduce the urban heat island effect substantially, preventing excess morbidity during heat waves. This natural heat-reducing effect also lessens the need for air conditioning systems and as a consequence decreases energy spending. Urban trees also support storm-water management, preventing flooding and related health issues. Air pollution is a major threat to population health. Urban trees sequester pollutants and, even though the effect may be relatively small, given the severity of the problem it may still have some public-health implications. The evidence around the effects of natural environments on health and well-being is steadily increasing. Several pathways and mechanisms are suggested, such as health services through functional ecosystems, early life exposure to biodiverse microbiota, which is important for the immune-system development, and sensory exposure, which has direct neurobiological impact supporting cognitive development and stress resilience. Support for several pathways is at hand that shows lower mortality rates and prevalence of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, healthier pregnancy outcomes, reduced health inequalities, and improved mental health in urban areas with greater amounts of green and blue space. Altogether, the interactions between healthy natural environments and healthy people are multiple and complex, and require interdisciplinary attention and action for full understanding and resilient development of both nature and human beings.
Vanessa L. Burrows
Stress has not always been accepted as a legitimate medical condition. The biomedical concept stress grew from tangled roots of varied psychosomatic theories of health that examined (a) the relationship between the mind and the body, (b) the relationship between an individual and his or her environment, (c) the capacity for human adaptation, and (d) biochemical mechanisms of self-preservation, and how these functions are altered during acute shock or chronic exposure to harmful agents. From disparate 19th-century origins in the fields of neurology, psychiatry, and evolutionary biology, a biological disease model of stress was originally conceived in the mid-1930s by Canadian endocrinologist Hans Selye, who correlated adrenocortical functions with the regulation of chronic disease. At the same time, the mid-20th-century epidemiological transition signaled the emergence of a pluricausal perspective of degenerative, chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis that were not produced not by a specific etiological agent, but by a complex combination of multiple factors which contributed to a process of maladaptation that occurred over time due to the conditioning influence of multiple risk factors. The mass awareness of the therapeutic impact of adrenocortical hormones in the treatment of these prevalent diseases offered greater cultural currency to the biological disease model of stress. By the end of the Second World War, military neuropsychiatric research on combat fatigue promoted cultural acceptance of a dynamic and universal concept of mental illness that normalized the phenomenon of mental stress. This cultural shift encouraged the medicalization of anxiety which stimulated the emergence of a market for anxiolytic drugs in the 1950s and helped to link psychological and physiological health. By the 1960s, a growing psychosomatic paradigm of stress focused on behavioral interventions and encouraged the belief that individuals could control their own health through responsible decision-making. The implication that mental power can affect one’s physical health reinforced the psycho-socio-biological ambiguity that has been an enduring legacy of stress ever since. This article examines the medicalization of stress—that is, the historical process by which stress became medically defined. It spans from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century, focusing on these nine distinct phases: 1. 19th-century psychosomatic antecedent disease concepts 2. The emergence of shell-shock as a medical diagnosis during World War I 3. Hans Selye’s theorization of the General Adapation Syndrome in the 1930s 4. neuropsychiatric research on combat stress during World War II 5. contemporaneous military research on stress hormones during World War II 6. the emergence of a risk factor model of disease in the post-World War II era 7. the development of a professional cadre of stress researchers in the 1940s and 50s 8. the medicalization of anxiety in the early post–World War II era 9. The popularization of stress in the 1950s and pharmaceutical treatments for stress, marked by the cultural assimilation of paradigmatic stress behaviors and deterrence strategies, as well pharmaceutical treatments for stress.
Environmental conditions, interpersonal relationships, and adverse experiences affect developmental outcomes and human functioning. Their affect is perhaps no more clearly visible than when examined through a neuroscientific lens. Key focus is specifically on mind-body-environment transactions which can be beneficial or destructive; the neuroscience of adversity which can explain whether and why hardship will result in toxic stress;s, and the neuroscience behind behavior change which can help tailor strategic interventions.e. The brain’s lifelong capacity to change and grow gives relevance to the hard work of the social work profession, as our interventions can be understood as potential neurobiological turning points across the life course. As will be seen, neuroscience helps to explain many of the challenges social workers confront in their work with clients and client systems. Yet neuroscience can also serve as a guide to address these same challenges by directing targeted interventions. As more and more schools of social work incorporate neuroscience into their curricula and social work scholars write about how this science could inform social work practice, the social work professionwill become a central partner in interdisciplinary coalitions that use neuroscientific discoveries to inform programs and policies to advance optimal human functioning and wellbeing across all system levels.
Hee Yun Lee, William Hasenbein, and Priscilla Gibson
As the older adult population continues to grow at a rapid rate, with an estimated 2.1 billion older adults in 2050, social welfare researchers are determined to fill the shortage of gerontological social workers and structural lag to best serve the baby boomers who are expected to need different services than previous generations. Mental illness impacts over 20% of older adults in the world and the United States. The major mental health issues in older adults include depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation. Depression is considered one of the most common mental health issues among this population; however, the prevalence could be underestimated due to older adults linking relevant symptoms to other causes, such as old age, instead of as possible depression. Like depression, anxiety symptoms are often mistaken as results of aging. It is also difficult for providers to diagnose anxiety in this population due to anxiety frequently being coupled with other illnesses and the psychological stress that comes with old age. Because the presence of loneliness or social isolation can manifest depression and anxiety symptoms in older adults, it is also difficult to separate these two issues. With the anticipated increase of the older adult population within the next few years, measurement tools have been created to assess depression and anxiety specifically for older adults. In addition to adapting assessment tools, interventions tailored to older adults are essential to ensure treatment coherence, even though medications are the go-to treatment option.
Karen Kayser and Jessica K. M. Johnson
This entry presents the demographic trends of divorce and the social changes that have impacted the divorce rate. A cultural perspective of divorce is provided by analyzing divorce in the context of race and gender and across nations. Current explanatory theories of divorce are described. Research on the consequences of divorce on adults and children is presented followed by the practice implications for social workers. Future directions for policy and research are discussed.
Alex Gitterman, Carel B. Germain, and Carolyn Knight
Ecological concepts and principles enable social workers to keep a simultaneous focus on people and their environments and their reciprocal relationships, not only in direct practice with individuals, families and groups, but also in influencing organizations and communities and in policy practice. Ecological concepts emphasize the reciprocity of person:environment exchanges, in which each shapes and influences the other over time. Ecological concepts are reviewed.
Intergroup communication concerns the verbal and nonverbal interaction between individuals from different groups. Since about the 1980s, the social identity perspective (including social identity, self-categorization, ethnolinguistic vitality, and communication accommodation theories) has provided much impetus to research on intergroup communication. One way to advance intergroup communication research, then, is to expand the social identity perspective. Evolutionary psychology, a research program firmly rooted in natural selection theory and its modern synthesis, can help achieve this goal. For example, a functional analysis of language acquisition suggests—and research confirms—that language (similar to sex and age but not race) is a dedicated dimension of social categorization. This is first of all because language is localized, with signal regularities (e.g., grammar, syntax) being meaningful only to in-group members. Second, there is a critical window of language acquisition that typically closes at late adolescence, and one can almost never reach native-level proficiency if the person tries to learn a language beyond that window. Thus, two people are very likely to have grown up in the same place if they speak the same language with similar high levels of proficiency. Conversely, the lack of proficiency in speaking a language suggests that one does not have the same childhood experience as others and is thus an out-group member. Because ancestral humans had recurrent exposure to people speaking different languages (or variants of the same language) even given their limited travel ability, language-based categorization appears to be an evolved part of human nature. Evolutionary theories can also help renovate research on ethnolinguistic vitality and (non)accommodation. For example, an analysis of host-parasite coevolution suggests that maintaining and using one’s own language can help reduce the risk of contracting foreign diseases in places with high parasite stress. This is because out-group members are more likely than in-group members to carry diseases that one’s physiological immune system cannot tackle. Intergroup differentiation is thus needed more in places with higher parasite stress, and language (as noted) reliably marks group membership. It thus benefits people living in parasite-laden environments to stick to their own language, which helps them remain close to in-group members and away from out-group members. Research also shows that increases in perceived parasitic threats cause people higher in pathogen disgust sensitivity to perceive speakers with foreign accents as being more dissimilar to self. This enhanced perceived dissimilarity may cause non-accommodation or divergence in intergroup communication, resulting in negative language attitudes and even intergroup conflicts. These and many other areas of research uniquely identified by evolutionary approaches to intergroup communication research await further empirical tests.
Iris Kranefeld, Gerhard Blickle, and James Meurs
Organizations are political environments, and, thus, individuals engage in political behavior in the workplace. As research on organizational politics grew, it became clear that some individuals are more successful at managing this landscape than others. This construct, termed political skill, was designed to capture the social savvy and competencies an individual needs to effectively achieve organizational and/or personal goals. Political skill comprises four key facets: first, social astuteness refers to the ability to understand others and social situations at work. Second, interpersonal influence comprises the capacity to persuasively communicate with others at work. Third, networking ability captures building, fostering, and using interpersonal relationships and connections to achieve work-related goals. Fourth, apparent sincerity entails conveying authenticity while influencing others at work. The composite construct and its facets are measured with the political skill inventory, which has been extensively validated across many countries and cultures. Political skill positively associates with workplace and career outcomes such as job performance, job satisfaction, career advancement, stress management, leadership effectiveness, and team performance. It also serves as moderating variable, bolstering (or buffering) effects of individual or job characteristics on those same outcomes. Even though more research is needed that specifies mediating processes and moderating conditions, political skill is already a useful tool for personnel selection. However, a comprehensive training program has yet to be developed. Moreover, political skill can play a critical role in new forms of interaction via social media.