Through cycles of systematic and purposeful iterative engagement with problems they face in specific practice settings, social workers engaging in action research build knowledge that is useful in advancing practice for the purposes of social betterment. This entry situates action research in the development of social-work knowledge and then examines variants of action research formed when degrees of participation and control vary among members of vulnerable populations, particularly within community situations involving coping with a degraded quality of life. The author identifies the importance of methodological pluralism and addresses how sound action research results in knowledge dissemination and utilization for the purposes of social betterment, often through alternative methods of inquiry. The entry concludes with caveats social workers engaged in action research should heed, and the author emphasizes the pivotal role social work can serve in local efforts to engage in knowledge development for social betterment.
David P. Moxley
Advanced Statistical Analysis
Definitions of what constitutes advanced statistical analysis often differ among social-work researchers and across disciplines. In this article, the term advanced statistical analysis refers to advanced models increasingly applied to social-work research that help address important research questions. Because contemporary statistical models fully rely on the maximum likelihood (ML) estimator, this article begins with an overview of ML that serves as a foundation for understanding advanced statistical analysis. Following the overview, the article describes six categories of analytic methods that are important in confronting a broad range of issues in social-work research (that is, hierarchical linear modeling, survival analysis, structural equation modeling, propensity score analysis, missing data imputation, and other corrective methods for causal inference such as instrumental variable approach and regression discontinuity designs). These analytic methods are used to address research issues such as generating knowledge for evidence-based practices; evaluating intervention effectiveness in studies that use an experimental or quasi-experimental design; assessing clients’ problems, well-being, and outcome changes over time; and discerning the effects of policies.
Irwin Epstein and Stephen A. Kapp
This entry reviews agency-based research and the unique demands created by the organizational context where this activity resides. Three primary stakeholder groups are identified: administrators and program managers, supervisors, and direct service workers and clinicians. Possible uses of agency-based research by each of the respective stakeholder groups are described. Finally, the role of service consumers in agency-based research is discussed.
Alcohol and Drug Problems: Practice Interventions
Maryann Amodeo and Luz Marilis López
This entry focuses on practice interventions for working with families and individuals including behavioral marital therapy, transitional family therapy, and the developmental model of recovery, as well as motivational interviewing, cognitive-behavioral therapy, relapse prevention training, and harm reduction therapy. A commonality in these intervention frameworks is their view of the therapeutic work in stages—from active drinking and drug use, to deciding on change, to movement toward change and recovery. We also identify skills that equip social work practitioners to make a special contribution to alcohol and other drug (AOD) interventions and highlight factors to consider in choosing interventions. There are a range of practice interventions for clients with AOD problems based on well-controlled research.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias
Carole B. Cox
Dementia is not a disease, but a group of symptoms so severe that they inhibit normal functioning. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia in older persons, impacting not only the person with the illness but also the entire family. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is essential to assure appropriate and timely care and to exclude reversible causes of dementia. Social workers can play key roles throughout the course of the illness as educators, therapists, supporters, and advocates for improved policies and services.
Catheleen Jordan and Cynthia Franklin
Assessment is an ongoing process of data collection aimed at identifying client strengths and problems. Early assessment models were based on psychoanalytic theory; however, current assessment is based on brief, evidence-based practice models. Both quantitative and qualitative methods may be used to create an integrative skills approach that links assessment to intervention. Specifically, assessment guides treatment planning, as well as informs intervention selection and monitoring.
Asset Building: Toward Inclusive Policy
Michael Sherraden, Lissa Johnson, Margaret M. Clancy, Sondra G. Beverly, Margaret Sherrard Sherraden, Mark Schreiner, William Elliott, Trina R. Williams Shanks, Deborah Adams, Jami Curley, Jin Huang, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Yunju Nam, Min Zhan, and Chang-Keun Han
Since 1991, a new policy discussion has arisen in the United States and other countries, focusing on building assets as a complement to traditional social policy based on income. In fact, asset-based policy with large public subsidies already existed (and still exists) in the United States. But the policy is regressive, benefiting the rich far more than the poor. The goal should be a universal, progressive, and lifelong asset-based policy. One promising pathway may be child development accounts (CDAs) beginning at birth, with greater public deposits for the poorest children. If all children had an account, then eventually this could grow into a universal public policy across the life course.
Bullying in Youth
Jonathan Singer and Karen Slovak
Bullying is the most common form of violence in schools and has been shown to disrupt the emotional and social development of both the targets and the perpetrators of bullying (Raskauskas & Stoltz, 2007). Bullying can be physical, verbal, relational, and direct or indirect. There are well-established age and sex trends (Olweus, 1993; Smith, Madsen, & Moody, 1999). There has been considerable research on bullying-prevention programs and scholarship on best-practice guidelines for school social workers (Dupper, 2013). An emerging concern is with the use of electronic and Internet devices in bullying, referred to as “cyberbullying.” In this article we define bullying and cyberbullying; discuss risk factors associated with being a bully, a victim, and a bully-victim; describe prevention and intervention programs; and discuss emerging trends in both bullying and cyberbullying.
Shirley Gatenio Gabel
The history of social work is deeply rooted in helping vulnerable populations improve their well-being, and children have been at the forefront of these efforts since the inception of the profession. Health is long understood to be critical to children’s well-being. Social workers who are skilled in integrating different systems can play pivotal roles in engineering new and improving existing health-care infrastructures and can act as advocates for fusing health-service systems with other social infrastructures to optimize outcomes for children. This entry reviews trends in children’s health throughout the world, particularly in the United States. It describes the dramatic improvements in reducing infant mortality, child mortality and morbidity from many infectious diseases as well as accidental and environmental causes, and the unequal progress in realizing children’s health. The challenges that lie ahead that pose risks to children’s health are discussed, including the health inequities created among and within countries by social, economic, and political factors. An argument for a comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based, and cross-disciplinary approach to improve children’s future health is presented.
Cognitive therapy is a perspective on social work intervention with individuals, families, and groups that focuses on conscious thought processes as the primary determinants of most emotions and behaviors. It has great appeal to social work practitioners because of its utility in working with many types of clients and problem situations, and its evidence-based support in the literature. Cognitive therapies include sets of strategies focused on education, a restructuring of thought processes, improved coping skills, and increased problem-solving skills for clients.
Common Factors in Psychotherapy
James W. Drisko
This entry examines the common factors approach in social work and in related professions. The term “common factors” refers to a set of features that are shared across different specific models of psychotherapy and social services, but may not always be conceptualized as being curative influences. The common factors approach broadens the conceptual base of potentially curative variables for practice and research. The history of common factors, the research designs and statistical methods that have led to the approach’s elaboration, the approach’s empirical base, and its fit with social work’s person-in-environment perspective are each explored. The intersection of the common factors approach with the evidence-based practice movement is examined. The role of common factors in the psychotherapy integration movement is also discussed. The implications of the common factors approach for research, policy, and practice in social work are identified.
Community-Based Participatory Research
Alma M. Ouanesisouk Trinidad
Community-based participatory research (CBPR) embraces a collaborative partnership approach to research that equitably involves community members, organizational representatives, social workers, other practitioners, and researchers in the research process. CBPR begins with a research topic of importance to the community and has the aim of combining knowledge with action and achieving social change. It is community based in the sense that community members become part of the research team and researchers become engaged in the activities of the community. Community–researcher partnerships allow for a blending and aligning of values and expertise, promoting co-learning and capacity-building among all partners, and integrating and achieving a balance between research and action for the mutual benefit of all partners. Various terms have been used to describe this research, including participatory action research, action research, community-based research, collaborative action research, anti-oppressive research, and feminist research.
Counseling Older Adult Victims of Ageism in the Workplace
Margo A. Jackson
Despite the significant life and work experiences that a growing number of older adults have to contribute to the workforce, pervasive ageism operates in overt and covert ways to discriminate against older workers in hiring and workplace practices. This article provides a current overview of definitions, prevalence, types, and effects of ageism in the U.S. workplace. For social workers counseling older adult victims of workplace ageism, this article discusses theories, foundational knowledge, and ongoing self-awareness and training needed for bias awareness. Counseling strategies and resources are highlighted, including coping and resilience strategies to counteract ageist stereotypes and discrimination, facilitate job-seeking support, and advocate for older workers by promoting awareness and serving as a resource for employers to reduce workplace ageism.
Cross-Cultural Measurement in Social Work Research and Evaluation
Cross-cultural measurement is an important topic in social work research and evaluation. Measuring health related concepts accurately is necessary for researchers and practitioners who work with culturally diverse populations. Social workers use measurements or instruments to assess health-related outcomes in order to identify risk and protective factors for vulnerable, disadvantaged populations. Culturally validated instruments are necessary, first, to identify the evidence of health disparities for vulnerable populations. Second, measurements are required to accurately capture health outcomes in order to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions for cross-cultural populations. Meaningful, appropriate, and practical research instruments, however, are not always readily available. They may have bias when used for populations from different racial and ethnic groups, tribal groups, immigration and refugee status, gender identities, religious affiliations, social class, and mental or physical abilities. Social work researchers must have culturally reliable and valid research instruments to accurately measure social constructs and ensure the validity of outcomes with cultural populations of interest. . In addition, culturally reliable and valid instruments are necessary for research which involves comparisons with different cultural groups. Instruments must capture the same conceptual understanding in outcomes across different cultural groups to create a basis for comparison. Cross-cultural instruments must also detect and ascertain the same magnitude in the changes in health outcomes, in order to accurately determine the impact of factors in the social environment as well as the influence of micro, mezzo, and macro-level interventions. This reference provides an overview of issues and techniques of cross-cultural measurement in social work research and evaluation. Applying systematic, methodological approaches to develop, collect, and assess cross-cultural measurements will lead to more reliable and valid data for cross-cultural groups.
Direct Social Work Practice
Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.
Disability: Psychiatric Disabilities
W. Patrick Sullivan
The psychosocial catastrophe that accompanies serious mental illness negatively impacts individual performance and success in all key life domains. A person-in-environment perspective, and with a traditional and inherent interest in consumer and community strengths, is well positioned to address psychiatric disabilities. This entry describes a select set of habilitation and rehabilitation services that are ideally designed to address the challenges faced by persons with mental illness. In addition, it is argued that emphasis on a recovery model serves as an important framework for developing effective interventions.
Dissemination and Implementation Research
Implementation research seeks to inform how to deliver evidence-based interventions, programs, and policies in real-world settings so their benefits can be realized and sustained. The ultimate aim of implementation research is building a base of evidence about the most effective processes and strategies for improving service delivery. Implementation research builds upon effectiveness research and then seeks to discover how to use specific implementation strategies and move those interventions into specific settings, extending their availability, reach, and benefits to clients and communities. This entry provides an overview of implementation research as a component of research translation and defines key terms, including implementation outcomes and implementation strategies, as well as an overview of guiding theories and models and methodological issues including variable measurement, research design, and stakeholder engagement.
Early Childhood Home Visiting
Melissa Lim Brodowski, Jacqueline Counts, and Aislinn Conrad-Hiebner
This chapter provides an overview of early-childhood home-visiting programs and offers a brief summary of the research, policy, and practice issues. The first section defines home visiting and the funding available to support it. The next section summarizes common characteristics of home-visiting programs and describes the features of several evidence-based home-visiting programs. The outcomes from home visiting for parents and children, including relevant cost-benefit studies, are briefly reviewed. The chapter concludes with implementation issues and future directions for home visiting.
Allan Hugh Cole Jr.
This entry discusses principal ways in which knowledge and knowing have been understood within philosophy, science, and social science, with implications for contemporary social work practice. Attention is given to various types of knowledge, its necessary conditions, scope, and sources. It focuses particularly on how practice wisdom remains a key source of knowledge for social work theory and practice, and suggests that greater epistemological clarity could further competent social work practice in an increasingly pluralistic world.
Ethics in Research
Jeane W. Anastas
Social work researchers hold themselves to ethical standards for social science and biomedical research involving human beings, which are compatible with social work ethics. This article describes (a) the general ethical principles guiding research involving human subjects; (b) mechanisms for the ethical review of studies involving human beings; (c) ethical issues in research on vulnerable populations, such as children and adolescents, prisoners, indigenous people, recipients of care, and other socially marginalized groups; and (d) plagiarism, authorship, and conflict of interest. Current topics in the responsible conduct of research include changes in the federal guidelines for research involving human subjects, research using the Internet including Big Data research, participatory action and community-based research, and decolonizing research methodologies.