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Article

Lesbians: Overview  

Lori Messinger and Jennifer Wheeler Brooks

This entry provides an overview of research on lesbians in the United States using an overarching framework of oppression and empowerment. Historical and current demographic and cultural information about lesbians will be reported, along with an analysis of personal and environmental factors critical to social work practitioners' ability to enhance the well-being of lesbian individuals, couples, and families.

Article

Life Span: Parenting  

Daphne S. Cain and Terri Combs-Orme

Parenting is a key part of social-work practice and research, particularly in the child welfare arena. Despite significant research and theory in other disciplines about the importance of the parent–child relationship to the quality of parenting, the focus of social work appears to lie in narrow goals such as the prevention of abuse and child placement and to employ interventions that lack significant evidence of effectiveness. This entry summarizes social-work practice and research in the area of parenting and reviews the state of the art overall in research and knowledge about parenting.

Article

Life Span: Oldest-Old and Advanced Old Age (After the Age 85)  

Judith G. Gonyea

As a result of rising life expectancies, America’s older population is itself aging. The U.S. Census Bureau projections suggest that, by the middle of the 21st century, more than 40% of Americans aged 65 and older can expect to live to at least the age of 90. Although the oldest-old (often defined as persons ages 80 and older or those ages 85-plus) is a diverse population, advanced old age is associated with a greater risk of experiencing economic hardship, disabling illnesses or health conditions, and social isolation. A growing public policy challenge will be ensuring the economic well-being, the health, and the dignity of society’s very oldest citizens.

Article

Marriage and Domestic Partnership  

Elaine M. Maccio

This entry briefly covers the history, demographics, research, clinical practice, diversity, debates, and trends surrounding marriage and domestic partnership in the United States. Who marries and why, when, and at what rate people marry is covered, as are some of the statistics behind alternatives to marriage, such as cohabitation, domestic partnership, and civil unions. It is beyond the scope of this entry to discuss in detail relationship dissolution and divorce, although information is provided insomuch as it relates to marriage and domestic partnership. The ability to form close relationships with others is a crucial component of life span development. In fact, an inability to do so may be considered partial criteria for some types of mental disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Psychologist Erik Erikson (1980) theorized that young adults must master intimacy over isolation if they are to move successfully through his proposed stages of psychosocial development. Apart from these theoretical obligations, much of global society sanctions the forming of close relationships that it deems appropriate. Proms, engagements, weddings, and anniversary celebrations serve to socially reinforce (usually heterosexual) couplings and the norms surrounding acceptable relationships. Marriage is the legal, and most often consensual, partnering of two persons of either sex. Domestic partnership can refer to any unrelated persons 18 years of age or older living together for a minimum specified period of time (for example, one year) and in a financially interdependent relationship. Both unmarried heterosexual couples and same-sex couples can apply for domestic partner status in those jurisdictions, companies, and institutions that recognize it. However, such distinction still falls short of the 1,138 federal benefits and protections afforded to legally married couples (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1997, 2004). For example, access to a partner's Social Security benefits, Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and veterans' pensions, and the exemption from gift and estate tax liabilities, are just a few of the laws mentioned in the U.S. Code that are affected by marital status. Only marriage offers couples such entitlements; civil unions, a proposed substitute for same-sex marriage and available in only a handful of states, afford no federal benefits and protections.

Article

Marriage and Healthy Relationship Intervention  

Colita Nichols Fairfax

Marriage remains a central institution among all races and ethnic groups. Legalized marriages have become an important aspect of family life among LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, or intersex, asexual or allied) community. Given the cultural significance that marriages underscore in all communities, applied social scientists should have access to the most appropriate and affirming interventions. By having knowledge about and access to a wealth of marital interventions, social workers, family therapists, community developers, counselors will be empowered to attend to the needs of couples who desire to experience purposeful marriages. This in turn will strengthen family and community life for all who value intimacy. This article explores a brief history of marriage in America, specifics with regards to cultural groups, and a variety of interventions that may be reproduced in best practice approaches from a conflict theory lens.

Article

Maternal and Child Health  

Valire Carr Copeland and Daniel Hyung Jik Lee

Social reform efforts of the settlement-house movement have provided, in part, the foundation for today’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s policies, programs, and services. Planning, implementing, and evaluating policies and programs that affect the health and well-being of mothers and children require a multidisciplinary approach. Social workers, whose skills encompass direct services, advocacy, planning and research, community development, and administration, have a critical role to play in improving the health outcomes of maternal and child populations.

Article

Medical Illness  

Charles L. Robbins

The distribution of illness and its impact are not random occurrences. Social workers can prevent illness through education and behavioral change as well as mitigate its impact once it does occur, and social workers should be knowledgeable about illness and the health status of the people with whom they work. As advocates for our clients, it is important that we pursue policies and programs that address the inadequacies and injustices in health care. To accomplish this, we must be prepared with the necessary knowledge.

Article

Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence  

Larry W. Bennett and Oliver J. Williams

Perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) use coercive actions toward intimate or formerly intimate partners, including emotional abuse, stalking, threats, physical violence, or rape. The lifetime prevalence of IPV is 35% for women and 28% for men, with at an estimated economic cost of over ten billion dollars. IPV occurs in all demographic sectors of society, but higher frequencies of IPV perpetration are found among people who are younger and who have lower income and less education. Similar proportions of men and women use IPV, but when the effects of partner abuse are considered, women bear the greatest physical and behavioral health burden. Single-explanation causes for IPV such as substance abuse, patriarchy, and personality disorders are sometimes preferred by practitioners, advocates, and policymakers, but an understanding of IPV perpetration is enhanced when we look through the multiple lenses of culture and society, relationship, and psychological characteristics of the perpetrators.

Article

Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents  

Cynthia Franklin and Melissa Reeder

Adolescent parenthood continues to be a public health concern despite the fact that the numbers of adolescent births have been declining over the past decade. The United States ranks number one in adolescent pregnancies out of all the industrialized nations. While reducing the number of adolescent pregnancies is important, supporting those who do become young parents is equally vital and an important concern for social workers. This chapter covers the demographics of adolescent parents as well as the risk and protective factors associated with adolescent pregnancy and parenthood. In addition, it reviews the current state of program development and the need for additional research and evaluation.

Article

Reproductive Health  

Marjorie R. Sable and Patricia J. Kelly

Reproductive health includes family planning, prenatal care, and the broader scope of primary care. Because a woman's health status at conception is as important as prenatal care, genetic screening and 20th century medical technology, reproductive health includes “the preconceptual and interconceptual periods and the menopause, and finally, not only reproductive tract problems but the wide range of risk factors that influence a woman's health in general.” Quantitative indicators of reproductive outcomes are useful for summarizing progress in reproductive health. Important indicators are discussed and reveal significant racial disparities.

Article

Sexual Assault  

Judy L. Postmus

Sexual assault or rape affects millions of women and men in the United States; however, it is only in the last 30 years that it is being considered a social problem. During this period, many policies at the state and federal levels have attempted to address sexual assault and provide legal remedies for victims. However, sexual assaults are still the most underreported crime in the United States and are accompanied by bias and misinformation that plague our response. Social workers play a crucial role in offering services to survivors and advocating for more education and awareness in our communities and universities.

Article

Single Parents  

Virginia C. Strand

Between 1990 and 2003, the single-parent family continued to emerge as a major family form in the United States. Individuals come to single parenthood through different routes (divorce, separation, birth outside of marriage, widowhood, and adoption). And most of them are women. Intervention implications are framed in terms of primary, secondary, and tertiary strategies. Increasing family benefits and child care provisions are highlighted as well as strategies for preventing teen pregnancy, increasing access to educational and entry to the work force for low-income women, and identifying mothers early on in the process of marital disruption.

Article

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families  

Catherine K. Lawrence

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act repealed the 60-year-old national welfare program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and replaced it with a new cash assistance program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The 1996 law introduced a new generation of rules and regulations for delivering cash and other assistance to families living in poverty, and it fundamentally reformed the way the United States assists such families and their children. Decades after welfare reform, opinions regarding the success of TANF and its impact on families still vary; welfare caseloads have declined since TANF implementation, but economic disparities have escalated in the nation, and self-sufficiency eludes many families.

Article

Violence  

Sheara A. Williams

Violence is a serious social issue that affects millions of individuals, families, and communities every year. It transcends across racial, age, gender, and socioeconomic groups, and is considered a significant public health burden in the United States. The purpose of this entry is to provide an overview of violence as a broad yet complicated concept. Definitional issues are discussed. Additional prevalence rates of select types of violence are presented in addition to risk and protective factors associated with violent behavior. The entry concludes with a summary of approaches to address violence in the context of prevention and intervention strategies.

Article

Womanism and Domestic Violence  

Selena T. Rodgers

Domestic violence is a public health problem shown to inflict severe mental and physical injury on millions of individuals and has considerable social costs. Absent from the literature is an examination of womanism ideologies, which provide a greater understanding of the full praxis that black women who experience domestic violence engage. Drawing from initial conceptualizations of womanism and later contributions of Africana womanism, this article brings into focus pervasive acts of violence perpetrated against black women, their racial loyalty to protect black men, and the limitations of existing domestic violence models and interventions. This entry addresses how these three interconnected areas are treated within the conceptual framework of womanism. An overview of violence against black women reveals the historical and contemporary forms of knowledge and praxis that have sought to overcome the social problem of intimate partner abuse, including the social construction of controlling images and the Power and Control Wheel (The Duluth Model). This entry also examines the prevalence of violence perpetrated against black women and compounding factors. In addition, this author considers the Violence Against Women Act and its consequences on laws and policies that affect the race, gender, and class experiences of black women coping with domestic violence. Also analyzed is the quintessential role of demographics, the culture of domestic violence, and international debates about womanism, including how black women intellectuals are prioritizing race-empowerment perspectives and a reference point to articulate healthy black relationships are prioritized. The article also reviews social work practice with black women victims/survivors of domestic violence and their families.

Article

Women’s Health  

Vimla Nadkarni and Roopashri Sinha

The entry outlines a historical and global overview of women’s health in the context of human rights and public health activism. It unravels social myths, traditional norms, and stereotypes impacting women’s health because social workers must understand the diverse factors affecting women’s health in a continually changing and globalized world. There is need for more inclusive feminist and human rights models to study and advocate women’s health. There is as much scope for working with women in a more holistic manner as there is for researching challenging issues and environments shaping women’s health.

Article

Working With Latino Immigrant Families in Schools  

Eden Hernandez Robles, Crissy A. Johnson, and Joel Hernandez Robles

Latino immigrant families and their students come with unique cultural and linguistic needs. Working effectively with Latino immigrants in schools is a challenge for social workers. Latino immigrant families represent a variety of racial, ethnic, historical, immigrant, gender, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. While scholars are able to identify aspects of culture and cultural values, their influence on education and how to integrate these values into intervention and prevention programs, or direct services, is still in need of further research. This article offers a portrait of the Latino immigrant population in the United States, discusses the definitions associated with the population, provides some considerations for social workers, and discusses interventions or preventions specific to Latino immigrant students that also include families.