Autism spectrum disorder is a heritable, developmental disability that is characterized by challenges with social communication and the presence of restrictive and/or repetitive patterns of behavior. Autism spectrum disorder affects development and quality of life from very early development through old age. Social workers play a number of different roles in supporting and advocating for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. It is important that social workers understand the etiology, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder, how it manifests throughout the lifespan, and challenges faced by families affected by ASD.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
Sandy Magaña and Lauren Bishop
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.
Christina E. Newhill
Client violence and workplace safety are relevant issues for all social workers across practice settings. This entry addresses why and how social workers may be targets for a client's violent behavior, and what we know about who is at risk of encountering violence. Understanding violence from a biopsychosocial perspective, identifying risk markers associated with violent behavior, and an introduction to guidelines for conducting a risk assessment will be discussed. The entry concludes by identifying and describing some general strategies for the prevention of client violence.
Muhammad M. Haj-Yahia, Neil B. Guterman, and Maria João Lobo Antunes
Community violence is a widespread concern that is receiving increasing attention by social workers. We consider here the problem of community violence and the present understanding of its rates, risk factors, protective factors, consequences, and some orientations for prevention and intervention. Growing evidence identifies a multifaceted and multisystemic ecological perspective of risk and protective factors linked with community violence exposure and its effects. Current research points to potentially helpful ameliorative and preventive strategies for social workers to consider at the micro and macro levels; however, the main focus of this article is on the macro-level factors and processes.
Early Brain Development for Social Work Practice
Development of the brain in the first 3 years of life is genetically programmed but occurs in response to environmental stimuli. The brain is organized “from the bottom up,” that is, from simpler to more complex structures and functions, so the experiences and environment that shape early development have consequences that reach far into the future. This entry describes the ontogeny and processes of fetal and infant brain development, as well as major risks to early brain development (during pregnancy and after birth), with emphasis on the factors seen in social-work practice. Neuroscience research is changing social work practice, and understanding early brain development and the contributors to poor development is critical for social workers in medical, mental health, child welfare, and other practice settings.
Interpersonal Neurobiology and Attachment
The attachment phenomenon is increasingly the focus of many social work interventions. Biologically described, differentiated types of attachment relationships result from qualities of repetitive interpersonal brain-to-brain encounters with caregivers that affect variations in emotional/affective arousal regulation; this research takes place within the field of interpersonal neurobiology. The particular focus of this entry is implicit and explicit manifestations of certain structures and functions of the brain and nervous system critical to the bio-regulation of emotions. In-born emotional circuitry is sculpted by postnatal caregiving, resulting in a pattern of emotion regulation that leads to certain attachment types. Although there is no attachment circuit per se, emotional circuits in the low brain can work together with other parts of the brain to create various types of attachment. Neurobiological influences act on the development of attachment styles during childhood that may persist into adulthood are briefly reviewed. Attachment research and often subtle biological arousal considerations are also mentioned. Over the years since John Bowlby first began to contribute his work on attachment, research has highlighted, more and more, the various biological aspects. These include the profound biological significance of the circular relationship between separation, responses to separation, and resulting attachment templates. The roles in the attaching process of neuroception, mirror neurons, transfer of affect, and long-term potentiation are described. Selected treatment theories, primarily from the social work literature, are examined for their implicit focus on aspects of the neurobiology of attachment relationships.
Mental Health and Older Adults
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.
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.
Primary prevention involves coordinated efforts to prevent predictable problems, to protect existing states of health and healthy functioning, and to promote desired goals for individuals and groups, while taking into consideration the physical and sociocultural environments that may encourage or discourage these efforts. This entry discusses the history of this basic approach to professional helping from medical, public-health, and social-science perspectives. It also reviews major theories that guide preventive thinking and action. One section sketches the substantial empirical base for evidence-based practice and how such information can be retrieved. This entry concludes with a review of practice methods for increasing individual strengths and social supports while decreasing individual limitations and social stresses, which together characterize most contemporary preventive services.
Social Work and Coercion
Tomi Gomory and Daniel Dunleavy
Social work is perhaps most distinctive for its clear and outspoken commitment toward improving the well-being of society’s vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, while still emphasizing the importance of respecting and defending personal rights and freedoms. Though there is a fundamental necessity for coercion, or its threat, for eliciting civil social behavior in a well-functioning society, it is professionally and ethically imperative that social workers make explicit our rationales for, justifications of, and the evidence used to support or reject coercive practices in our work. Social work’s engagement with coercion inevitably entails the ethical and social policy arguments for and against its use, as shown in a review of the empirical evidence regarding its impact on the professions’ clients, exemplified by three domains: (1) child welfare, (2) mental health, and (3) addictions. Recommendations for future improvements involve balancing the potential for harm against the benefits of coercive actions.
Stress Effects on Health
Paula S. Nurius and Charles P. Hoy-Ellis
Evolving understandings of stress have literally transformed how we think about health as contextualized within complex and multilevel transactions between individuals and their environment. We present core concepts of stress through the lens of life-course and life-span perspectives, emphasizing appraisal-based and biobehavioral models of stress response systems. We describe theories of allostatic load, embodiment, epigenetics, weathering processes, and accelerated aging that operationalize mechanisms through which stress affects health and contributes to health disparities. In addition to social determinant and life-span developmental perspectives on stress and health, we emphasize the value of health-promotive factors that can serve to buffer stress effects. Social work has important roles in targeting health-erosive stress from “neurons to neighborhoods”.
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.