This entry provides an overview of the life-span perspective focusing on biological developments and social tasks all of which are embedded in a larger sociocultural context from birth to old age within diverse environments, cultures, and historical eras. This section will also focus on how the life-span perspective succeeds traditional life course models that assume to be universal, sequential, and predictable. The life-span perspective of social work departs from approaches based on traditional models that are narrow and focuses on personal deficits, pointing instead to strengths, continued growth, and environmental resources for individuals, families, groups, and communities. Finally, this entry will discuss how the life-span perspective shows great promise for encompassing theory of human development for the purpose of expanding knowledge, promoting “best practice” service delivery, policy regulation and research to enhance the lives of people with whom social workers come into contact.
Lani V. Jones
Roberta R. Greene
Building on an ecological perspective, the risk and resilience approach to practice stems from empirically based knowledge of human behavior and contributes to the profession's strengths based philosophy. The approach is suitable for diverse individuals across the life course and applicable to systems of all sizes. As an emerging theory, it is increasingly used to inform intervention models.
Melissa B. Littlefield, Denise McLane-Davison, and Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi
Mechanisms of oppression that serve to subordinate the strengths, knowledge, experiences, and needs of women in families, communities, and societies to those of men are at the root of gender inequality. Grounded in the strengths perspective of social work, the basic premise of the present discussion emphasizes gender equality as opposed to inequality. At the core of gender equality is the value of womanhood and the need to ensure the health and well-being of women and girls. Women’s participation in different societal domains including economic opportunities, political empowerment, educational attainment, health, and well-being are all impacted by their roles. Thus, structural weaknesses are major barriers for reforming efforts on global gender equality. Challenging traditional notions of gender, which is defined as behavioral, cultural, and social characteristics that are linked to womanhood or manhood, is the basis for achieving gender equality by attending to how these characteristics govern the relationship between women and men and the power differences that impact choices and agency to choose. Further, both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome are imperative for achieving gender equality among women and girls. Although progress has been made toward gender equality for many women, lower income women—as well as women who face social exclusion stemming from their caste, disability, location, ethnicity, and sexual orientation––have not experienced improvements in gender equality to the same extent as other women. Broad outcomes of gender equality around the globe include decreased poverty, increased social and economic justice, and better well-being and empowerment among men and women. Gender equality is a smart tool for economic development because it can remove barriers to access and enhance productivity gains in a competitive world.