Societies greatly vary in how social ills or conditions are framed and addressed. What is socially problematic and why specific societal responses are developed depends on competing social values in social, political, and historic context. Social constructionists examine how some social behaviors and conditions come to be publicly viewed as social problems and how these views shape policy and practice. Recent studies document two contemporary trends—the medicalizing and criminalizing of behavior for labeling problems and subjecting them to institutions of social control. Analyses of the social problems process (Best, 2013; Staller, 2009) allow social workers to consider how power, politics, fears, prejudices, and values “create” what is problematic about a variety of social conditions.
Sandra K. Danziger and Karen M. Staller
A consistent theme for the majority of men in the United States remains the code of manhood. Men are expected by society to be stoic in the face of danger and to play out, in all aspects of life, the idea of the rugged individual going it alone, even in the face of a quickly changing world. Whereas social-work theorists and practitioners talk about male aggression, sexuality, intimacy, depression, anxiety, addiction, ageing, and work-related concerns, most men are less likely to view these as problems. If they do enter into counseling or treatment, they are less likely to remain for any length of time. Faced with these issues, practitioners are challenged to find ways of engaging men and forming successful collaboration and meaningful outcomes.
Narrative therapy was developed by Michael White and David Epston, social workers from Australia and New Zealand respectively, in the late 1980s, spreading to North America in the 1990s. It falls under the rubric of postmodernism, which challenges the idea of absolute and universal truths. Its focus on empowerment, collaboration, and viewing problems in social context fit with social work values. Clients and social workers join together to deconstruct and reconstruct problem saturated stories through externalizing problems and searching for unique outcomes. Although empirical outcome data are limited, many social workers find the concepts useful.
Laina Y. Bay-Cheng
This entry defines sexuality and identifies dominant explanatory models. In doing so, the entry outlines the central debate regarding the relative contributions of biology and social context. In addition, it highlights current key issues in the field of sexuality: the connection between sexuality and social inequality, the growing emphasis on the promotion of sexual health and well-being rather than just the prevention of sexual risk, the salience of sexuality across the life course, and the debate regarding sexuality education policy. Finally, it identifies parallels between these trends and social work, including the relation of sexuality to social work roles and practice.
M. J. Gilbert
In this entry, transgender is defined in the context of ethnomethodology and social construction of gender. A history of the role of transgender people in the gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights movement is presented, including tensions concerning the role of transgender people in this movement. Issues regarding social work practice related to transgender issues on the micro, mezzo, macro, and meta levels are discussed.