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Article

Bill Nugent

Measurement is a fundamentally important component of social work research. This entry briefly covers two important notions in psychometrics: reliability and validity. Reliability concerns errors of measurement, and validity concerns the accuracy of the inferences that are made from scores from a measurement procedure. Both norm-referenced and criterion-referenced measurement procedures are discussed.

Article

Ram A. Cnaan

Ruth Elizabeth Smalley (1903–1979) was an advocate of the functional approach to social work. She was the first woman to be appointed Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania.

Article

Edna Comer

Mara Selvini Palazzoli (1916–1999) was best known for being an original member of the Milan Family Center Team and is credited for helping to advance systemic therapy.

Article

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.

Article

Elizabeth Ann Danto

Psychoanalysis is both a theory and a therapy, largely based on the work of Sigmund Freud but widely expanded over the last hundred years. Four core models (ego psychology, drive theory, object relations, and self-psychology) evolved from Freud's theories of the mind. While each model takes a different approach to treatment, all result in the systematic exploration of unconscious and seemingly irrational aspects of human behavior. Feminist, postmodernist, and intersectionality theories have added new dimensions to psychoanalytic exploration of individual and family, human sexuality, groups, work and organizational systems, and social struggles. New research in neuroscience is confirming the biological basis for unconscious emotional processing within the human brain.

Article

John F. Longres

Gordon Hearn (1914–1979) was an influential theoretician and group worker who introduced general systems theory into social work. He taught and wrote in the field of human relations training at Berkeley and Portland State University.

Article

Ski Hunter

Various models and theories of adult development exist but they are more assumptions about development than theories. The most popular age and stage theories have lost favor to contextual theories that put more emphasis on interaction with the environment. It has also become recognized that adults are a diverse group and do not follow universal stages of development. The usefulness of chronological age is also questionable as it does not tell us much about any particular person. Instead, we have to know their concerns and the events they are dealing with, and their dreams and aspirations.

Article

Edna Comer

Paulo Freire (1921–1997), a Brazilian educator and author, is known for his theoretical contributions to education. His text Pedagogy of the Oppressed is considered one of the foundational texts of the critical pedagogy movement.

Article

Tracy Whitaker, Lauren Alfrey, Alice B. Gates, and Anita R. Gooding

The concept of White supremacy is introduced and its impact on society and the social work profession is examined. The ideological and historical foundations of Whiteness in the United States are summarized, and an overview is provided of the legal supports that codified White supremacist ideas into structural racism. White supremacy’s influence on social work is discussed, with an emphasis on language and concepts, history, pedagogy, and organizations. Critical theory and practice frameworks are explored as responses to White supremacy. The limitations of social work’s responses and specific implications for macro social work are discussed.

Article

Cynthia Franklin and Laura M. Hopson

Family intervention has become an important tool for social work practitioners. This entry provides a brief history of family intervention and important influences as well as a synopsis of current research. Although these interventions require more research to better understand the populations for whom they are most effective, the evidence supports their usefulness in addressing such issues as aggression, substance use, and depression, among others.

Article

Mark J. Macgowan

This entry is an overview of group dynamics relevant for group work practice. The history of small group theory and group dynamics is described. The bulk of the entry is dedicated to discussing four main areas of group dynamics: communication and interaction, interpersonal attraction and cohesion, social integration (power, influence, norms, roles, status), and group development. How these might vary according to gender, race, ethnicity, and culture is included. The entry ends with a discussion of trends and needs for further research.

Article

Beth Angell

Behavioral theory seeks to explain human behavior by analyzing the antecedents and consequences present in the individual's environment and the learned associations he or she has acquired through previous experience. This entry describes the various traditions within the behavioral perspective (classical conditioning, operant conditioning, cognitively mediated behavioral theory, and functional contextualism) and the clinical applications that are derived from them. Common criticisms are discussed in light of the ongoing evolution of behavioral theory and the fit of its tenets with the field of social work.

Article

Deborah K. Padgett

The term qualitative methods is relatively new. There is no single definition, although they share features in common, that is, flexibility, holism, naturalism, and insider perspectives. Epistemological debates continue among qualitative researchers, and the diverse methodological approaches often reflect the influence of constructivist critiques. The basic approaches—ethnography, grounded theory, case studies, narrative, phenomenological, and action research—are described along with the fundamentals of data collection and analysis, the role of theory, standards for rigor, ethical issues, and social work values. Rapid growth in the popularity of these methods ensures that they will play a key role in the professions' knowledge development in the future.

Article

Debora Ortega and Jessica Rodriguez-JenKins

Empowerment practices are rooted in empowerment theory and fundamentally focus on power as a source of equity and inequity. Based on transformation ideology, empowerment is a counter to perceived and objective powerlessness. Amelioration of client problems contain both personal and structural dimensions and are accomplished through multilevel interventions. In this approach to practice, the professional is not the central power figure who assesses, designs, implements, and intervenes on behalf of the client. Rather, historically marginalized people, families, and communities are considered experts in their experience of problems. Empowerment practices are rooted in an understanding of power (personal, social, and structural), consciousness transformation, interactive systems, importance of relationships, and the long history of societal dehumanization of marginalized communities. In this model, social work research is characterized as a form of practice that is influenced by larger social inequities and can be used to reproduce inequity or create partnerships for change with marginalized communities.

Article

Mary Ellen Kondrat

The person-in-environment perspective in social work is a practice-guiding principle that highlights the importance of understanding an individual and individual behavior in light of the environmental contexts in which that person lives and acts. The perspective has historical roots in the profession, starting with early debates over the proper attention to be given to individual or environmental change. Theoretical approaches that have attempted to capture the meaning of person-in-environment are presented, as well as promising, conceptual developments.

Article

Ann Hartman

Carel Bailey Germain (1916–1995) was a scholar, teacher, writer, and theoretician at the University of Connecticut and at Columbia University. Born in San Francisco, Germain's interest in nature had major significance for the future development of social work practice theory.

Article

Craig Winston LeCroy

Logic models have become a critical feature of program planning and evaluation. Using a logic model framework provides a visual summary that shows the relationship between the program’s resources, activities, outputs, and outcomes. The logic model is a tool that helps individuals see the interrelationships between the different components of a program. By using logic models, program planners and evaluators can more effectively examine a program’s theory and logic. The logic model tool highlights the program’s underlying theory, the service activities, and the organizational structure for accomplishing program outcomes. The process of developing a logic model assists developers and evaluators and other stakeholders in understanding a program’s assumptions and evaluating the logical links between what programs are doing and the outcomes they hope to achieve. Because of their utility logic, models have become widely used in social service programs.

Article

Racism  

Selena T. Rodgers

Racism is pervasive, endemic, and historically rooted in systematic assumptions inherent in superiority based on race and requires the critical attention of all social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has made strides in tackling racism as demonstrated by the social worker and civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. (1921–1971), other pioneers, and more recently, the NASW zero-tolerance racism policy. Undergirded in empirical discussion, this article leads with the etymology of race(ism), followed by a discussion of Racial Formation Theory and Critical Race Theory. The article gives a historical sketch of racism, followed by examples of its contemporary indicators—throughout social institutions—in the United States. Racism is pervasive and impinges on micro-level and macro-level systems. It is, therefore, beyond the scope of this article to address how racism impacts each group in America. Social work scholars and other experts have provided extensive empirical documentation about the historical trauma and sufferings of other racial groups (e.g., Native Americans/Native peoples/American Indians, Mexican Americans) discussed elsewhere. Specifically, the racism endured by blacks in America is the emphasis of this article. Themes of “colorism” and historical trauma are provided to contextualize advances in national reform and encourage a broader conversation about the racism that blacks experience globally. In addition, this article highlights strides by the social work profession to eradicate racism. Implications for social work are discussed.

Article

Susan P. Robbins and George S. Leibowitz

Conflict theory encompasses several theories that share underlying assumptions about interlocking systems of oppression and how they are maintained. The relevance of Marx’s theory of class conflict, C. Wright Mills’s power elite, and pluralist interest group theory are all important to understand and address social and economic gaps and informing policy for macro practice. Conflict theory can provide an understanding of health disparities, racial differences in mortality rates, class relationships associated with negative outcomes, poverty, discrimination in criminal justice, as well as numerous factors that are broadly associated with inequality embedded in social structures. Social workers play a significant role in addressing disparities in research, curricula, primary and secondary intervention, and public policy, and conflict theory can provide the framework necessary to enrich this understanding.

Article

Shetal Vohra-Gupta and Rowena Fong

This entry Structural racism exists among Asian American communities and affects the family members residing in them. Therefore it is necessary to describe the contexts to understand cultural values and their role in the underpinnings of daily life in Asian American communities. While there is great diversity in Asian American populations, there are still stereotypes about Asian Americans being the model minority or passive victims. Racism is still a problem within Asian American communities as policies and macro level practices are subtle or even blatant in their discriminatory tendencies, impacts, and consequences. With the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, racial profiling was reported toward Chinese Americans living in the United States who were not in China when the pandemic started in 2019. Addressing racism and understanding its biased tenets are very important to stop oppressive attitudes and discriminatory practices. Used in legal studies and education, critical race theory (CRT) allows an examination of racism from a structural racism lens in macro social work practice. A descendent of CRT, AsianCrit theory looks at Asian American populations with a critical lens toward the permanence of racism, color blindness, counter storytelling, intersectionality, historical and contemporary contexts, and commitment to social justice. Understanding how these macro systems impact individual racist attitudes and actions is important to know for future social justice implications for practice, policy, and research with this population.